Environment / Food Safety / Quality / Safety
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The audit report communicates the information, findings and opinions derived from the audit. The report communicates either acceptability of the current status of the management system or reports non-conformances that need corrective action. The following outlines the suggested steps for reporting audit results.
Step 1. Assess the Status of Current Internal Controls
One of the auditor’s main responsibilities is to evaluate whether the current internal controls that govern the management system are adequate. Do the audits:
- Highlight areas of concern or hazards that may be a failure waiting to happen?
- Focus attention of the 20% of the factors that cause 80% of the problems?
- Help to eliminate ineffective controls or make existing controls better?
- Aid in the detection and prevention of deficiencies or non-conformances?
- Look through and investigate possible “homeblindness”?
- Verify the management system links are supportive and feed each other information to assure continual improvement?
The auditors must constantly challenge the status quo and push the management system forward beyond its comfort level.
Step 2. Prepare Audit Report
Most facilities use a formal audit report system. The audit report format is prescribed and followed by the auditor. The auditor typically states:
- Date and time of audit
- Department audited
- Management system clauses audited to
- Personnel interviewed
- Documents reviewed
- Summary of findings
- Conformance or non-conformance determination
Step 3. Discuss Audit Findings
The lead auditor will then take the completed audit report and review the contents with the affected department head. Upon acceptance by the department head, the final audit report should then be signed by the department head verifying acceptance and responsibility for any change(s) required.
Step 4. Determine Plan of Action
The entire reason for conducting internal management system audits is to verify conformance and continually improve on the management system. Therefore, it is extremely important that all identified non-conformances are corrected in a timely manner.
Some companies place all audited non-conformances into their corrective/preventive action process for tracking purposes. Others place only critical non-conformances into the corrective/preventive action process. Regardless of the mechanics of tracking the identified audited non-conformances, it is imperative that corrective action is taken.
Once the corrective action is in place, the auditors should review the actions taken and verify the root cause was identified properly and resolved. An accept or reject decision can then be rendered for the change action.
If acceptable, no further action is required, and the issue is considered resolved. If unacceptable, the department head must complete a new root cause analysis, develop a new action plan, and put the new action plan into place. The auditors will now review the new action plan and make a determination of acceptance or rejection.
Audit Team Members
It is advisable to rotate your internal management system audit team members. This will allow for fresh perspective and a new set of eyes to look at the management system. This serves many purposes:
- Gives a specific timeframe of responsibly for those thinking of enlisting as an auditor
- Allows for gradual increase of responsibility over time; new auditors learn and perform audits, older auditors become mentors for the new auditors, graduates leave program and are viewed by company personnel as “knowledge experts” on the management system
- Allows for fresh perspective on auditing
- Trains numerous employees on the management system
- Reinforces the concept of continuous improvement
Are You Prepared?
Use your answers to the questions below to evaluate your preparation for reporting audit results.
- Has the auditor evaluated the current internal controls for suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness?
- Does the auditor have hard copy evidence of conformance and/or non-conformance?
- Have all questions prepared prior to the audit been satisfactorily answered and explained?
- Is the audit report clear, concise, and informative?
- Does the department head agree or disagree with the findings?
- Are all identified non-conformances tracked and resolved in a timely manner?
- Based on audit non-conformances, are procedures and work instructions being changed and improved?
- Do employees understand the management system is being audited, not the employee?
- Is change readily accepted by company personnel?