A review of recently marked audit reports arising from our online course has prompted me to comment on the way in which some these findings are presented. The comments outlined here may also ring true for audits conducted annually throughout the world against the ISO and OHSAS standards.

  1. The findings are too long and wordy.

There is a tendency for trainee auditors to write too much information into the finding. Yes, there could be a lot to talk about once the case study is completed. Gathering evidence from a scenario is, for me, the ‘interesting’ part of an audit. Condensing all that information into a few carefully chosen phrases is definitely a skill that some auditors need to work on. It’s relatively easy to write lots of repetitive information about things that were found to be a problem, but distilling it into something that is short, accurate and grammatically correct is a real challenge for most of us.

  1. The finding does not state clear evidence against the requirement.

A simple formula is presented within the online course which is requirement + evidence = finding. Trainees should really think about this and prepare a sentence that incorporates the place and the wording of the requirement (standard, procedure, manual etc). That should be easy as it is written down somewhere.

Evidence unearthed by the auditor should be presented to clearly to show that the requirements had not been met. The requirement together with a concise and carefully worded summary of relevant evidence should be enough to convince any reader that a problem exists within the management system.

  1. Auditors give their opinion rather than facts.

It is best to stick to requirements and evidence. Stating “in my opinion” can lead to serious problems and disagreements. After all an opinion is something that can easily change from one auditor to the next and from one client to the other. Just think about how opinions about the latest film varies from person to person. Try that out with friends sometime.

  1. The auditor has not done enough work

Auditing can be hard work. The auditor has to untangle issues that may be jumbled up or unclear to either or both auditor and auditee. In some cases it is apparent that the trainee auditor has not really concentrated on the issues and identified what is wrong and why. It takes time and effort to really understand some situations that are presented in the case study. Notes may need to be taken and cross-referenced with what was said during the multi-media presentations.

The end result of the audit is a finding. If it is inaccurate, badly worded and too long, the reader may find it difficult to understand the essential root cause of the problem. If that is the case it may then be ignored or inappropriate corrective action applied. Either way, the problem doesn’t get fixed.

The course we deliver online provides clear guidance on how to write a non-conformance or finding but it is the duty of the trainee auditor to put this into practice and demonstrate that they have understood how to prepare an audit finding. Professional auditor colleagues with whom I work usually display the highest level of skill in crafting the words of a finding. Reaching that level requires good training, a lot of effort and the steady acquisition of audit experience. In that way,  you will become an auditor-saint rather than an auditor-sinner.

John Marsden   – 10th August 2017