All businesses that have an externally certified management system will be audited annually to ensure continued compliance or for re-certification.
Weeks before the audit, senior staff will begin to get twitchy and ask questions that really, do not need to be asked. Those with quality or compliance departments will be rushing around, going back through the last twelve months documented information to check that signatures, dates, and actions are all in place.
If all this sounds familiar, then I am afraid you are not managing your Management System efficiently. However, you are not alone. Many businesses think that when they have been awarded their certification, the Management System would run and maintain itself. Then, eleven months later, someone reminds them that the Auditor is due to visit!
This is the main reason businesses fear the Auditor’s visit. But, there is no need. For businesses that are just beginning their journey with a Management System, the Auditor is aware of the situation. He or she will take into consideration the ‘age’ of the Management System. They will be more interested in seeing that you are using the Management System as you have documented it than they are to trip you up. If you are unlucky that a non-conformance was found, it is not the end of the world. Look at it as a way to improve the system. They will highlight areas that aren’t working as per your documented procedures. Again, use this as an opportunity to review the procedures and see what the problem is and fix it. Again, an improvement. The Auditor may also suggest, from their knowledge and experience with best practice, other improvements.
If you have a mature Management System, one that has been in place for at least three years, and you have maintained your Management System fully there is no need to fear the Auditor’s visit. However, this time the Auditor will definitely be looking much closer into your documented information, your staffs’ awareness of the Management System and, depending upon the Management System, maybe some of your Stakeholders. The Auditor will be following up closely on any nonconformities from the previous audit to ensure an Action Plan was prepared, corrective action(s) taken, and that it was regularly monitored to check it worked.
He or she will also share their best practice knowledge to help the business to continuously improve their Management System. This is the time when the Senior Management should grasp the opportunity to find out what is new in the market. Utilise the Auditor’s knowledge to improve the existing Management System.
Should you fear the Auditor? Unless you have done absolutely nothing to maintain the Management System in the months leading to the Auditor’s visit, to ensure it is doing what it is supposed to, then the answer is NO. Look at the Auditor’s visit as a chance to verify that all is as they should be. Look at non-conformities as opportunities for improvements and use the opportunity to find out what’s new in the marketplace.
For more information on Management Systems, Internal Audits or Certification visit our website:
www.csa-consultants.me or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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