Making the most of safety audit findings

Audits.  I know what you’re thinking…successive root canals for a week sounds more appealing.  But it doesn’t have to be like that, does it?

The audit variables are almost endless.  Internal audits by corporate managers, external certification audits, government audits, pre-qualification audits, client audits, peer audits, and senior management audits – the list goes on.  What is the auditor like?  Is the auditor not fit to sharpen my pencil?  What are the criteria, and will they be interpreted the same way as the last one (or me)?  Will corrective actions have consequences?  A sick day is sounding better and better.

Its a cliche, but preparation is key.  Know your criteria.  Research your auditor.  Map the criteria against your system.  Make sure the basics are there – access to your system documents and records, availability of key staff and management, even a decent selection of food and refreshments for the auditor and the team.

The audit is the audit – if you’ve prepared as well as you could have, you will get the result you deserve.  But Murphy was an optimist – and things go wrong, and you will get corrective actions.  The simple truth is that if you’re not getting any corrective actions you need to change auditors.

But how you respond to the audit result is where the magic needs to happen.  Regardless of your belief in the validity of the findings, it is your opportunity to make a difference to the management system within your organisation.  A couple of thoughts to consider are:

1.  Look at every issue systemically.  If a worker hasn’t completed a form properly, and the audit sample revealed enough non-compliance to result in a corrective action consider whether the form is necessary, or could the process be made simpler, or will a better understanding of the reason for the form facilitate improved completion?  Also, are the frequency requirements for completing the form, or the system triggers for the completion of the form right?  If there is no specific compliance requirement for the frequency and content of the form, don’t be afraid to relax system requirements, and make sure the system reflects the modified requirements.

2.  Consider taking things away.  Almost every audit corrective action response results in something being added to a system – either a ‘band-aid’ solution or a ‘bolt-on’ component that more often than not make the system worse off and less reliable, in order to get your name off that nasty corrective action register.  Make taking something away from your system your starting point, and work from there.  Simple areas might be the removal of motherhood statements that add no benefit, winding back requirements to complete aspects too regularly, or reducing the criteria of a form.  Even simple formatting improvements, or mapping a process to identify efficiencies can help.

3.  Listen to the team and encourage debate.  If you can’t reasonably justify why something is wrong or needs to change, then it probably needs to be re-assessed.  Don’t just fall back to ‘its the law’, as its often not (the difference between a should and a shall is well documented).  Don’t be afraid to fall on your sword, and say ‘I got this wrong team…how can we fix this?’

The team at GCG are here to help you keep your people safe.  Let us know if we can help.

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