• Andrew Thornhill

How to Gather OBJECTIVE Audit Evidence

In this blog you will learn about the key sources of objective evidence you can utilize during the audit process. As a result, you will be able to develop clear and concise audit findings supported by objective evidence.


We recommend watching the video for this one, as Andrew gives an awesome explanation of different types of audit evidence and how to gather it, using some real life examples.

As you can see from the video, our key sources of objective evidence are;

  1. Looking at records

  2. Interviewing people

  3. Making observation

  4. Looking at related documents

We’ve already covered in a previous blog that we’re there to audit against pre-established requirements.


So, as an auditor, you need to think about each requirement, and what type of evidence to focus on for it. Usually the type of evidence you focus on will be a combination of the evidence sources mentioned above.


The approach to auditing and the type of evidence looked at, may vary between requirements. So, requirement 1 and 2, may need completely different types of evidence.

Using the example from the video, this should help you understand how these different sources of evidence can tell us different things.


Imagine a roadworks crew, conducting some road works in the main street of your town, who have set up some traffic management barriers…


Records:

Example 1:

You’re trying to explore a requirement in the procedure that says “All staff need to complete the safety induction before they commence work on site”.


In regards to this requirement, records are going to be critically important. They are a key source of objective evidence because you can observe what’s happening on the work site today, but you can’t observe the past. As well as that, they are verifiable.


By history, if the 3 crew members working started six months ahead of other staff members who only started last week, you need to look at some induction records. So, you may look at records from this month, 3 months ago and 6 months ago.


What you want to see is that safety induction is happening consistently, when and where it needs to.

Example 2:

If you’re a manufacturing facility, doing some incoming inspection and testing on raw materials, again, don’t just look at whether that’s happening effectively today.


Using records, you can start to look at the history, as well as being able to request records from various time periods so that you can see it has been performed consistently over time.


When saying that records are verifiable, this means that you are out there to gather objective evidence, so if people dispute the finding or anything like that, you can go back to the evidence that demonstrates why something is either a conformance or non-conformance.


Interview:

Coming back to the example of the roadworks crew… Imagine you have seen that all staff have completed the safety induction.


Now, by interview, you can start to ask some of the staff questions. It’s really important to note that this is not a job assessment or personal test of them. You’re there to audit the system.


When interviewing them, you can ask questions like “what are some of the hazards associated with traffic in that kind of environment?” and “when, where and how should they set up the different control measures?”


So, once again, it is not a personal test of them, but what the interview can help identify from a systems perspective is if you’ve ensured the people are aware of that?


There can be cases, that I have personally seen where 100% of the staff have been inducted, it just wasn’t a very good induction. It didn’t really educate the team on what the hazards and required controls were, for example.


Observation:

Observation can tell us something different again.


We’ve talked about records. We’ve talked about interviewing people, which gets a verbal response. You may ask someone on site some questions and if may seem that they know a little bit about placement of traffic barriers, for example.


This doesn’t mean they actually are knowledgeable in this area, it possible that workers could have just read the safe work procedure 10 minutes before you get there. They might not be able to actually demonstrate that they can do this.


By observation, you can determine whether people can actually do it.


When observing, you can ask people to show you how to set something up, or directly ask them why something is a certain distance apart. It is a more practical way of seeing if they are capable. But remember, it is not a personal test.


If someone understands what the hazards are, and what the required controls are, and can then actually do it – that’s an excellent audit outcome (particularly if there’s records to back that up)

In our next blog, we’re going to come back and explore the question of “how many records do we need to look at? How many people do we need to interview?” I.e How much evidence is enough to determine conformance or non-conformance?


See you next time.


RESOURCE:

Download the ‘Internal Audit Training – Simple’ Document template from our Resources Page under the training section at the bottom of the page.

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