An honest conversation is the basis for an audit

Like many other certification schemes, the Safety Culture Ladder (SCL) also plays a big role in the audit process. How do you proceed if you want to be audited? Where do you find information and how do you prepare?

The SCL is a tool that can help promote safety culture within an organisation. The standard consists of five steps and now more than 2,000 companies are already using it. It provides frameworks for safe working to all parties working in the various industries. The SCL makes no distinction between clients, contractors or suppliers. Everyone in the chain is responsible for health and safety. The SCL is designed to be applicable to all sectors and to all types of companies.

Audit process

NEN does not certify but provides the certification scheme and is responsible for maintaining the instrument. Certification is carried out by a certification body that has entered into a licence with NEN. You do not need to prepare for an audit on the SCL. The reason for this is that you do not have to put systems in order or hand over any documents. The auditors assess by means of an open and equal discussion which step of the SCL your company is on.

If you still want to prepare, you can do so by reading through the SCL standard and explanatory notes. To get an idea of which step your company is on, you can conduct a self-assessment. This can be done using the SAQ (Self Assessment Questionnaire). Using a GAP analysis, the results provide insight into what you need to do to move up a step. Also useful is the inclusion of an action plan format, which provides guidance on how to move up the ladder. After carrying out a self-assessment, you can approach a certifying body. View the certification institutes who may perform an audit on the SCL. The certifying body will discuss with you how many audit days are required and inform you how the audit will be conducted.

Use the SCL audit to gain insight

Ron van Vuuren of Eneco: 'You can also indicate as a company for which step you want an audit. At Eneco, we have been working with the SCL for four years and have been aiming high right from the start. But if, for instance, you're not ready for step four after the audit, you can still achieve step three. So you don't start all over again each time.

A challenge in an audit is often the experience that people on the shop floor see in practice and the perception of safety levels by senior management in the organisation. Sometimes these are far apart. The management then thinks it can achieve level three while the safety experts have a different view. It is then wise to have a discussion, because management commitment is essential for the success of the SCL. Starting from a realistic picture is also important. Being honest about the state of affairs is the only way to improve the right things within your organisation. It is always possible to conduct an internal audit, says Van Vuuren. 'By talking to each other, we are best prepared for an external audit. You have to be learning in it.'

Read more about the audit process and certifying bodies.

What does an SCL audit deliver?

After the audit, you will receive a comprehensive report from the certifying body. In this report, the auditors reflect what they have observed. What are the organisation's strengths in terms of safety culture and where are the opportunities for improvement? This report gives the organisation a picture of its position within a rung, and thus of its growth potential.

If a 100% audit has been carried out, the organisation is given a final assessment and a step is awarded. In the case of a 40% audit, you will be given an indication of a step.