Meet the auditor: Peter Cammell

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In 2010, a tragic death occurred on an instruction course. As president of the New Zealand Alpine Club at the time, Peter Cammell committed to finding out the causes of the death to ensure it didn’t happen again.

During this learning process, he discovered that by being a qualified person, you give yourself a better chance. So, over the course of eight years he put in the effort to become a fully-qualified rock and alpine instructor and guide.

When he’s not climbing Mount Everest, or working as a guide in Antarctica, Peter packs a lot of activity into his time in New Zealand. He works and volunteers as a rock and alpine instructor, helps out with the Alpine Club, and on top of this mountain of commitments, works fulltime as an OutdoorsMark auditor, technical expert, and outdoor recreation consultant.

He joined the auditing team four years ago, and says he is “probably the old man auditor” for OutdoorsMark now, as he has been there since the manadatory audit requirement started, and has been involved with the training of other auditors.

Peter is committed to the safety of those engaging with the outdoors, and has the background and passion that makes auditing a natural fit for him.

“My pharmaceutical background means I am very methodical and systematic in the way I approach things. And from my mountaineering background, I know I’m very lucky to still be alive, because I have had a lot of near misses…but I know a lot of people who aren’t here.”

Peter has been climbing mountains on every continent for 43 years, and recognises that the outdoors, and especially mountains, can be extremely high-risk environments. Therefore, he sees the role of an auditor as crucial for ensuring peoples’ safety.

He says an incident occurs in any outdoor operation, when the person in charge of the activity at the time makes a mistake. To minimise this risk, Peter’s auditing philosophy is to build from the bottom up, and also build from the top down.

“The owner of the operation needs to have a commitment to safe practice, and that culture needs to radiate right down from the top” Peter says. “So, you’ve got

bottom up, top down. The detail sits in the sandwich, but you need those two elements in place around the culture of no shortcuts, and to expect failures – because then if you do get failures in your system, they are caught before they become incidents.”

Based in Auckland, Peter is currently working seven days a week for OutdoorsMark, carrying outaudits all around the country.

He thoroughly enjoys working through the process with the operators, and says he takes pride in delivering a supportive and professional service.

“A lot of outdoor operators – their strength is not paperwork. They went into the outdoors because they like that tactile engagement with the environment and people. And what we’re all learning, is that you actually need solid paperwork processes to support what you do in the field. So, that’s been the biggest learning for people, so I really just try to be supportive for them as I knock their documents into shape to satisfy the audit standards.”

Peter says there is nothing better than turning up for an audit, where the operation is prepared. That means referencing all pages, preparing documentation, having clean documents (separating the SMS from the SOPs), and maintaining a simple but effective record-keeping process.

He says although there are a lot of processes, an effective way to manage is to keep checklists, so you can check off the tasks you need to do regarding dealing with all types of incidents.

Peter’s best advice is to start early, and to pre-engage with an auditing consultant who is not your auditor in order to increase efficiency.

“They can go through your documents and processes and ask you some hard questions, because that will save me having to go through your documentation, trying to find stuff that isn’t there.”

Peter is committed to his auditing work, and says he is in this job because he wants to make a difference in regard to safe practice in the outdoors environment.

"Accidents don’t happen without people. People are the problem in the natural environment, and they are also the opportunity. If you have the right attitude, and you keep your eyes and ears open, you will give yourself the best chance – and that’s all I want."

Matt Phillips