HSEQ certificates for electricians
HSEQ certificates are becoming increasingly popular as a way of differentiating your business – but are they really worth it? Colin Gibson of Master Electricians Australia explores.
An HSEQ (Health and Safety, Environment and Quality) certificate could prove that your business is a step above your competitors when it comes to safety. But what is HSEQ, and is it worth the time and expense to implement?
How HSEQ certification works is a common question we receive at MEA. We regularly hear from electrical contractors saying:
- I need an HSEQ certification for a job.
- I’ve won a tender and am now being asked for HSEQ certification.
- A client has asked me for HSEQ certification to complete work.
- A client wants to know if I have HSEQ certification, how does that work?
What is HSEQ certification?
- What does HSEQ certification mean?
- Is HSEQ certification necessary?
- Will HSEQ certification open doors for my business?
Increasingly, Health and Safety, Environment and Quality are becoming important for a business to not only manage but be able to evidence they are managing well. To allow comparisons to be fair and consistent, an international set of standards was created (the Standards). Businesses can be measured and certified against these Standards, and this has become known as HSEQ certification. In our part of the world, the body that controls and manages HSEQ certification is JASANZ – Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand. JASANZ is a government-appointed body responsible for providing accreditation of conformity assessment bodies in the fields of certification and inspection.
What are the HSEQ standards?
- AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems
- AS/NZS ISO 14001:2015 Environmental management systems
- AS/NZS ISO 9001:2016 Quality management systems
Health, safety, and environmental obligations exist for PCBUs and workers under law. The Standards acknowledge and address those requirements but also focus on things a business can do to exceed them by continually improving processes and helping to achieve best practice.
It takes commitment and effort to achieve and subsequently maintain a sound safety culture and this can be lost quickly if the attention wavers.
It is not uncommon for businesses to put policies or procedures in plan but forget about them until an incident occurs. The normal response in these cases is to scramble to resurrect and blame someone other than the business for this oversight.
What is the difference between being HSEQ certified and not?
Using safety as an example, all reputable businesses will have safety systems in place to achieve legal compliance, but how many take the time to verify workers are using or complying with those systems? How many investigate what improvements can be made to make their systems even better, thus increasing the protection of workers and decreasing exposure for the business? How many take the time to document evidence of this monitoring and improvement? Certification is an independent third party verifying that a business has commitment, processes, training and awareness in place and is, therefore, meeting the requirements of the relevant standard. It achieves this by auditing a business on an annual basis to assess if the systems are in place and working.
What are the benefits of being HSEQ certified?
HSEQ certification is evidence to customers, regulators, and principal contractors that you have the policies and procedures in place to manage these aspects of business.
For many principal contractors, local, State, and Federal Governments, it is a shortcut method to filter those businesses with working systems in place from those who don’t.
Certification doesn’t guarantee you won’t have an incident, but it should ensure you have processes, training, feedback, and chain of command in place to significantly reduce the likelihood of one.
What is involved in HSEQ certification?
The Standards that govern HSEQ dictate what is involved in HSEQ certification.
AS/NZS ISO 45001 addresses how a business provides a safe and healthy workplace by preventing work-related injury and ill health, as well as proactively improving safety performance. This includes but is not limited to hazard and risk management, training, licencing, inspections, maintenance, incident investigations, employee involvement and participation. A business that is 45001 accredited should have robust and effective safety solutions in place.
AS/NZS ISO 14001 addresses a business’ environmental processes and commitments. It looks at issues such as:
- How does the business protect the environment from its operations?
- What is the energy footprint of the business?
- How does the business manage waste products?
- How does the business track the source of supplies and the lifecycle of products, measure performance or set goals for the future? Environmental compliance is more than recycling and managing excessive noise.
AS/NZS 9001 addresses how a business manages to produce consistent quality product and output whilst remaining resilient and sustainable. It looks at a business’ processes for governance, operational risk, continual improvement and managing costs.
How does the HSEQ certification system work?
The HSEQ certification system operates on a three-year cycle. When a business first embarks on achieving certification, there is a significant amount of work required to identify what systems the business has in place, and what is required, mapping the standards against both, developing in-house skills and training staff on their responsibilities for when the business is certified. Very few businesses start the journey with everything in place and it can take a business three to six months to prepare for their initial compliance audit.
What are the different types of audits?
There are three types of audits, and each involves at least one auditor coming to the site to look at your systems and talk to stakeholders about them. The initial compliance audit is a deep dive into how the business manages the requirements of the Standards. Starting with management commitment, the audit will assess if processes exist and are likely to be sustainable for each aspect and level of the business. It will verify with your stakeholders if they’re involved and if your systems are working at their level. Even for a small business, the compliance audit will take several days to complete and for large or complex firms, the audit could take weeks.
Surveillance audits take place in years two and three of the HSEQ cycle. These audits are not as deep in nature, as they mainly look at the ongoing use of the business systems to determine whether these are operating as intended. These audits are shorter in duration, as the auditor is not delving deeply unless they find something of major concern. Even the shortest surveillance audit will take more than a day for a small business.
Recertification audits take place in year four, and every three years after that. These are not as involved as the original compliance audit but delve deeper than the surveillance audit. They will check if you are maintaining your systems and if they are still working as intended. Once again, they will involve stakeholders as part of that verification and continuous improvement loop. An auditor will be on site for several days, taking time to engage with stakeholders.
The actual length of an audit is determined by several factors:
- The type of audit
- The size of the business (how many employees you have)
- The business scope.
The scope of the audit relates to what the business does, and the risks posed to the business. For example, a small business accounting firm faces fewer business risks than a large construction company. Whilst both have exposure to fraud, financial mismanagement, and professional advice, a construction company will also have risks with incorrect engineering, complexities of contract and building compliance, and quality of work risks. The breadth and magnitude of a construction business’ risks are more expansive than an accounting firm and, therefore, there is more to explore and assess, and a longer audit is required. An auditor can cost between $2000 and $4000 a day.
How do businesses get HSEQ certified?
Most businesses aiming for HSEQ certification will need to either employ their own HSEQ system resource or engage a consultant to help them implement and manage the system. Consultants are experts and cost accordingly. You can expect to pay $2000 to $2500 a day for a consultant. Achieving and maintaining HSEQ certification is not cheap, so you need a solid business case for it. Ask yourself, will the extra costs of HSEQ be offset by the extra business or other benefits certification will bring?
HSEQ is an investment in your business, your staff, and your customers. It has the potential to differentiate your business from others and be the doorway to new opportunities.
Master Electricians Australia recognises that an HSEQ-certified business is operating with high-quality safety policies and procedures. For that reason, any HSEQ-certified Master Electrician is a Gold Master Electrician as long as certification is maintained, no matter how long they have been with MEA. If you are an HSEQ-certified business (AS/NZS ISO 45001, AS/NZS ISO 14001 & AS/NZS ISO 9001) on the JASANZ register and are a Master Electrician, talk to MEA about getting recognised as a Gold Master Electrician.
MEA also offers a mentored HSEQ program. Phone 1300 889 198 to speak to MEA about the HSEQ mentoring program and what it means for your business.