Third-Party Audits Should Play a Key Role in Audit Programs
As consultants, we are frequently asked to conduct a variety of third-party audits ranging in scope from corporate management systems to process safety management compliance and an incredible diversity of topics in between. A question that we are frequently asked is: Why should we invest time and financial resources into third-party auditing?
Some typical follow-up client statements to that question are:
- “We already conduct internal audits.”
- “We haven’t had any serious accidents so we don’t need to go looking for gaps.”
- “Third-party auditors won’t understand our facility, operations, procedures, etc.”
- “We might discover a problem that would have to be reported to a regulatory agency.”
- “We don’t see any benefits from audits and they just create more work for us.”
Clearly, some of these positions are understandable while others are difficult to defend, but experienced auditors have likely heard some variation of these and more when asked about third-party audits. To address these concerns and maximize the impact of limited budgets, organizations should consider a flexible, hybrid approach to utilizing third-party auditors.
A hybrid audit approach can take a couple of forms:
- Alternating first party (internal) audits with third-party independent audits.
- Fielding audit teams comprised of a third party lead auditor and a mixed audit team comprised of third-party auditors and company staff from the auditee’s other locations or business units.
Utilizing a mixed audit team is the most attractive and economical option for most organizations, but the lead auditor should be from a third party organization and retain the final authority to determine what will be reported as a finding or “non-conformance”.
Objectivity and Audit Expertise
Third-party auditors have the benefit of a diverse client base and the advantage of conducting compliance audits in occupational work environments across a range of industries. While audits are inherently unique to each site or operation, there are a series of best practices that can be shared among the group of clients, which only serves to strengthen each individual audit program. This industry-wide knowledge held by the third party auditor can help validate existing programs, and provide recommendations for growth or change when necessary.
Due to its objective position, the results of a third-party audit often provide a more accurate view of what is occurring within an auditee’s organization. While initial third-party audits often show unexpected findings or non-conformances, many auditees realize that these results are uncovering long-standing issues of non-compliance and opportunities for loss control that can be quickly corrected, thereby leading to a positive ROI for the audit program. It’s amazing how often a client’s management tells us that they have been conducting internal audits for years with only a minimal number of low to moderate severity findings and how shocked they are by the results of a truly independent audit. We often tell a new client considering third-party audits: just let us audit one of your sites and you will see the clear benefits.
To learn more about how we can help you and your company with third-party audit solutions visit our page: Audits and Assessments.