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    Why Audits Fail & How To Get Real Value From Them

    23 February 2024 - Evotix


    Audits are responsible for evaluating the overall EHS program, including assessing workplace safety, identifying hazards and ensuring programs are in place and trainings have been recorded, to name a few. However, audits often fall short of delivering their full potential due to a lack of actionable follow-ups. In this post, we'll delve into the common reasons audits fail and explore strategies to extract real value from them.

    What is an action?

    Audits are all about assessing, reviewing and improving technical processes - which makes actions a pivotal part of the whole process, as they're the catalyst for positive change. By definition, a corrective action is one that's taken by an organization to fix a failure in its system.

    All too often, audits can prove ineffective in closing out actions. Some reasons for this include:

    1. Unidentified root causes

    Companies often rush into corrective actions without pinpointing a root cause - a critical misstep. Unearthing root causes is paramount to eradicating the issue at its source.

    Organizations should encourage a thorough investigation into the root causes of a problem. This involves asking critical questions about the system and process. For example:

    • What specific factors led to the failure?

    • Are there systemic issues contributing to the problem?

    • What evidence supports the identified root causes?

    2. Limited audit time

    Inadequate resources can be a big reason why audits fail to achieve their objectives. If an auditor has limited time or budget, this can hinder their ability to conduct a thorough audit, leading to incomplete or inaccurate recommendations.

    For example, if an audit is conducted with limited time, the auditor may not have sufficient time to review all of the relevant information or to observe the audited system in operation. This can impact the quality and accuracy of the audit.

    3. Lack of competence

    Internal audits are sometimes delegated to junior team members as it’s cheaper and seen as a useful way for them to learn about an organization. If someone without enough training is left on their own to conduct an audit, they might not be sure what they're looking for, or what they're seeing. Is there a focus within the EHS program related to hazard reporting? What about training?

    This can result in incomplete or inaccurate findings, leading to missed opportunities for improvement or false assurances of compliance. For example, if an auditor is not familiar with the relevant safety standards or regulations, they may overlook significant safety hazards or inaccurately assess compliance with the relevant requirements.

    4. Lack of independence

    If the auditor is the person who designed the system, it can be challenging for them to identify faults objectively. Independence, in this context, simply means the auditor's ability to conduct a fair assessment without personal biases, external influences or conflicts of interest.

    If an auditor lacks independence, the audit might not be as reliable as it should be, potentially leading to inaccuracies and incomplete findings. This not only affects the credibility of the audit but also raises doubts about the entire audit process.

    Here's where managers from a different department or location come in. These managers provide a fresh perspective without the risk of personal stakes. This approach combines an understanding of the organizational context with the objectivity needed for an effective audit.

    How to get real value from audits

    1. Think of audits as inspections (from the simplicity perspective)

    While audits are broader in scope, adopting the focused feedback loop of inspections can enhance their effectiveness. Consider specific issues and maintain a clear feedback mechanism rather than treating it as a routine checkbox exercise.

    With a clear feedback loop in place, audit results are more likely to be actioned rather than filed away and forgotten.

    2. Embrace transparency

    Transparency is crucial during audits. Open communication creates an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting issues and providing insights. This approach not only enhances the accuracy of safety performance assessments but also contributes to a culture of shared responsibility. Imagine transparency as a spotlight, illuminating both strengths and areas for improvement, fostering a collective commitment to workplace health and safety.

    Organizations can enhance transparency in the audit process by:

    • Establishing channels for employees to report concerns or observations without fear of reprisal

    • Communicating audit processes and objectives clearly to all stakeholders

    • Sharing both positive findings and areas for improvement openly, encouraging a collaborative approach to problem-solving

    3. Have regular process reviews

    Regularly reviewing the audit process is akin to fine-tuning a well-oiled machine. It involves stepping back periodically to ensure that the audit aligns seamlessly with organizational objectives. This adaptability ensures that the audit process evolves in response to changing needs and circumstances.

    Organizations can stay on top of the audit process by:

    • Conducting periodic evaluations of the effectiveness of the audit process

    • Soliciting feedback from auditors and stakeholders to identify areas for improvement

    • Adjusting the audit process in response to changes in regulations, technologies or organizational structures


    Audits wield substantial potential when approached strategically. By addressing common pitfalls and adopting proactive measures, organizations can transform audits from procedural exercises into powerful tools for continuous improvement. The key lies in embracing actions, maintaining transparency and evolving audit processes to align with organizational goals. In doing so, audits aren't just seen as evaluations; they become catalysts for lasting positive change.

    To learn more about how to successfully conduct an audit in more detail, check out our blog: The Complete Health and Safety Audit Checklist

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