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
The impact of not having enough evidence, or not having enough time to review it, are Audit findings, good or poor, that aren't representative of what is actually happening. This could lead to a false sense of security that everything is ok, or prompt you to 'correct' processes and practices that may not be in need of improvement.
There are a number of things you, as the Auditee, can do to ensure the Auditor is well prepared prior to coming out to site to complete the audit.
The first thing is to provide the Auditor with a copy of your HSMS and applicable evidence. This should occur prior to your audit at a time agreed to with the Auditor. The HSMS and documented evidence should be submitted to the Auditor in a structured way to enable your Auditor to easily navigate the documents on their own. An electronic folder structure, that mirrors the selected audit criteria, is often the easiest way to ensure your auditor knows what documents applies to what criteria. This will help the Auditor to complete the initial review of your HSMS and any submitted evidence in a systematic way, making the initial review process much easier.
Once the HSMS and documented evidence has been submitted to the Auditor, arrange a time before the desktop review to take your Auditor through your HSMS and documented evidence. This conversation provides the Auditor with an overview of your HSMS structure, functions and what is expected from Managers and employees.
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.
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.