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01 May 2019
Integrated Management System

How to plan and conduct an internal audit

When people hear the term audit, almost immediately people become nervous or sigh at the thought of it. More often than not, perceptions around audits are negative. Benefits of an audit include but not limited to awareness building, identifying areas to boost resources, ensuring obligations are being met, improving operations/work flows. Audits are a tool and we encourage you to embrace this. They are there for you to improve the business, as a means for external parties to gain insight to provide feedback and most importantly to strengthen confidence within your customers and stakeholders. Important things to consider prior to embarking on an audit. What is the objective, what is to be achieved, what is the value to be realised through completing the audit?

An important component of conducting an effective audit is to have someone who is independent to the process, procedure, policy or activity being audited. For example, when completing a site audit, the Site Supervisor would not be a suitable person to complete the audit as they will be auditing their own performance. Alternatively, a project manager overseeing multiple sites who is not directly completing tasks being audited could conduct this. Another important point to consider is that you don’t need someone who is experienced or an expert of what is being audited. The questions lead the process and provide the outcome.

When conducting an audit, you want to utilise questions to view records through the life cycle of a process or procedure. Records are key. If there is no formal record, then there is nothing to support that an activity or task is being completed. Have your audit template ready with a suite of questions that have been pre-planned based on a detailed process, procedure or policy that forms part of your management system. Communication is essential in all workplaces and industries, so let’s consider we are auditing against the requirements of your procedure that addresses consultation and communication requirements.

As a simple example, let’s start with team meetings. Q. Have team meetings been occurring at the required frequency? Are there meeting minutes available? Now before we go any further, your mind might be drifting towards a line of thought saying, am I keeping records just to show these things are being done to tick a box? No, that is not the purpose. If this is the case, you are doing it for the wrong reasons and you are not utilising the full potential of such a process for your business. You are capturing meeting minutes for the health of your business. You are ensuring valuable business knowledge is being captured for continual development and improvement. You are recording constructive actions that are then utilised for task allocation. Now we are getting somewhere. You are conducting audits to ensure this valuable resource is being captured effectively.

Let’s jump back to where we were. Ok great, so there are records of all the team meetings, which are occurring monthly as per our consultation & communication procedure. Great work, and it looks like there are recorded action items with allocated personnel to address. Terrific. Next question to ask as part of your audit. Q. Can you show me where actions are recorded and tracked? Those of you have worked with us on a regular basis will be will know the next two words coming, Action Register. Great, I can see noted actions are detailed in your action register, with dates and are allocated to someone. Terrific. Finally, Q. Are minutes communicated to all staff? This would be the final question to assess if this process is occurring through its full life cycle.

In summary:

  • Know the objective.
  • An independent person conducts the audit. they don’t need to be an experienced in the process.
  • Set questions that work through the life cycle of a documented process or procedure.
  • View records.
  • Audits are a positive tool.