Audits are conducted periodically either by company representatives (internal) or by third parties (external) with the aim to check SMS deficiencies and non-conformities. As non-conformity is considered an observed situation where objective evidence indicates the nonfulfillment of a specified requirement. Additionally, audits take place in case an organization requires an overview with a view to change its initiatives.
Read in the series
- Safety Management: Why SMS are important
- Safety Management: How can shipping companies become High Reliability Organizations?
- Safety Management: Safety Culture vs Safety Climate – What’s the difference?
- Safety Management: Measuring Maturity
- Safety Management: Why Quality is important among shipping organizations
- Safety Management: Why audits are important
- Safety Management: Learning about Safety Surveys
- Safety Management: Evaluating a Crew Resource Management training
- Safety Management: How post-incident reviews can be a useful tool
- Safety Management: How to define and measure KPIs effectively
Types of audits & objectives
Audits can be categorized as follows:
- Capability audits: to define whether a company is capable to conform to the requirements.
- Management audits: to define how incidents are recorded and investigated.
- Compliance audits: to determine if work practices comply with the requirements of the legislations.
Main objectives of auditing procedure are:
- To verify company’s compliance to the regulations
- To ensure that company’s SMS is implemented accordingly
- To supervise the actions taken in order to improve its performance and if these actions are effective.
Establishing an effective auditing procedure
Auditing procedures should be written within a Safety Management System (SMS) in order to specify how they should be conducted in accordance with company’s initiatives. Namely, the procedure should determine:
- the scope of the audit
- how frequent it should be conducted
- who will proceed an audit, and
- which are the tools or auditing technics that they mostly use.
Additionally, there should be specified:
- what documentation the auditor needs to review
- how the findings will be reported and
- which processes should be followed to verify that appropriate corrective and preventive actions have been implemented.
The auditor is an individual trained and certified to conduct audits regarding the relevant item. In this regard, the auditor should be familiar with the company’s SMS or, at least, the ISM Code in order to understand the relevant rules, regulations, codes and guidelines.
During an audit, the auditor is expected to review all required certifications and ensure that the staff understands company’s SMS and its effective implementation, providing records that verify compliance.
What is more, the auditor is in charge to verify whether all undertaken delegated ISM related tasks are acting in conformity with Company’s SMS and relevant legislation and review the feedback received from auditees. It is also auditor’s responsibility to propose any improvement ideas that may come apparent during audit.
Why audits are important
Audits should be perceived as a routine procedure for all shipping organizations; first of all, because they aim at identifying non-conformances. However, defining system’s non-conformances is not the final stage of an auditing procedure. As soon as non-conformities come in the forefront, company should proceed accordingly in order to improve its performance. Audits should be followed by meetings in order the audit findings to be discussed and finally solved. A follow up should always be occurred for each non-conformity, defining the corrective and preventive actions. These practices keep the organization safe from future reoccurrence of the same failure to happen, leading to continuous improvement. Additionally, audits are vital for vessels onboard due to similar reasons.
It is worth mentioning that in order an audit to be effective, there should be no variation of different auditors with different perception of the standards. Shipping organizations which take audits into consideration and learn from their results, may improve themselves, avoid financial penalties and win contract. All the above are answers to the question, whether auditing is effective as a mechanism of ensuring safety standards, or not.