When Doing Remote Audits, Have Any Processes Changed?
In this video series, Peter Rogers from Mango talks with compliance experts from around the world about the above question, discussing the ease and effectiveness of remote QHSE auditing.
With many countries around the world still experiencing a lockdown situation due to the ongoing global health pandemic, remote auditing is becoming more and more important.
You can find a transcript of the discussions below the video.
Question: What processes did you have to change to support remote audits?
Michael, Momentum Safety and Ergonomics, Australia
One of the things I found, is that you have to be a little bit more organised with how you do things. When you turn up to a site, there is a little bit of flexibility of ‘I’ll have a look at this,’ or something like that, whereas it’s not quite as easy to do that when you’re auditing remotely.
That’s one of the things that we had to change so, definitely setting up the scope and the structure of the audit and clarifying that with the client beforehand is probably one of the biggest changes that I’ve learned along the way.
Andrew, IRM Systems, Australia
Number one, I found you have to do more audit planning for remote audits, particularly if it’s a site you’re not that familiar with. A lot more audit planning is needed to really understand the process or procedure and the criteria you’re going to audit.
Particularly with safety or environmental audits, it’s understanding the hazards and the aspects and the risks. You don’t want to end up doing a safety audit of a manufacturing plant, for example, and the risk is that because you are not on site, it’s a little bit visually hard to see, and you don’t really look at how their safety system deals with some of the key hazards.
If you have a bit more planning, ask for a copy of those risk assessments up front, so you know what the key hazards are, whether it be mobile plan or working at heights or whatever it might be, then you know that before you conduct that audit.
The other element is definitely a little bit more with the logistics of communication, setting it up so that there is backup there.
If I was auditing you and we decided to do it by Zoom meeting or something, you have to have backup, because you have those situations where the auditees can see me and vice versa, but the audio is not working, whatever the case might be. Get phone, email, other web conferencing software so that you can switch to something pretty quickly if it doesn’t work, that takes a little bit more planning and coordination than normal.
Getting in touch with the auditees as well, because obviously, if you guys were in a manufacturing plant, and I needed to speak to someone else, a production manager or whatever, in a normal audit schedule, if you’re a little bit ahead in your audit, you could probably just bring that forward, obviously, that’s a little bit harder in a remote audit.
Planning your time, setting times with a different auditee so that it works as smoothly as possible, is really important
John, Many Caps Consulting, New Zealand
Nothing. I would say that this was one of the easiest audits we’ve ever done in terms of the way of doing an audit, it was much simpler. Because even if we missed a step, we kind of jumped on him and say, “Oh, well, we’re now in the manufacturing hall, I forgot to ask about the evidence for when you book something in.’ We were able to call that straight up without having to wander back and forth, so, it was really simple.
And because we could have multiple people on the system at the same time, it was doubly good.
The other benefit that we had, was we could record the audit. In terms of capturing the little gems that came out in the discussions, you didn’t have to constantly scribble them down, because you could focus on the questions, and by recording it, we could play that back and go back through and say ‘we haven’t got anything raised for this, but as we know, we can do better.
We were able to pick out 20 things ourselves, or things that we thought, ‘well, we could tweak that and make our life so much easier’.
I actually thought it was easier to do, and cheaper, because we didn’t have to pay for travel.
Chris, FQM Ltd, United Kingdom
I’ll give an example: we’ve got quite a number of architect clients, and when you audit an architect at their offices, and you’re hovering over someone’s shoulder, trying to look at their screen and they’re explaining something that they’ve done, like design management, for example, in ISO 9001.
When they’re actually sharing the screen with you and you can see the mouse move and see everything they’re doing, I actually find that you get a better opportunity to see exactly what’s presented in front of you. Rather than (when), you’re sitting beside them, whether you’ve got a tablet, or a notebook, or a pen and paper you’re shorthand writing things down. When it’s actually on your screen in front of you and particularly often, when it’s operational tasks, we record it as well.
When it’s on teams, we record it, so when we’re writing up a report, we can go back and say ‘we were talking about that between 12 and 12:30,’ and I just go to have a quick look back at that and remind myself, that’s actually a huge advantage.
I don’t have the greatest memory, so I take a lot of notes if I’m auditing, whether it’s on a laptop or a pad, or whatever it may be, or even using the Mango audit module. But actually, when you video something at the same time and record the activity that’s a huge added benefit.
Nicholas, SRM, South Africa
I think the glaring, obvious issues are when we’re auditing sites, there are reviews of documentation, and then there’s also reviews of physical site conditions, that’s what we had to change in our process.
We’ve split our remote audits into two phases:
There’s one audit, which would be a document review, which we’re quite comfortable to do online. And then in some instances, there is the requirement for a physical site inspection, particularly if we’re auditing construction, or we’re looking at a factory of something where health and safety is one of the provisos that physical inspections obviously necessary.
Jodie, Penarth Management, United Kingdom
We didn’t really have to change much in the way of the processes that we’re operating because in terms of using Zoom as our video conferencing platform, we’ve been doing that for a while anyway. With our Mango clients, the remote audits have been really easy to do, because, the evidence is so easy to find in the system, so that involves no change.
It’s more about educating the client when we need them to do the walkabout kind of audits.
Mark, Business Basics, Australia
The biggest change we had to make was, your planning has to be a lot more detailed.
To make it work in an efficient manner, it’s better to provide the client a list and say, ‘I need these documents’ so they’ve got time to collate it all beforehand. Whereas before they could pull it up because you’re sitting in front of them and it was a lot easier, or they could scan it or you’d be on site and you could see it in the truck. It’s meant that planning takes a lot longer.
Gary, QSM Group, Australia
There’s lots of audits and internal audits that you don’t have to be on site for. We see a lot of consultants that go out and do internal audits for clients, and the reality is we can provide a more efficient and cost-effective service to those clients by doing remote audits. There’s no need to hop in the car and travel 500 kilometres into the country, to actually do an audit on your training competencies, or, how you’re doing your management reviews or, your internal audit programs or document control and all that sort of thing. That can all be done remotely.
I tried to put a percentage on it, I think, probably 85 – 90% of a full or comprehensive internal audit, could actually be done remotely.
The only challenges we’re looking at is looking at that helicopter view in terms of what are the actual people doing on a day to day basis versus what the system says they should be doing?
Because we’re all people, and people will make mistakes. It’s a matter of working out, what are those errors ? And could any of them, seriously impact on the deliverable’s to a client, or more importantly, impact on safety or is endangering the safety of themselves or others.
They’re the things that really you’ve got to sit back and look at.
- Pre-audit planning is is key to a good effective audit.
- Have a backup plan (and software) in case anything goes wrong.
- Supply the auditee with an agenda and a list of documentation required prior to audit.
- Make sure you understand the hazards and risk involved with each site to ensure nothing is missed.