Many Governance, Risk and Compliance Managers are now including Work Health and Safety (WHS) audits as a part of their overall audit strategy. But does the audit program provide adequate coverage of critical WHS issues across the organisation? Understanding WHS regulatory requirements, internal systems and WHS risks are fundamental to designing a comprehensive audit program. This is where Centium can help.
The following describes a three year program of audits that our auditors have undertaken for a major university with over 40,000 students and 3000 staff. Covering a range of faculties, activities, facilities and support units, our audits are helping our client improve WHS culture, performance and compliance at all levels.
In 2014 the university’s Audit and Risk Committee set about improving the scope of their internal audit process to better understand and manage corporate WHS risks. Key to this was the design of a holistic three-year program of annual audits, and one which complimented the existing audit program carried out by the Health and Safety Team.
Working together to ensure these objectives were met in the audit program, the team developed a three-year program to answer three strategic questions:
Year 1 – Do we do what we say we will do, and is it enough? Evaluate WHS management systems to determine whether the system demonstrates appropriate corporate governance of the university’s WHS commitment, is designed effectively in order to eliminate or reduce risks and is effectively communicated, implemented and monitored/reported.
Year 2 – Do our infrastructure and systems facilitate compliance? Evaluate individual faculty/school facilities, equipment and processes (for students, academics, members of the public and contractors) against applicable compliance obligations (including student housing).
Year 3 – How well do we manage our off-campus WHS risks? Evaluate adequacy, effectiveness and regulatory compliance of students and staff performing offsite activities, including local, inter-state and international fieldwork, student placements and research facilities.
One of our experienced WHS auditors was assigned to the three-year audit program. For the client, this ensured familiarity with internal facilities, activities and processes, consistency of approach and findings, and a deeper understanding of root causes. The audit program sampled faculties/schools and business units across the university and involved Deans, managers, academic staff, support staff, students and non-university stakeholders such as placement hosts.
The client has recognised immediate compliance improvements across the university in areas such as hazardous substances, emergency management, equipment safety and electrical risks. Positive changes to safety culture and the approach to managing risks at faculty/school level are also becoming evident through audit findings as the program progresses, and it’s this that sets the university up for continual improvement in the future. Our understanding of client needs and work environments, as well as WHS systems and regulatory requirements, have been the critical drivers of this successful audit program.