Turn your Food Safety Audits into a Painless, Pleasant Learning Process
Dear Food Safety Professional,
With the first month of the year almost done and dusted, we thought now would be a great time to share some helpful advice on food safety audits – how can you turn them into a painless, pleasant learning process?
You may notice that for us it’s not only about “passing the audit” but more about having the peace of mind that you have a robust food safety in place. It’s about putting our consumer/customer first and building a system that showcases just that!
It is a fact that people dread audits but there is no reason why an audit should invoke thoughts similar to that of a trip to the dentist. Your attitude and approach to the audit process itself determines how pleasant (or unpleasant) the process will be. Here are some tips making your next audit as painless as possible:
- Be prepared. We do not advocate “preparing” for an audit. The best way to prepare, is to have a system that is live – a system that is entrenched into the everyday tasks of every single person. If you need to “kick-start” your system a few weeks before the audit, you are doing it for the wrong reasons, and it is sure to amount to a very stressful process indeed. Chances are that vital evidence requested by the auditor may not be available if the system has not been maintained properly. It is vital to ensure that the system is as simple as possible, but at the same time capturing the information required by the Standards and that staff are consulted in creating and updating the system to ensure buy-in.
- Practice makes perfect. Make sure that staff are used to being audited. Allow them to actively participate in internal audits so that they can realise that the methodology used for internal audits is no different than that used for external audits. Staff should feel comfortable, rather than frightened about the external audit. The more exposure staff have to audits, the more comfortable they will feel.
- Have information available. It is true that you, as auditee will not know exactly what evidence will be required during the audit, however, it is possible to make sure that access to procedures and records are readily available whether digitally or in hard copy. This saves time during the audit and will allow the auditor to assess the section effectively within the allocated time slot without having to continue the audit after hours. It also takes a lot of pressure off you – no fretting and fussing about finding the information. The audit plan can be used as a guideline to get some of the information ready and available in the room where the audit will take place.
- Be organised. As we already mentioned in the previous point, use the audit plan as a guide to determine which documents need to be available when. Assign internal responsibilities for retrieving certain documents or records to staff in advance. The true art of operating as a team comes to the fore when each individual understands how they contribute to the overall outcome of the audit. Share the audit plan with other process owners so that they can plan their day accordingly and be readily available to present their information.
- Value honesty. If only we could measure stress levels of staff who are looking for information we know does not exist – we know it would be off the charts! Rather admit when something is not available and avoid falling into the trap of “manufacturing evidence”. Remember, fabricating evidence constitutes fraud which is a very serious offence.
Make your next audit a painless one!
From the Food Bites team.