Improve System Audit Quality for Less Cost

This article focuses on how to Improve System Audit Quality for Less Cost. This information is especially important to this new pandemic world we live in.Audit quality.

I have worked in the health and safety field for over 45 years. As long as I can remember, health and safety management system audits has been the primary measuring stick companies use to assess safety system performance. As a consultant for the last 25 years, most of my time was spent either conducting audits or instructing on the audit process. During this time, I learned a few things about auditing that I would like to share. You will find the following suggestions helpful to improve system audit quality for less cost. Your auditor will complete audits quicker, with improved accuracy and with more opportunities for improvement.


  1. Collect employee beliefs and perceptions by survey instead of by interview.

The information collected from employees is probably the most important part of an audit but it does not have to be collected by auditor interviews. With a good survey application, employees can log in and respond to audit questions anywhere, anytime. This collection approach does not compromise the audit process, in fact, it enhances or improves it. A sizable portion of an auditor’s billable time is in the time it takes to conduct employee interviews. The use of surveys can reduce auditor costs by one third and in some cases even more.


  • Score employee responses on a Likert 1 – 5 scale.

Audits typically require employees to respond to audit questions on a YES or NO or “ALL or NONE” response scale. The numerical result is a very rough estimate of the message employees are trying to convey. Surveys often use a Likert 1-5 scale. While this scale also is not perfect, it does help to assess employee perceptions more accurately. As a result, surveys do a much better job of identifying opportunities for improvement that can be lost using a less precise method of scoring.


  • Maintaining social distancing while gathering employee perceptions.

During this time of pandemic with social distancing requirements, some Governments, Safety Associations, Insurance companies, have decided, to suspend the interview portion of the audit. This is unfortunate because employee information is critical to the integrity of the audit process. Employee feedback is needed to hear employee concerns not identified through documents and observations. Also employee information is needed to validate document and observation audit findings. This important part of the audit process does not have to be compromised to maintain social distancing requirements. Surveys can be used to collect employee information.


  • Use surveys to not only collect employee scores to questions, but also collect their comments.

Comments made freely without fear of any reprisal are invaluable in validating the scores to questions and in providing direction on next steps. These comments can be collected readily by survey.


  • Use surveys to sort employee data.

A survey application can sort survey scores and comments by location, age, sex, position, etc. This level of detail analysis can help pinpoint very specific strengths and opportunities for improvement. This is a level of data sorting that is difficult if not impossible to do without a survey database.


  • Reveal perception gaps.

In order to build and sustain a strong positive health and safety management system there needs to be alignment among the employee groups such as workers, supervisory and management. There needs to be alignment throughout the organization. A survey database can readily sort through the employee data and identify significant gaps in perceptions. To achieve alignment, perception gaps need to be identified and then addressed.


  • A survey application can apply additional useful statistics to the data.

There are opportunities to improve the science of auditing. For example, statistics such as standard deviation can be incorporated into the analysis of the employee response data. This level of analysis may not be feasible by hand but can easily be achieved with a good survey application. Statistics can reveal additional opportunities for improvement as well as enhance the reliability of the audit process.


  • Solve problems with audit fatigue and paralysis.

 When an audit protocol is used over and over, by one employer, the value in the protocol generally diminishes over time. Audit fatigue and paralysis set in because the audit offers few or no new opportunities for improvement. The employer’s return on their audit investment shifts from a good investment to a bad one. A proper survey application will allow employers the flexibility to incorporate company specific questions into the existing one-size-fits all audit protocol. An application that has the ability to toggle in or out the results of additional company specific questions, can meet the information needs of an employer as well as that of the audit protocol sponsor (e.g. safety association). This flexible approach to assessment ensures everyone gets the information they need.

It is clear that a great deal can be done to improve the current audit process. This pandemic has created havoc throughout the world but on the positive side, it has also helped create opportunities to improve. Change has been accelerated such as new cost effective ways to conduct business meetings and deliver health care. Employers are seeking better ways of doing just about everything these days. They want, and deserve, better audits at lower cost. Now is an opportunity to make meaningful changes to how we conduct audits. Improved audits delivered at lower cost will benefit employers participating in Government and association recognition programs. Reduced audit costs will encourage more employers to participate in these programs in the future.

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