How does ISO Accreditation actually work? An RP Senior Safety Consultant outlines her roadmap to success
Gaye Cameron, Senior Safety Consultant at Recovery Partners, recently helped the national building company AJ Grant achieve ISO certification for their IMS. Here’s how she did it!
ISO Certification for your business
Are you an Australian business considering ISO certification to give you that competitive edge? You’re probably already aware of the advantages of safety accreditation, but many people are unclear about how the process of gaining it actually unfolds. It can be complicated, but with the right assistance, achieving safety certification can be a pain-free undertaking with substantive ROI. Gaye Cameron, Senior Safety Consultant at Recovery Partners, recently helped the national building company AJ Grant Group achieve triple certification for their Integrated Management System (IMS). This covered ISO9001 Quality Management, ISO14001 Environmental Management and ISO45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management, and we’ve asked Gaye to walk us through the process for anyone who might be interested in undertaking it themselves. You can also read our blog on AJ Grant’s certification success, with CEO Brad Honeyman’s thoughts on how Gaye steered their accreditation ship with ease.
AJ Grant were long-term customers of Recovery Partners
‘AJ Grant had been customers of ours for a long time when they decided to undertake the formal ISO accreditation process,’ says Gaye. ‘They’d already engaged us through our Safety Partnership Program (SPP), so we’d been servicing them monthly. We worked in the areas of reporting, tender submissions, safety management processes and audits or internal reviews. Earlier this year, AJ Grant identified that they would be more competitive when going for government tenders if they had an accredited safety system. They engaged us to help them achieve this, with Sustainable Certification as the certifying body.’
ISO Certification shows you’re serious about safety
Often, businesses decide to go for ISO certification when they have the experience and expertise to move up in their market but need the safety box to be formally ticked, says Gaye. ‘ISO certification is recognition that you have excellent safety processes in place. It shows potential clients what your business is capable of and demonstrates that you prioritise safety and have implemented effective systems to ensure it’s maintained. The commitment to upholding high standards of safety has to be across every level of a business – its people, its culture, and its environment – and it has to be genuine, otherwise they won’t be able to achieve that accreditation,’ Gaye says.
The ROI begins immediately
The businesses that do achieve accreditation are those who understand that it’s a rigorous process, but a very worthwhile one. ‘The ROI begins immediately,’ Gaye says. ‘Even when it’s early days and the company hasn’t had the time to win new business yet, they often see a marked increase in efficiency when it comes to completing tender submissions. Tenders require hours of work in which you have to allocate internal resources to detailing the safety processes, policies and procedures of your business. When you’re accredited, you just skip straight to that little tick box and that tells them everything they need to know. Then, you can divert your resources somewhere else.’ What’s more, potential customers of a business understand that the accreditation will be reflected in these streamlined practices internally, which translates to a greater economy for them externally.
AJ Grant pursued triple certification
AJ Grant chose to pursue triple certification for their IMS, including ISO14001 Environmental Management, ISO45001 Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems and ISO9001 Quality Management. ‘An integrated management system means it’s just one silo operating effectively,’ says Gaye. ‘It’s one system that covers off the requirements of all three systems.’ The first step in the accreditation process was to develop an IMS specifically for AJ Grant. ‘You can’t buy an IMS off the shelf,’ says Gaye. ‘It has to be purpose-built for the business and customised to meet their specific needs.’ Because AJ Grant is a national residential and commercial building company, there were about two months of communications required to get the system developed. This involved about twenty days of development work, with Gaye coordinating an internal team at AJ Grant to complete the necessary tasks at their end. ‘There’s an implementation phase that runs almost parallel to the development phase,’ Gaye explains. ‘Stakeholder engagement is important, so once the policies and processes are developed, they are introduced to key stakeholders so they can provide their feedback. Then, everything can be trialled and fine-tuned while it’s in that development phase and not fully implemented yet.’
Strong foundations are essential
At the same time as the development and implementation stages are happening, evidence is being gathered for the audit team who will complete the certification, Gaye says. ‘There are many factors to consider for the audit, so we go through things with a fine-tooth comb. A business like AJ Grant needs to ensure that their own processes and practices are compliant and those of their subcontractors. Hold points and quality gates are important, where the foundation of a system is examined for efficacy and strength first, then the framework, and so on. The foundations have to be correct for everything else to be correct.’
The auditing process
Once the business is satisfied with the system, the accrediting body is contacted, and the auditing process begins. ‘Sustainable Certification organised a Lead Auditor, and I coordinated with them and the AJ Grant team to organise the auditing schedule,’ Gaye confirms. ‘The Lead Auditor chose two sites, one in a city and one in a regional area. Because of COVID-19, they couldn’t conduct site visits, so they relied more on spot checks over the phone. This means they would call and request specific documentation within a short time frame or interview site supervisors about their activities. They also checked the subcontractors’ performance to ensure the labour force of AJ Grant met quality and safety standards.’
AJ Grant got gold stars
Once the audit was complete, Sustainable generated two reports, one on the system documentation and one on implementation. ‘AJ Grant got gold stars,’ Gaye says. ‘They had zero deficiencies, which is the first time I’ve seen that in fifteen years. Sustainable were very impressed. Then, AJ Grant got their implementation report, which was also glowing. With most companies, you’d expect a few non-conformances in this report. Three is pretty typical. Five non-conformances would mean the business is not ready for accreditation and needs more work. AJ Grant only got one minor non-conformance. So, they submitted a plan of action about how they would deal with it, showed evidence and then closed it off.’
What happens next?
AJ Grant achieved accreditation for their IMS just weeks ago, and everyone involved is thrilled with the results, says Gaye. ‘Brad and the AJ Grant team are over the moon. They know that this accreditation will mean new business and new opportunities for growth. They’ve said doors are already opening for them and the feedback from the staff has been fantastic. They’re all excited about the future.’ The next twelve months will still involve some work, says Gaye, as this is when the system has to be fully implemented and refined. ‘They need to do quite a bit: document cleansing, where they replace old systems with new ones; retraining staff; getting everyone used to new ways of doing things, and a lot of reporting as they go.’ There’ll be monthly reporting to the senior management team at AJ Grant to monitor lead and lag indicators, Gaye explains, which is an ideal method for taking the business’s operating pulse.
Preparing for the Surveillance audit
Finally, after twelve months, there’s a Surveillance audit, in which four areas of the IMS are re-examined to ensure they’re operating as they should be. ‘Businesses can be accredited for a period of three years. At the Surveillance audit, the auditors can choose to cancel or shorten the accreditation term if things are not up to scratch, or maintain it for the full three years, which is ideal,’ Gaye says. ‘I’ll continue working with AJ Grant to help them prepare for the Surveillance audit. They’ve got me on speed dial! It’s been a pleasure working with Brad and the team and I look forward to helping them maintain their accreditation into the future. In their building and construction industry that’s been so negatively impacted by COVID-19, it’s great that they can now keep more people in work. They’ve done the hard yards, and it’s paid off. I can’t wait to see the results as their growth accelerates even more.’ Thanks for the breakdown of the accreditation process Gaye, and thanks Brad Honeyman from AJ Grant, for sharing the story of your success!
If you’d like Gaye or another Recovery Partners Consultant to steer your business to certification success, get in touch.
Our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/
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