With over 30 years experience in Food Safety, we’ve seen our fair share of audits… From auditors turning up early to nervous staff blunders, we know the stress audits can cause to companies. Here are a few steps to ensure a smooth audit and achieve certification.
1. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
The old adage really does apply to achieving a successful audit outcome, by failing to prepare you really are preparing to fail. By looking organised during an audit and having evidence to hand when asked for, you are proving to the auditor that you operate to professional standards within your business and take certification seriously. Ensure that any documents you may need during the audit are set out and easy to find.
2. Audit yourself
Unlike typical examinations, you have the benefit of knowing the exact questions you will be asked during your audit. Take time to conduct thorough internal audits, setting out full details of how you conform to each clause and the evidence to prove it to the auditor. From experience, it is beneficial to concentrate on a specific section at a time to make sure you have fully covered all aspects of the clause. Without sounding like a teacher, make sure you read the clause fully. We see it so often where clients think they have fully complied to a clause when actually, they have missed part of the requirement or simply misread it.
We love lists! Not the most sophisticated method of managing a project but still extremely effective and easy for all to use! Pen and paper, tablets, online project management tools all do the job. List everything no matter how minor and tick off as you progress. We use an online project management platform which works really well for our clients, we’re also big fans of Trello as it’s so simple to use.
4. Clean and Tidy operation beats mess and chaos every time.
As obvious as this might sound, make sure you give yourselves the best opportunity of a successful audit by making sure everywhere is clean, tidy and well maintained. To use another cliché, first impressions really do count. We stress the importance of this to all of our clients before audits as it can really set a tone for an audit. If the auditor sees a well maintained and organised facility, you will find that they are more likely to look for conformances as opposed to non-conformances when it comes to reviewing paperwork and systems. There is a big difference in an auditor looking for problems and one looking to confirm their first impression of a slick operation.
5. Brief staff and brief them again.
The pressure of an audit can make people uncomfortable and respond differently to how they would normally. This is why it is so important to make sure all staff have received thorough training and are confident that they understand the safety or quality implications of their role. In addition to ensuring staff receive sufficient training in the FSQM systems, we also prepare a list of typical auditor questions to provide an idea of what’s coming and therefore hopefully gain confidence from feeling more prepared. Remind staff to not panic when asked a question and to answer clearly, concisely and not to waffle!
6. Don’t upset the auditor
The worst thing you can do in an audit is to antagonise the auditor by arguing with them. Its important you make clear your interpretation of a clause to an auditor but try to avoid confrontation. Discuss, don’t argue. If you disagree with the auditors interpretation or application of the standard, respectfully ask them to explain again so that you can further understand.
For more information on auditing and how CFS can assist with certification, talk to an expert on 08450 267 745 or enter an enquiry below.