The Trinity


So many questions.

And they repeat. One asks whether you can locate a particular document. The next asks if you can see it posted. And another asks you to ask some other people if they know about the document and where it’s posted.

Sometimes auditing feels a bit circular, and there’s a reason for that. Audits, whether they be safety, quality assurance, environmental, or whatever, tend to follow the same overall process: Document review, on-site observations, and employee interviews. D, O, and I.

Why D, O, and I?

It’s systematic:

1. Document review – Is it formally written down?
2. Observe – are the requirements of the documentation actually being applied in the workplace?
3. Interview – Do employees understand and follow or apply the requirements?

Combined, the three verification methods (D, O, and I) reinforce each other, and give higher confidence in the result in comparison to applying just one of the methods.

And it’s not just systematic, it’s diagnostic. Cross referencing results allows an auditor to measure not just whether a safety program is in place, but how effective it is, and where things may be going wrong.

For example, an audit question will often have a documentation guideline and an interview guideline. First, the auditor verifies the audit guideline by reviewing the appropriate documentation. The auditor then follows-up by interviewing the appropriate employee type(s) on some aspect of the documentation. The combination of the two verification methods can result in several outcomes:

  • Documentation and interview verification are both good – excellent evidence and confidence that the question being verified is being fulfilled
  • Documentation verification is good but interviews have poor results – paper program is in place but not being applied to employees
  • Documentation evidence is poor but interview results are good – employer has a robust informal safety program but has not formally written it out
  • Documentation evidence is poor and interview results are poor – no program and no application


It is interesting to note that considerable information about the state of the safety program being audited can be revealed by the combination of the verification methods, not the wording of the question itself. No doubt, a well worded question is important, but a properly designed combination of D, O, and I guidelines really increase the effectiveness of an audit tool.

So there they are. D, O, and I. The three horsemen of the audit. Synergistic, impartial, and coordinated.

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Craig Gilder

About Craig Gilder

Craig has experience as a Safety, Health, and Emergency Preparedness Officer for a large public employer. Early on, he took part in the family construction business, and then went on to work extensively in the residential construction industry ...

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