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Make Sure there is an Audit Plan

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 A pilot will always develop a Flight Plan to describe their proposed aircraft flight prior to taking off. It includes two safety critical aspects: fuel calculation to ensure the aircraft will safely reach its destination and specific information for air traffic control to minimise the risk of a mid-air collision.This process helps the pilot to plan a successful flight minimising the risk of unforeseen or unplanned events.

The purpose of a Flight Plan is not dissimilar to an Audit Plan.Both documents detail a list of steps with timing and resources used to achieve an objective.A Safety Audit is a complex process often squeezed into a tight timeframe. A good Audit Plan, one that allocates suitable time and resources, provides the best chance for the Auditee to demonstrate how they conform to requirements, whilst also providing the Auditor with opportunity to identify meaningful improvement opportunities.

Your Auditor should prepare an Audit Plan at least one month prior to the audit that documents the scheduling and coordination of audit activities.It should be developed based on the audit objectives, audit scope and the documentation you provided as part of the Auditor's preparation.When drafting the Audit Plan the Auditor must be mindful of the impact the audit will have on your business operations and consider:

  1. The appropriate sample size required based on risk profile, number of employees and the size of the operations
  2. Who should form part of the audit team based on your business operations and risk profile i.e. are subject matter experts required to be part of the audit team?
  3. The risks presented to your operations by the audit activities
  4. Creating an audit program that is as efficient and streamlined as possible.
A well-designed Audit Plan will allow you to:
  • Collate additional documentary evidence to present during the desktop review
  • Schedule and brief the right people to participate in the audit including Managers, functional leaders and employee representatives who will be interviewed
  • Organise for the relevant operational areas to be prepared ensuring teams are briefed on the scope of the audit and who is best to assist with answering the questions from the auditor
  • Identify any potential issues that could affect the successful outcome of the audit.
If the Auditor does not provide you with an Audit Plan or one that doesn't contain a sufficient level of detail it will make your audit preparation more cumbersome and time consuming. Furthermore, you are at risk of not having the right evidence, people or operational areas available during the audit reducing your chances of a good audit result.

Each Audit Plan will vary in detail and will be very much dependent on the scope and complexity of the audit.It should also be flexible enough to consider potential disruptions or unexpected events that can occur from time to time in your business.When your Auditor prepares your Audit Plan it should include or make reference to the:

  • Objectives defined for the completion of the audit
  • Scope of the audit including what parts of your business will be audited i.e. Departments, functions and processes
  • Audit criteria and any other references e.g. Australian Standards
  • Locations, dates, times and length of each audit activity
  • Interview schedule detailing who or what function will be interviewed, when and for how long
  • Time required for document review and site verification in order to gather sufficient objective evidence
  • Role each audit team member will play during the audit
A copy of the draft Audit Plan should be forwarded to you by the Auditor for review and sign off.Be sure to read the draft Audit Plan so that you are comfortable that the:
  • Audit Plan helps to deliver on the audit objectives
  • Areas included in the audit are within the scope of the audit
  • Most appropriate personnel have been selected for the interviews
  • Operational areas selected will be able to participate in the audit and that the audit process will not interfere with business outputs
  • Timeframes documented in the audit are realistic based on what the Auditor wishes to cover during the allocated time.
Don't be afraid to raise any concerns or suggest changes to the Audit Plan.Remember, an Audit Plan that is well thought through and designed with your business needs in mind will result in an audit that runs smoothly, efficiently and effectively.

If you're interested in more ways to improve your Safety Audits, join our community by subscribing and over the coming weeks, we will outline common Safety Audit pitfalls and practical ways to avoid them. Next up: Making Sure Your Auditor is Experienced & Qualified.

Safety Audits: How to Choose the Right Auditor
Safety Audits: Give Your Auditor Time to Prepare

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