We can all remember being asked to attend a meeting or facilitate a workshop at the last minute, with limited or no time to prepare. The thought of having to 'wing it' is awful and, unsurprisingly, most of us avoid it wherever possible. This isn't dissimilar to how an Auditor feels if they're not given enough time before the audit to prepare. Poor preparation may mean the audit results are not representative of your company's true performance resulting in a less than favourable outcome.
To give you and your business the best chance of achieving a good result and having a positive experience during an audit, it's essential you allow time for your Auditor to prepare. In our experience, if Auditors aren't given this time, a number of things may not work in your favour. This includes the Auditor not having a good understanding of your business and your HSMS. This lack of knowledge and insight will result in the Auditor spending more time, during the initial stages of the audit, trying to understand how your business and system works. The flow on effect can result in:
- Increased audit times
- Misinterpreted or misunderstood information
- Not enough evidence being examined
- An impression that you and/or your HSMS isn't ready to be audited.
- Needing to collate more evidence post audit to satisfy the auditor
Also use this time to take your Auditor through the evidence you have gathered for them. It's unlikely that you will hand over all evidence to your Auditor, so be sure to explain what has been included and what other evidence is available for review should the Auditor request it. This will then give your Auditor an opportunity to ask any questions about your system and the evidence before they start reading the documents.
Following the initial review of the HSMS and documented evidence, the Auditor can then create a well-informed Audit Plan that defines the agreed audit objectives, the audit scope and allocates suitable time and resources to achieve them. Allowing the Auditor time to prepare an Audit Plan will ultimately help guide you and your team on what to expect during the audit and what additional information may need to be provided.
Remember, taking the time to prepare for your audit is essential to ensuring audit results are representative of how your system and your business is performing. Don't forget, the whole purpose of why we audit is to understand the current state. If the results do not truly reflect how health and safety is being managed, then people can't be recognised for their contribution and improvements won't focus on the right areas for improvement.