Preparing for a remote audit during the coronavirus pandemic

By Andrew O'Hara

With the current social distancing measures, business closures and restrictions on non-essential travel, a remote audit has become a necessary alternative to visiting organisations in person. For organisations facing uncertainty and challenges, it’s more important than ever to retain required standards and meet regulatory requirements. While there are some drawbacks and reservations relating to auditing remotely, adapting to this practice helps to ensure business processes are correctly being adhered to, and potentially highlighting anything which isn’t up to standard, allowing you to identify actions to address this. 

How is remote auditing performed? 

Remote auditing replaces a face-to-face visit with technology. There’s a range of techniques that auditors can use: video calls; live streaming to do a tour of the building; electronic access to documents and records; screen sharing; and one-to-one interviews with employees. Each technique has its own benefits: video calls, for example, allow auditors to see the person theyre talking to as well as to pick up on some aspects of non-verbal communication - such as body language and facial expression that would be missed in a voice call.  

The IIA lay out five main components of a remote audit:  

  • Planning – where the auditor will discuss with you what to expect, what information needs to be shared and the limitations of auditing remotely. 
  • Document review – giving remote access to key documents that an auditor needs to see. 
  • Site reconnaissance – in this aspect, the auditor will need to get as accurate a picture as possible of the operations within the building. This might be done by sharing photos, videos or livestream.  
  • Remote interviews – the auditor will talk to key personnel and any other employees who are responsible for maintaining the health and safety of business operations. 
  • Closing meeting – this is probably the component that remains largely the same, where the auditor sums up their initial thoughts and statement. 

The role of remote auditing during the coronavirus pandemic  

For highly regulated organisations, it’s crucial to maintain the correct procedures and processes to keep things running as normally as possible during a situation like this. Experts in the field state how important this is in order to support areas such as healthcare, protecting staff and patients“The need for confidence does not go away. If anything, it is even more vital at a time when the world is struggling with a pandemic. Personal protective equipment and medical devices are just two areas of regulated conformity assessment that will be needed to keep front-line staff and patients safe in weeks and months to come.” [1]Having to rely on remote communication has strengthened the need to have robust software and technology tools in place to manage businesses processes. In this context, quality management software can make a huge difference in not only your compliance activities, but in ensuring that all employees can access necessary documents, raise any non-conformances or near misses and ensure that information is complete, accurate and up-to-date 

ASQ virtual conference  

We were due to attend the annual ASQ conference this month, which has gone virtual due to the COVID-19 health crisis. We’ve moved our stand online so you can talk all things QHSE with our industry experts and find out how the software we offer can support you with a remote audit and beyond.  

Join us online now. 

 

[1] Paul Simpson, CQP FCQI, ‘A Critical Time for Remote Auditing’: https://www.quality.org/knowledge/critical-time-remote-auditing 

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