Using audits as a means for business improvement

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Audits are fundamental to safe and efficient projects, whether they are audits (or assessments, appraisals, desk-top verifications, examinations, inspections, reviews, spot checks or surveys) of equipment, procedures, or the behaviour of individuals. Indeed, they are part of any safety management system (SMS). The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has published an information note on Audits, with the aim of encouraging discussion about them, and to show how this process can provide an opportunity for ‘business improvement’.

“Audits should be welcomed as a collaborative opportunity for all parties in discussing a situation, and in leading to improvements in the safety and efficiency of the work, as well as improving the business position of the company,” says Hugh Williams, Chief Executive of IMCA. “Marine contractors undertake many more internal audits than the number of external audits, although there are many of these too performed on them by clients and statutory bodies.

“Our members are involved at three different levels. Contractor members perform in-house audits themselves and contract external consultants to assist. Corresponding (oil company) members perform audits on contractors, either using their own staff or external consultants – of course, contractors take a similar stance when auditing subcontractors. Then there are external consultants who are often IMCA ‘supplier members’ who supply services – consultancy – which is often to carry out an audit/inspection.”

IMCA has published some 16 audit-related publications (and a further four information notes), firmly believing that standardising the audit format, and the widespread use of a common format, improves the audit process as well as the safety and efficiency of the industry. The various documents have their foundation in invaluable feedback obtained over the past 30 years. Auditing, and the audit process, is a frequent discussion point at IMCA meetings and in these discussions there appear to be misunderstandings about the purpose of auditing; the beneficiaries; and carrying out audits – hence the publication of the recent information note.