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Don't let a false expert fool you! Use these ten tips to spot a dodgy ISO or OHSAS auditor

by , 16 April 2015
One situation has become more of a habit in South Africa over the past few years: Many auditees don't check the auditor credentials prior to the auditor conducting a safety audit on their site.

And this is a mistake that you, as an employer, are paying from your own pocket.

It's essential that you get a competent auditor who will identify not only the risks, but also the improvement opportunities when it comes to your management system.

Due to South Africa's skills shortage, writes Christel Fouche, the managing director of Advantage ACT, , getting a competent, independent and objective ISO or OHSAS auditor for 2nd and 3rd party audits turns to be a rather difficult task.

But how do you tell if your external safety auditor is legit or not?

Here's how to protect yourself from dodgy safety auditors and make the right decision about who to hire

Start by never assuming that the safety auditor in front of us is  registered or competent.  Check the current status of the safety auditor prior to starting the arrangement

Christel Fouche offers several of the signs that should help you see that the person you hired was not the right auditor for the job:

1. The auditor says that he does not audit the night shift or other shifts.
This is a situation that should trigger an alarm if it happens on your site. Keep in mind that since most employees find it difficult to work at night, this exact time makes it better for being audited as it also is the one running with the most safety risks.

2. The auditor generates non-conformance for a legal register not being presented.
Note that having a legal register is not stated in any of the ISO9001, ISO14001 & OHSAS18001 standards under the clauses for legislation. "It does state that there must be access to legislation, it must be updated and communicated, but that can be done and proven in other ways as well", Fouche explained.

3. The safety auditor generated his audit report during the actual audit.
Also know exactly how many days of auditing will take place and that you will be paying an extra day for the audit report writing;

4. The auditor does not audit the 'other' part under the standard's legal & other clause.
And by "other", as Fouche states, we refer to head office or group requirements, customer requirements or contractual requirements (not limited to these examples only). Thus, Fouche draws our attention upon the following fact: "When last did an auditor prepare prior to the audit for this information and then on the day of the actual audit did he/she audit the 'other' requirements?", she asked.

5. Having as argument a so-called legal clause, your auditor decides to only audit the 'OHS Act' or 'Mine H&S Act' and not other applicable SHE legislation. "This clause does not stipulate only one law – it implies 'all' applicable legislation to your operation. What about the Road Traffic Act, Hazardous Chemical Act and other Environmental legislation? If you comply with the OHS Act and/or Mine H&S Act it does not mean you are legally compliant. It means you are legally compliant to only that specific law", adds sheqafrica.com.

6. Top management is excluded from the safety audit.
How can you be sure that a proper safety audit was done when an important area in the management is being ommitted? This would not be a complete scan of your management system.

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7. You can doubt the safety  auditor if he shows up without the necessary and/or required PPE.
What better proof of someone who is not well-prepared or simply not right for what he is doing at his job? "ISO/OHSAS auditor to have their own PPE kit that can accommodate 80% of the health & safety situations on site", Fouche writes.

8. The auditor lacks efficiency when it comes to the audit development itself. For instance, the OHSAS auditor arrives on site for the opening meeting, but doesn't have time to complete induction training prior to the start of the audit.
According to the previously mentioned source, planning for logistical issues such as traveling time and induction is a must.

9. "The OHSAS auditor cannot find their own registration cards/certificate of proof that they are registered with a registration body", according to sheqafrica.com.
A registered auditor/lead auditor can show you on the SAATCA/IRCA/RABQSA websites that he is registered or can use certificates or cards prove this. In any case, showing this proof should never be a problem.

10. Another important sign is when the auditor demands proof of a management review 'meeting'.
As Christel Fouche explained, "the standards do not indicate that it must be in the form of a 'meeting' if you have proof of the inputs and outputs being communicated, discussed and approved via e-mail – it should be acceptable".

So there you have it. If the safety auditor you've hired presents any of these issues, steer clear. He's not the person for the job.

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