I have quite a few clients due to be audited soon so I thought I’d write about the things auditors tend to ask. Of course no one can predict all their questions (they are human beings after all), but you can bet that the following 5 questions will be amongst them.
1. What is your policy?
Quality/OHS/Environmental/Energy/Food Safety or a combination of them into one integrated policy. This is often one of the first questions asked during a certification audit.
To ensure that the policy covers all the points it should. Click here to read my blog on 5 things you must know about a Quality Policy. You can apply these tips to policies for the other management systems too.
To see if it has been communicated to all and how this is done when new people join the organisation.
2. What are your objectives?
ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems, ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems, AS 4801 OHS Management Systems, and ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems all require the setting of relevant objectives. Here are some tips on making them meaningful.
To determine whether your objectives are linked to you policy and are relevant to your organisation.
To ascertain whether you have an action plan for achieving those goals (important in every management system except quality which ironically doesn’t require a plan for achieving them!).
3. How do you know the correct way to perform your job?
After all, a management system should communicate to staff how you want your business to be run. If it doesn’t there isn’t much point in having it.
To find out whether staff actually use the procedures and work instructions in your management system or whether you just give lip service to it.
To ascertain how whether employees can easily find any documents related to their jobs. If they can’t find them easily then they can’t use them.
4. What do you do if you find a non-conformance (problem) or a potential improvement?
Management systems should help a business to continuously improve but if staff don’t bring problems to the attention of the right person and they aren’t documented then your opportunity for improvement is greatly reduced.
To ascertain whether employees understand the concepts of non-conformance, corrective & preventive actions and continual improvement, and whether they understand the systems that have been put in place to handle them.
To determine if the company encourages use of continual improvement tools and has communicated those to all employees.
5. How are training needs determined?
Developing human resources is one of the keys to business success.
To probe the degree of planning that goes into developing your people. They want to know whether training is performed as a knee-jerk activity or whether it is geared toward empowering each employee with the skills and knowledge needed to propel the business forward.
To determine whether training needs have been determined for everyone who has a direct impact on quality/safety/environment/energy/food safety, not just a narrow slice of the organization.
There will be lots of other questions. The important thing is to make sure everyone understands what’s expected of them, that they answer questions honestly. They should also be prepared, if saying “I don’t know,” to be able to point the auditor in the direction of someone who does know.
Bear in mind that auditors are there to help you by identifying opportunities for improvement. It’s not the Spanish Inquisition, so no one should be afraid of being burned at the stake if things go awry.