Audit Objectives

| May 10, 2011

In last week’s post, I discussed the two types of sustainability audits required by OHSAS 18001.  In this week’s post, I am going to focus on the objectives necessary for an effective OHSMS internal audit program.

Just as there are different types of sustainability audits, there are different types of objectives required for management system audits.  Importantly, an organization needs both audit program objectives and specific objectives to guide the conduct of each individual audit.  Although the audit program objectives and individual audit objectives are related, they are not necessarily identical.

It is important to remember that an audit and an audit program are not the same thing.  An audit is a “systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which audit criteria are fulfilled”.  An audit program is “set of one or more audits planned for a specific time frame and directed toward a specific purpose”.  (Definitions from ISO 19011:2002)

OHSAS 18001 requires that an audit program be established. 

An audit program involves more than just doing audits every once and a while.  It requires audit planning and it requires the creation of audit procedures.  As set out in the note to the definition in ISO 19011 –  an audit program includes “all activities necessary for planning, organizing and conducting the audits”.

ISO 19011 provides guidance on how an organization should go about establishing an audit program for conducting management system audits.  Although originally developed for quality and environmental management system audits, the United States version (ANSI/ISO/ASQ QE 19011S) was expanded in 2008 to cover OHSMS audits.  ISO 19011 is currently being revised to cover all management system audits – regardless of subject matter or discipline.  It is anticipated that this revision of ISO 19011 will be published in the fall of 2011.

One of the keys to a successful audit program is establishing objectives to guide the planning and implementation of the audits that are to be conducted.  These audit program objectives need to be consistent with the policies, priorities and objectives of the organization as a whole.  This will help to ensure that the audits conducted – taken as a whole – provide the information top management needs to assess the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the OH&S management system. (Click here to read a prior blog on evaluating the effectiveness of an OHSMS.)  

Want additional guidance on establishing audit program objectives for an OHSMS audit?

Check out section 5.2.1 of ANSI/ISO/ASQ QE 19011S.  For example, section S5.2.1.3 suggests that objectives for an OHSMS audit program might include consideration of the frequency and severity the injury or illness that may be caused by particular hazards.  Other objectives for an audit program may include the identification of opportunities for reducing OH&S risks, enhancing customer product stewardship, verification of supply chain capabilities and evaluation of contractor control.   The internal audit program objectives need to be closely aligned with the goals of the organization.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2011)

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Category: OHSMS Auditing, OHSMS Implementation, Standard Development

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