Many businesses view internal audits as a necessary evil - a cost and interruption to their business that does not enhance the company's profitability. This is a short sighted view, often resulting in a lack of sufficient time and resources being allocated to the audit. Not embracing the internal audit process is a lost opportunity for businesses. Here is why:
Internal audits identify issues and problems while they can still be fixed confidentially. Waiting until an outside auditor identifies the problem ultimately creates more work for your business. More importantly, it puts your certification at risk. And what was once an internal problem, now becomes a public problem. The internal audit can be instrumental in holding your employees accountable. You've gone through the time and expense of developing a written plan for how you want your business to operate. You've incorporated all the necessary legal requirements into your processes. The internal audit is a valuable tool to ensure that your employees are following the processes that you've spelled out. Your employees don't need to know the reasons behind each process, and likely won't understand the complexity of OSHA Powered Industrial Truck regulations, for example. They just need to follow the instructions to ensure your business remains in compliance. Internal audits provide management the assurance that all these complexities are being met. Furthermore, it can initiate corrections to ensure that the problems are addressed at the root cause to prevent reoccurrence.
Internal audits identify weaknesses in your system. Weaknesses may lead to injuries, mistakes, spills, fires, inefficiencies, etc. Identifying and correcting weaknesses before problems occur can increase profitability and save significant costs down the road.
Use the outcomes of internal audits to identify successes. The standards you subscribe to should reflect the core best practices of your business. Reward employees for conformance to the system, as this reinforces the behavior and operations that you have prescribed in your management system. Internal audits need not be one major event each year. Break it down into monthly or quarterly portions to comprise the full audit over a year's time. This will provide you the reassurance that your system and your team are effective.