Compliance Audits - It's Time to Stop Fighting Them

Posted by Community User

Internal audits are a core component of QHSE compliance programs so why do organisations make them so hard?

I was reminded the other day of that old saying about there only being two certainties in life – taxes and death.

If you’ve been around QHSE compliance as long as I have you’ll appreciate that there’s quite a few other certainties specific to our industry.

One is audits which, just like taxes and death, can’t be avoided.

Another is non-conformances but, unlike the actual audit, these are very much avoidable.

Unfortunately the industry is full of non-conformances being handed out to organisations (who frankly should know better) for not doing internal audits.

So what’s the reason for all these non-conformances?

Many say it’s because audits are just another time-consuming bureaucratic function required by compliance programs.

I have a problem with this view. Yes, it’s a widely-held perception; but that’s all it is – perception.

Sure, there’s an element of red-tape associated with audits but that doesn’t mean they have to be bureaucratic nightmares that take forever and a day to manage. In fact, not only can audits be hassle-free and super-slick, they also have the potential to drive real operational improvements and cost savings.

So why such resentment?

The first thing to understand is that most people spend more time saying they don’t have time to do the audit than it actually takes to do it.

The second point is people think that audits are about them. Wrong! Audits are about the process, not the individuals.

When Deming said that “there is no such thing as a poor performer, there are only poor processes” he was basically saying you can’t blame the people if you get slapped with a whole bunch of non-conformances.

Instead, you need to take a look at your processes and you’ll quickly realize that you’re not even giving your people a fighting chance.

So what’s really going wrong?

Fundamentally it’s because of the inefficiency surrounding the whole audit process. And with such inefficient, manual processes in place, is it any wonder people are so anti-audit?

Let’s think about the steps involved for a moment… there’s creating the audit schedule, notifying the auditee, rescheduling the audit (because the auditee has gone AWOL), doing the audit (fun), writing the report (not as much fun), raising the non-conformance from the audit, updating the schedule, and filing the results.

So yes there’s a fair bit of stuff to manage but really it’s not so outlandish as to cause such levels of resentment and incompetence.

If you give your people a decent way of managing the audit process, they won’t be so negative and they’ll do a much better job.

What’s needed is a technology-enabled, time-efficient process that:

  • Enables easy scheduling of the audit and for it to be visible to management
  • Automatically notifies both the auditor and auditee when the audit is due
  • Enables audit tips and hints to assist the auditors to get meaningful outcomes
  • Records results quickly and efficiently (and in real-time)
  • Enables any non-conformances and improvements to be raised as you audit
  • Allows for easy comparison against previous audits – and therefore to demonstrate that progress has been made

The Takeaway

Just like taxes and death, you can’t escape audits – they’re here to stay.

But just as many of us now rely on smart software to remove the pain of calculating our tax and filing our returns, you can do the same with your audit process.