What are the key criteria for OFSC Accreditation?

At a high level, there are four main criteria to satisfy: 
  1. Demonstrated ability to manage construction hazards and high-risk activities
  2. Positive record concerning workplace safety
  3. Consistently good onsite audit results, and
  4. Demonstrated senior management commitment to WHS

How long does OFSC Accreditation take? 

This is one of the most asked questions by OFSC Accreditation applicants.  It typically takes three to six months to become accredited, depending on how ready a company is for the onsite audit, its ability to provide an active project for an audit by a Federal Safety Officer and the company’s commitment to, and timeliness of, correcting any non-conformances that arise from the audit process. 

The 3-step process for OFSC Accreditation

At a high level, applying for accreditation is a 3-stage process starting with 1) initial application, then 2) systems validation review and 3) onsite audit or audits carried out by a Federal Safety Officer.  And while the process may seem straightforward, it’s not necessarily easy, with many builders needing to go through several audits before they meet the Scheme’s strict safety standards.  Outlined below is the accreditation process flow provided by the OFSC on its website.  Source: https://www.fsc.gov.au/how-apply-accreditation

Step 1 –  Initial application 

An application must be made online via an  FSC online account, which will require you to provide details of your company’s WHS performance history, a gap analysis of your current safety management system (this is best completed by a person with an intimate knowledge of the FSC criterion, as this stage will dictate the next steps in the process and influence your FSC accreditation journey significantly), information about your company’s operations, and current projects (head contracts) on which an FSO can undertake an audit.  GCG provides pre-audit support for companies making their initial application. The process involves a gap analysis of your existing system against the FSC criterion, undertaking any necessary systems modification following the gap analysis, and preparing the nominated site for the Systems Validation Audit.  As a general guide, this process may take between 2 – 4 months.

Step 2 – System Validation Audit 

Once your application has been assessed, the next step is a Systems Validation Audit – where an independent Federal Safety Officer (FSO) will conduct a desktop evaluation of your company’s WHS Management System against the WHS Accreditation Scheme criteria. Note: FSOs are independent, external WHS experts accredited and contracted by the OFSC. The Systems Validation Audit (SVA) aims to uncover any gaps in a company’s WHS management system that do not meet the FSC Scheme criteria.  No site audit is undertaken at this stage of the process. During the SVA, GCG can provide audit support for the company representatives involved in the audit. This is generally a benefit to those companies who require extensive modification to their initial system following the gap analysis.  The OFSC will then provide a report specifying criteria that have been met as well as any gaps where the company does not meet the required criteria. You will also be advised whether a further audit is required or if you can proceed to Step 3.

Step 3 – On site audit 

The final step in the process is an onsite audit by an FSO, which takes place at your company’s project where your WHS management system is in place (and where you are the head contractor/principal contractor). Documentary evidence will be required to verify the implementation of WHS procedures and practices onsite. As with the System Validation Audit in Step 2, a detailed report is provided identifying the criteria that has been met and any non-conformances.  The Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner delivers the final accreditation decision in consideration of the findings of the on site audit.

Getting help with obtaining & maintaining accreditation 

Gaining accreditation can be arduous, but it can be made simpler by working with experts who understand the OFSC criterion and the accreditation process. If you are already accredited but need some help to maintain accreditation, this is also an area where we can provide support.  Sometimes the corrective actions (CARs) issued don’t make sense, or you may be finding a CAR difficult to close.

Accreditation assistance 

GCG provides accreditation assistance to builders and construction companies of all sizes to help them achieve, maintain and update their accreditation. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:  WHS management system development – if you don’t have current systems and processes in place, GCG can assist in the development of a WHS management system, tailored specifically to your organisational requirements and aligning to the requirements of the OFSC.  WHS management system review and update – if you currently have a WHS management system in place and are seeking OFSC accreditation, GCG can undertake a gap analysis of your system against OFSC requirements to determine your initial level of compliance. GCG can then assist in updating your current system, closing identified gaps and bringing your overall WHS management system up to compliance with OFSC requirements.  WHS management system implementation assistance – just as important as having a documented WHS management system that complies with OFSC requirements is the implementation of your system to ensure that you are actually doing what you say you are doing. GCG can work alongside you to ensure that you have the documented records and other evidence in place to demonstrate that you are complying with your own WHS management system. 

FSC system maintenance assistance  

GCG can help make sure you are ready for your FSC audit, which may include the preparation of your system, contractors and site. An essential part of this process is making sure your organisation is doing everything the system requires you to do on site (including operational and reporting practices, and your risk management process) and getting on top of any Corrective Action Reports (CARs). Coaching, training and audit support – GCG can also provide coaching to your workforce in the requirements of the OFSC as well as OFSC auditing process that you are about to go through. We can provide training in specific WHS topics, such as induction and HIRAC, to ensure the training that you prescribe in your WHS management system is being delivered.   Finally, we can assist you throughout the actual audit process, providing support to your company as the OFSC audit is being undertaken. 

Some of the benefits of the Scheme on the Australian building and construction industry

This Australian Government Scheme has had some significant safety and cost-saving impacts for industry and government stakeholders, with over 90% of companies achieving better safety performance since their Accreditation, according to the OFSC’s 2021 census. In addition, after 6 years of Accreditation:  
  • 66% of companies reduced their lost time injury frequency rates by a whopping 88%. 
  • 65% of companies reduced workers compensation premium rates by an average of 39%.
The commercial drive to achieve or maintain Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) accreditation is also understandable when you consider that more than $185 billion in Scheme contracts have been awarded since its inception and that 474 Scheme contracts worth $72 billion were active as of 30 June 2022.  And, while some may assume that OFSC accreditation is only for the ‘top-end-of-town’ and companies meeting certain financial thresholds, 70% of accredited companies are SMEs (as of June 22). Source: WHS Accreditation Scheme Snapshot – 30-06-22

Start Today!  OFSC Accreditation gives you access to significant construction contracts

While it takes a significant investment in time and money to achieve OFSC Accreditation, the safety, commercial, and reputational benefits are beyond question. The scheme already has 563 accredited companies (and counting) engaged in over $72 billion worth of active contracts at the time of writing. The question is – are you ready?

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