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How the Z10 Implementation Guide Can Improve Your OHSMS Audit

Jul 28, 2020

A growing number of organizations have implemented some form of an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS), and many follow the guidance outlined in ANSI/ASSP Z10.0-2019.

But true improvements in workplace safety don’t come just because you implement a system. You also have to regularly evaluate that system to confirm it meets requirements of the standard you use, identify any areas of concern and take corrective action.

While Section 9.3 of the Z10 standard addresses audits, it does not contain a requirement that an organization conduct an audit. However, given the need to understand whether an OHSMS is having the intended impact, Chapter 18 of the Z10 Implementation Guide provides guidance that an internal team or an external expert can use to conduct an effective OHSMS audit.

"This is new information for users of Z10 and was included at the request of many OSH professionals who use the standard," says Tim Fisher, CSP, CHMM, CPEA, ASSP's director of standards development and technical services.

Here are three ways the guide can help you achieve the best audit results.

Connect Your Program Elements

An effective audit evaluates the design, implementation and productivity of a management system and assesses its ability to achieve organizational objectives holistically.

"The most effective audit goes beyond simply confirming your system covers the elements defined in a standard," Fisher explains. "It also assesses whether you have processes and procedures in place that connect these elements effectively."

The guide recommends the audit team adapt a systems mind-set. In some cases, an organization may have the required elements covered, yet lack the mechanisms needed to ensure the elements interact effectively.

"The audit team must view each audit finding as an outcome of the management system as a whole," Fisher says. "Taking this approach will help them discover deeper systemic issues and develop more impactful recommendations to create a cohesive interrelated system."

Adapt a Performance-Oriented Framework

When conducting a system audit, you can assess how well existing evaluation activities (e.g., compliance audits, inspections for hazards and risks) and corrective action activities are working, or you might evaluate how effectively these activities are providing feedback that informs the planning process to achieve continuous improvement.

One effective way to uncover systemic problems is to transition from a requirement-by-requirement assessment to one that focuses on organizational performance factors such as leadership accountability, management system processes, risk management and operational excellence assurance.

"This requires a greater understanding of organizational culture as well as a clear perspective on how work is done compared to how work is imagined,” Fisher notes. “Regular audits often provide insight into these factors.”

Prove the Value of Your System

When conducting the audit, you are not only looking for evidence to determine its effectiveness, you are also gathering data that can help you demonstrate the value of your OHSMS. 

Collecting evidence typically involves reviewing documented information, observing operations and interviewing workers. To confirm that what you're learning is valid, it is best to follow a two-step process. For example, if you and your team interview employees, confirm what they are telling you by observing how employees actually implement processes and procedures.

"The Z10 Implementation Guide offers direction on potential sources of objective evidence, and provides some extensive insight into how to use this evidence to assess the interdependence of system elements," Fisher says. It’s also recommended that OHSMS integration and OHS risk factors be considered in all type of audits—planned, random and special purpose (directed) audits—where OHS and non-OHS factors may impact the organization’s overall safety performance.

Auditing your OHSMS is part of an integrated approach to evaluating your organization's worker safety and health efforts and taking any needed corrective action. It reflects the plan-do-check-act cycle that drives continuous improvement.

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