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Safety Compliance Audits – Friend or Foe?

To begin with, it is important to realise there are many types of audits.  Some of the more commonly known types include:

  • Financial (e.g. Accounting, tax)
  • Quality (e.g. Brand, products, services)
  • Compliance (e.g. WHS, fire safety, environmental)

Regardless of the type of audit, an audit is essentially about checking you are doing what you said you will or must do.  Typically undertaken by an unbiased external auditor, an audit is helping the organisation, those holding accountability for ensuring compliance, and those with responsibilities to manage compliance, by identifying gaps or breaches that can potentially create harm and liability exposure.  Sounds worthwhile, right?!

An unfortunate bi-product of auditing is concern, fear and anxiety, whereby an audit may be considered:

  • Unnecessary: “We are doing okay without an audit!” “We’re not perfect, but who is?!”
  • Condemning: “Be careful what we wish for!” “What we don’t know can’t hurt us!”
  • Blaming: “They’ll hold me accountable for us not being perfect!” “That’s his/her job!”
  • Expensive: “This could cost us a fortune to do and a bigger fortune to fix everything!”
  • Exhausting: “This is going to take up a lot of time and energy to deal with!”
  • Terrifying: “Do I have to do all this straight away?” “What will happen if I don’t?”

No matter what the argument might be, the bottom-line is proactive compliance will impact significantly less than reactive compliance, which will most likely involve regulatory authority intervention.  This is, of course, in addition to your own conscious reminding you that you were deemed attributable to causing someone an injury, permanent incapacitation, or worse!

Let me now put all this into the context of bodies corporate whereby the key stakeholders are typically the Body Corporate (Committee), the Building Manager/Caretaker and the Strata Manager.  It is fair to say that the pressure on bodies corporates to ensure compliance can be quite daunting, who in many cases depend heavily on those with responsibilities to manage compliance for them.  In a world where compliance is vast and forever evolving, compliance can be an enormous challenge to keep in front of.  Try not to be too hard on yourself, as that is where an (independent) audit comes into play!

An audit is factual and evidence-based, determined on what was observed at the time and is typically conducted in two parts:

  1. Development (What we will or must do) is about checking that policies, plans and procedures are in place and current to manage compliance systematically. The auditor will measure what you have developed against legislative requirements, codes of practices, standards and guides.
  2. Implementation (What we are doing) is about checking that places, people and practices align with either what you said you will do, what legislation states you must do, and or what codes of practices, standards and guides advise you should do.

The beauty of an audit is the report you receive will typically include legislative references highlighting why you must or should do something, as well as risk ratings to help prioritise what to rectify first, imagery for visual understanding and recommendations for corrective action by experienced experts.

With everything taken into consideration, it is safe to say that the benefits of an audit outweigh the concerns making it a worthwhile investment overall.  I trust this article provides you with some comfort and explains why an audit is most definitely your friend!


This article was contributed by Sean Albert, General Manager – Strata Compliance Solutions

Leave a Reply

  1. Kent Warbrooke

    What are the responsibilities of Body Corporate regarding damages/injury to private property/occupants, originating from circumstances existing/originating from common property?

  2. Sean Albert

    Hi Kent. Thanks for your query. Unfortunately I need you to be a little more specific about the particular situation you are referring to, as I can’t quite ascertain whether your query is in relation to compliance or liability / insurance?

  3. Kent Warbrooke

    Hi Sean. Are owners responsible for protecting themselves from objects falling from balconies of apartments above?
    We have an uncovered terrace. Recently a 2kg weight fell from high up..there are 20 levels above us. I find it hard to believe such a situation complies with relevant building regulations. Certainly would not pass WHS audit re common property areas?

  4. Sean Albert

    Hi Kent. I can certainly empathize that such an occurrence is alarming, as you are actually describing a near miss. You should report this occurrence to your Body Corporate immediately, so the matter can be recorded and investigated appropriately. The Body Corporate may, for example, advise all owners of what has occurred and remind them that such behavior contravenes the building’s by-laws. It would be a Body Corporate decision whether to allow your lot to build or install a structure that creates a barrier between yourself and falling objects, so you may consider proposing such options.