An ISO Audit Checklist for Everyone
There are audit checklists for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001, ISO 22301, ISO 55001, ISO 50001 and so on… We train auditors to develop these checklists in our training courses. However, this article is a response to frequent requests from the other side of the table, “Can we please have a checklist to help us to handle audits better?“.
Here is our response. This article gives guidance on preparing to receive an audit and on responding during audit. Auditors will appreciate this too. If you are well prepared for an audit it makes it easier for them to deliver value to you.
You can also download our audit checklist.
The following guidelines are directed to the person who has been assigned to liaise with the certification body and co-ordinate audit-related activities on behalf of your organisation. If there is no such a person, appoint one now.
Actually, the auditor is responsible for initiating or requesting many of the things in the checklist . Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Play safe; ensure that they do.
Immediately After the Previous Audit
Ascertain from the auditor the proposed dates of next audit. Also, ask the auditor to state the date, objective(s) and scope (i.e. which ISO standard and which clauses, which locations etc) of the next audit. Once the dates have been agreed, ask the appropriate persons to reserve these dates in their diaries.
When the audit report is received, ensure that it is communicated to the relevant persons and ensure that your corrective and preventive actions process gets to work on the findings and progress is monitored. Otherwise, there may be a last minute scramble before the next audit!
One Month before the Audit
Contact the auditor or the account manager of the certification body to reconfirm the audit and the name of the auditor or auditors (these sometimes change).
If you have not yet received a copy of the audit plan, or programme as it is sometimes called, ask for it. In the case of more complicated audits, it may be in everyone’s interest that you offer to help the auditor to develop the audit plan using your knowledge of the areas to be audited.
You should also check on the auditor’s logistical requirements for the audit. These typically include: a room, a guide, car parking space and directions to the audit location. It may be wise also to ask if there are any special dietary needs.
Email a copy of the audit programme to managers responsible for the areas to be audited and follow up to confirm that they have received it and that the appropriate people will be available. This may seem a bit over the top, but you know how unreliable internal communication can be!
Two Weeks before the Audit
- Take care of the logistical arrangements. This includes:
- Reserving a room for the auditor
- Reserving car parking space, if required
- Notifying security if a special pass is needed
- Internet access (may need a password)
- Catering, if you are ordering lunch and refreshments
It would be wise also to verify that all outstanding actions from the previous audit have been completed and documentary evidence is available. This is usually the first thing that an auditor will examine. A swift close out of all actions will get you off to flying start.
Day of the Audit
Put a notice on the door of the auditor’s room, “Audit in Progress – Do not Disturb”. The auditor may conduct interviews elsewhere, but may wish to leave documents in the room and to conduct interviews there.
Before the auditor arrives, make sure that the room for the opening meeting is set up appropriately for the number of persons who will be attending the opening meeting.
Make sure that the signing in, visitor induction, safety brief etc are completed promptly on arrival. Auditors are not exempt and if the audit happens to include health and safety elements, it would be an even more embarrassing omission!
The audit itself will begin with a brief opening meeting. Inform senior managers that protocol requires that the auditor shall chair the meeting. So, after greeting the auditor, they can relax.
During the Audit
First priority – tea and/or coffee! The auditor might have had a long journey and regular refreshment will be much appreciated. No need to bring out the best silver, but try not to offer machine-made beverages in paper cups or a DIY kit with hot water in a thermos flask.
Try to calm nerves and offer practical advice to auditees. Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Listen to the question carefully
- Be open and answer honestly
- If you don’t know the answer, say so. Try to direct the auditor to someone who does
- Be prepared to show documentary evidence, if asked
- Politely point out anything the auditor has misunderstood
- Be positive at all times
- Be late for your appointment
- Try to negotiate. It will waste time and you will lose
- Argue with the auditor. You will lose again
- Try to excuse mistakes or deflect attention. The auditor is not trying to pin blame
- Usurp the interview or talk over another person who is being interviewed
What if you want to invite the auditor to dinner? Certification bodies require their auditors to observe certain rules and the rules vary. So, don’t be offended if the auditor declines. If the auditor accepts, ensure that the hospitality is not excessive and don’t talk about the audit!
The closing meeting is where the auditor will give verbal and sometimes also written feedback on the audit findings. Once again, the auditor will chair the meeting.
Ask the auditor well beforehand who should attend. It won’t necessarily be everyone who attended the opening meeting. It is usually sufficient to invite persons from departments where nonconformities have been found. If others want to attend, don’t discourage them.
Some words of advice to attendees:
- Be punctual – expect the auditor to start on time
- Ensure you fully understand the findings. If not, ask the auditor to clarify.
- Take notes – you can use them to give immediate feedback to others
Most people’s reaction to audit is on a scale which varies from mild anxiety to sheer terror. By diligent management and following the guidelines in this article, you and your colleagues can be on the low end of that scale. You might even begin to enjoy the audit experience!