Most operators know the drill when it comes to an external audit – whether it’s regulatory in nature or through one of the many well-recognized standards. But in order to maintain standards even in between reviews, an ongoing audit process is simply better. That’s where internal auditing comes into the picture. You can establish a recurring system by way of an Internal Auditing Program (IAP). Similar to the overall Safety Management System (SMS) process, an IAP can pre-emptively identify areas of non-compliance and be used for ongoing improvement. So, how does it work?
An IAP is purely internal: it has nothing to do with an outside auditor or regulatory authority. The goal of an IAP is to ascertain whether you are still adhering to your own standard operating procedures. Similar to the SMS process, it’s about identifying discrepancies and addressing them effectively. The items you flag may not necessarily be safety-related or a potential hazard, but could simply be a deviation from your documented policies and procedures.
One of the main reasons to implement an IAP is to allow everyone in the organization to take responsibility for a smooth operation. Most operators agree that it’s better to uncover errors yourself rather than having an external auditor discover irregularities.
There are two additional reasons why a company might perform an internal audit: either they’re adhering to a third-party standard, or they’re taking stock of their own performance. Either way, it’s a good way to check if the rules are being followed, which is always a good idea.
The benefits of an IAP
There are many benefits to having an IAP. Not only does it allow you to identify potential issues before an external audit, it also gives you time to set things straight and helps you make sure your procedures are actually being followed, not just collecting dust on a real or digital shelf. In fact, since you are constantly evaluating your processes, keeping your manuals and documentation up to date becomes much easier. Additionally, any conclusions uncovered during an IAP can serve as an impetus for further training or for developing new policies and procedures.
Nevertheless, some operators are reluctant to implement an IAP since they might be concerned that IAPs are either too complex, too cumbersome, or redundant to their operation. But the beauty of an IAP is that it is only as complex as you want it to be. The word “Audit” may make you hesitate, but that shouldn’t keep you from performing regular spot-checks to make sure everything is always running smoothly in your organization.
How to get the most out of your IAP
Embarking on a full-blown internal audit can be intimidating – which is why you should not do it all in one go. Instead, break it down into small, bite-size tasks that you can perform throughout the year. This makes the IAP exercise much more manageable, and a lot less daunting. An IAP shouldn’t take up a lot of your time; keep tasks simple and focused, so that you can easily manage them in-between your day-to-day work.
Enlist your colleagues too: assign audit tasks to everyone, not just the Safety Officer, Chief Pilot, or other department managers. Mix it up between the departments as well: have a pilot perform a Maintenance Audit, or a technician handle a Scheduling Audit. A fresh pair of eyes can often better discover what you’ve been overlooking.
When performing the audit, make sure to follow these steps:
- Identify what you’re auditing. Is it a regulatory or another safety standard? Your own procedures perhaps?
- Create and set audit tasks. Make sure these are small, single-focused tasks that can easily be completed within 15 minutes.
- Review and analyze the results. Do the results point to systemic irregularities or one-off discrepancies?
- Find the root cause. If the audit task showed a deviation from your documentation, make sure you identify the root cause and adjust your practices accordingly.
- Correct the discrepancies. Will you need to revise any SOPs or manuals? Work with your team to correct the discrepancies and update procedures to ensure they do not reappear.
Finally, make sure you choose the right time to perform an internal audit. For instance, if a significant change has just been implemented in your department, an internal audit would certainly be advisable. Once you’ve updated your policies and procedures according to your Change Management Plan, you can resume running your regular spot-checks to verify you’ve covered everything.
You don’t have to go it alone
When working with AviationManuals for your internal audit program, you’ll be able to leave everything to us. We’ll help you come up with the audit tasks and provide them digitally via ARC, our online SMS software, which has a dedicated IAP module. This will enable you to conveniently assign and distribute tasks to tablets or computers. ARC’s IAP module will help spread the tasks over a period of time, and will let you know which audits are coming up. You can then assign these tasks to various people in your department, as well as analyze results and trends.
If you have any questions about IAPs or would like to know more about how we can help you, don’t hesitate to contact us.