3 common pitfalls to avoid during audits

Wondering how to strengthen your organisation against common pitfalls that arise during the audit process? What if there were practical solutions from experienced auditors to guide you through the audit process?

Within quality, safety and environmental management, audits play a key role in upholding certification standards. With proper planning, businesses can get ahead of the common problems that the auditor will be looking for at audit time.

In this article, we’ll discuss these challenges and provide practical tips to help your organisation navigate the audit process smoothly and efficiently.

Pitfall 1: Internal Audits not completed

With an external audit looming, management will often begin to wonder if they are prepared. This often results in a panic and rushed completion of some, if any, internal audits – as well as things like management reviews and supplier evaluations.

The standard requires the organisation to conduct internal audits at planned intervals to provide information on whether the management system conforms to:

  • The organisation’s own requirements for its management system (i.e., your own procedures), and
  • The requirements of the International Standard/s.

Planning these audits at intervals throughout the year will prevent a last-minute rush-job; and ensure the internal audit process can be as effective as it is designed to be – that is, providing regular opportunities to check in on the system for continual improvement.

In addition to internal audits, management review meetings need to be completed in accordance with the requirements of the standard (Clause 9.3). Again, the frequency of management review meetings will be determined by the size and scope of the organisation (at a minimum, once per year), but these need to be scheduled and documented along with internal audits.

What the auditor will be looking for:

  • An internal audit schedule or evidence that the audits have been planned (e.g. in a calendar)
  • Documented findings from each internal audit
  • Any actions undertaken from these findings
  • Documented management review meeting agenda and minutes

Pitfall 2: Failing to address Non-conformities

Identifying and resolving non-conformities during audits is a common issue. Failure to address them promptly can prolong the certification process and may result in suspension of your certification. To effectively address non-conformities, our auditors recommend you follow your own ‘Non-conformity and corrective action’ process.

Alongside this process you will need to show evidence of:

  • Reporting and logging of any identified system, product or service non-conformities (including results from audits) through your ‘Non-conformity & Corrective Action’ process
  • Corrective actions taken to eliminate the non-conformity
  • Evaluation and monitoring of non-conformities and corrective actions

What the auditor will be looking for:

“The non-conformity and corrective action process needs to be able to demonstrate the nature of the non-conformities and any subsequent actions taken – as well as the result of the corrective action. That is, whether the corrective action was effective or not.”

Amy Mitchell – Certification Manager & Lead Auditor, Southpac Certifications

Pitfall 3: Lack of Employee Engagement

Getting employees actively involved and committed to ISO standards is a significant challenge for many organisations. Without their buy in, employees can’t foster and contribute to a culture of continuous improvement. There are several proactive measures you can take to ensure employees feel engaged in the certification process.

  • Communicate the benefits: Regularly communicate the benefits of ISO standards to employees, emphasising the positive impact on both personal and organisational growth. This can be through company bulletins, signage, or other innovative means.
  • Schedule regular training: By conducting engaging training sessions and inviting employees to attend, you will enhance their understanding of ISO standards and their role in the certification process.
  • Get employees involved in completing internal audits: Have those that show interest in completing internal audits trained, so that they can assist in completing internal audits for the company.
  • Include them in decision-making: Involve employees in decision-making processes related to ISO compliance, seeking their input and feedback. This will help them to feel more involved and purposeful.
  • Recognise and celebrate contributions: Ensuring employees are aware of relevant objectives and how the company is progressing towards achieving these objectives may foster a positive and motivated work culture. Acknowledge and celebrate achievements and milestones.

What the auditor will be looking for:

“Our audit process will always involve engaging and interviewing staff to ensure we can see the processes and procedures are well known and carried out according to the documentation. It’s not designed to intimidate or make people feel uncomfortable – but the best-run organisations are those with staff who know the system and its processes, understand its importance, and contribute to continually improving the system and processes as the business grows.”

Amy Mitchell – Certification Manager & Lead Auditor, Southpac Certifications

Successfully navigating these challenges is not only about meeting standards; it’s about creating a foundation for sustained success.

Our auditors are flexible, understandable and approachable, and build genuine relationships with every client to become partners in that success. We don’t just show up at audit time to check a box.

Southpac’s auditors are available all year round to support your systems and answer questions around maintaining compliance.

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