ISO 45001 Blog

Mark Hammar

How to become an ISO 45001 lead auditor

If you have been involved in auditing your organization’s Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS), verifying that you meet the requirements of the ISO 45001:2018 standard, you may be wondering about the next step in your auditing career. Or, you might want to become a health & safety consultant. In both cases, you might consider becoming an ISO 45001 Lead Auditor – read further to learn how.

What is a lead auditor, and how do you become one?

The lead auditor becomes necessary when you have a certification audit, especially when this audit has more than one auditor – in such case, the main person to lead the audit team is called “lead auditor.” If you want to become an external (certification) lead auditor, here are the steps that will be expected of you:

ISO 45001 lead auditor: How to get certified?

  1. Prior experience. To audit ISO 45001, and the OHSMS, you should have proper formal education and proper OH&S work experience. Working within a job that includes OH&S responsibilities is a must.
  2. Pass the lead auditor exam. The ISO 45001 Lead Auditor training course includes a final written exam on the last day, and you will need to pass this exam to be considered for a lead auditor position. This means you must not only study and pass the exam, but also attend this official training for lead auditors, and if you miss a single day you will not be able to take the exam.
  3. Find a certification body. You will need to find a certification body that not only performs ISO 45001 certification audits, but also needs an auditor. Many will already have their necessary auditors.
  4. Go through training. Just finding a certification body that is interested does not mean you will start auditing right away. You will then go through stages defined by the certification body, such as first becoming an observer, then a co-auditor, and then a lead auditor. This will help you to learn how certification auditing works, and how it differs from your experience as an internal auditor.
  5. Gain audit experience. Before you can lead a team, you will have to take part in certification audits as an audit team member. Once you have completed several audits, you can then lead the audit team.

So, how do you start on your path to becoming a lead auditor? Lead auditors are, first and foremost, auditors – and therefore need to have the competencies of all auditors. To start with, all auditors need to be able to perform an effective audit. These competencies help the auditor to properly gather and evaluate audit evidence to see if the activities under audit are occurring according to the planned arrangements. These competencies are needed for all auditors, including lead auditors, and include good knowledge of the ISO 45001 standard, knowledge of risk and the company structure, and many other skills for assessing processes. These competencies are further discussed in more detail within the article What competences should an ISO 45001 internal auditor have?

Being able to be a good lead auditor means fully understanding the audit process, so it is critical that a lead auditor first understand how to perform effective audits. For more on the need to have effective audits, see the article: Why you should perform effective internal audits in ISO 45001.

Learn to audit first, and then work towards becoming an ISO 45001 lead auditor

It cannot be stressed enough that becoming a good lead auditor requires you to start as a good auditor. To become a good auditor, first start by learning how to perform process audits and understanding the ISO 45001 standard (or any other ISO standards that are applicable to your organization). Once you understand how to do this, practicing and using these skills while focusing on improvement are paramount to becoming a lead auditor.

So, if you have come to a point where you have gained some skill in auditing, and you want to consider working towards becoming a certified ISO 45001 lead auditor, look into the available lead auditor training courses that you can take. This could be the next step toward an exciting career of helping companies with the certification of their management systems.

To learn more about what the ISO 45001 certification audit looks like, download this free white paper: What to expect at the ISO certification audit: What the auditor can and cannot do.


About the author:

Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.

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