Culture audits can be frustrating for all of us. Particularly for those who already undergo annual COR or other types of Safety Program audits. This means additional frustration, stress and time required to having their program tested.
Isn't it enough that a company has successfully completed and passed a COR audit, and maintained a COR certificate, for the last X number of years?
How do Culture Audits work?
Company 1:
'Bob's trucking Ltd.' is a contracted company to transport groceries and goods between distribution centers and shopping centers for Loblaws.
Company 2:
Loblaws Grocery chain owns many locations which provide these goods to consumers. Contracting out the transportation services to Bob's Trucking.
The goal of a culture audit is to ensure that two companies share similar values and priorities. That doesn't mean two programs need to look identical, just that the safety program core values and priorities are aligned with one another.
The Process:
Using the example above, the process would normally be performed by Company 2 (Loblaws) who has decided that they want to audit their list of contractors to determine who to keep, who to kick and who they want to improve. Loblaws of course wants to be the best, so they want to work with the best.
Loblaws has decided that Bob's Trucking, along with their list of other contractor companies, will be audited. Loblaws then creates their own criteria by which to evaluate Bob's by - taking into consideration elements most important to their business. This audit or 'Evaluation' may not be built on any specific criteria, just on elements they prefer to see or value. For example, maybe Loblaws thinks 'All contractor companies should attach commercial driver logs to all monthly safety meetings because we think that's how it should be done'.
Because Bob's Trucking has undergone multiple COR Certification audits as well as NSC (National Safety Code) audits, they are confident their program is built to last. Bob's doesn't attach all driver logs to all meeting minutes because they don't see the value, but they do keep all records on file, organized neatly and regularly reviewed and tended to as appropriate.
Once audited, Loblaws might try to enforce the fact that regardless of Bob's current practices, they still think their way is best. Bob's Trucking has a big decision to make:

  • Bend to meet Loblaws expectations
  • Lose the contract
  • Argue the benefit of the new process and whether or not it has longevity.

Depending on the argument both sides make, the audit may result in loss of work for Bob's, or they may remain on Loblaws Contractor roster.
How often do Culture audits happen?
Honestly, in my personal experience, we tend to see these culture audits pop up on an irregular basis. They are usually brought about by way of:

  • reduced profitability
  • industry slow-down

and usually act as a way to identify the value of contractor companies as a part of the primary business.
In light of the recent Canadian and American Economy lull, I have personally seen more of these Culture audits creep up. I find it incredibly frustrating when a client who has successfully passed multiple annual audits previously is still required to undergo a culture audit - 2 audits in 1 year? That's CRAZY, mostly because COR audits are already built around a well established recognized industry standard. A well established COR should be proof enough that a safety program is diligent in its responsibilities.
Honestly, I think culture audits are primarily used for some safety people at the prime companies (like Loblaws) to keep themselves busy in times of industry slow-down, and to demonstrate their own value to their employer company.
Culture audits are also another way to weed-out the least desirable contractors when deciding which cords to cut to ultimately save cost and reduce risk.
Personally, I believe other more specific measures could be taken and result in less time-wasted. Some examples might include:

  • How many accidents have each of our individual contractors had? Are they a liability?
  • Are the Costs of these contractors worth the value they provide? Crunch the numbers.
  • Are they Audited annually? Review their last audit and corrective action plan.

If a client already has a well established safety program which has been audited, reviewing the recent audit report should be enough - but that's just my 2 cents.

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