Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of SafetyDriven - Trucking Safety Council of BC.

Means to an End – Audit Techniques

This blog is about audit techniques. You know… ones like the kihon document ploy, ushiro observation stance, and lest we forget, the Domo Arigato interview exit strategy.

Seriously though. Auditing isn’t just grabbing an audit tool and going at it. Auditing is a process. It is the real-world application of a concept. As such, the audit tool won’t apply itself, the auditor must apply it. To apply things efficiently and effectively in the real world, auditors need techniques.

There are too many techniques to cover exhaustively in a blog, but let’s look at a few:

Order of operations

Audits employ three verification methods: Document review, observations, and interviews/surveys. Typically referred to as D, O, and I.

To verify criteria in the audit, the auditor will use a combination of document review, observations, and interviews. The auditor has no choice as to which must be applied for a particular question; the combination is built right into the audit when it is designed.

The kicker is that the auditor must apply the prescribed technique, but the audit document doesn’t tell what order to apply them in.

Best practice would be to start with documentation review, then carry out observations based on the requirements of the documentation, and then confirm employer application and/or employee understanding through interviews.


Auditors need a medium on which to record and document the audit. An auditor should have their tools chosen and ready before starting on the audit. Choices include paper and pen, electronic (laptop or tablet), or a combination of both.

Paper and pen are simple and bulletproof. Electronic methods have many benefits but are less than bulletproof. Many of the most efficient auditors use paper and pen on-site and then transcribe their notes into electronic form for the audit report. It is hard to beat paper and pen for availability, flexibility, and speed.

Auditors should also consider the logistics and practicality of each method. Doing an observation tour with a laptop is likely to be frustrating. There often isn’t anywhere to put it down to type. A tablet or paper/clipboard would be better options for an observation tour.

Good notes

On-site audit activities can range between one day and one month in duration.

Imagine you are doing a 5-day audit. For three of those days you do interviews. All day and back to back. By the second day, things will start to blur. After all, you have been asking the same questions over and over to different employees. Often, you will get similar responses. Imagine how fuzzy your memory would be after 2 or 3 weeks of auditing with maybe 100 or 150 interviews…

Clear, concise notes are vital to keeping your audit on track and the results accurate and representative. Good notes will also keep you sane. Additionally, on occasion, an auditor may have to refer back to notes they made weeks or months in the past to reconfirm or justify their results.


Observations and interviews are done “at speed”. That is why notes should be sparse and concise. There is no time to write proper sentences with great grammar and structure.

At the end of each day, auditors should consider consolidating and compiling their notes, since everything is still fresh and relatively clear. At this point, paper and pen notes could be converted into electronic records. Or electronic notes could be expanded upon.

Parts and pieces

For maximum efficiency, the audit tool should be broken into pieces for actually carrying out the audit. (Luckily, we have done that already. Contact us at for electronic versions of the audit tool or the extracted question sets).

All of the documentation questions should be compiled on a single document, all the observations on another document, and all of the interview questions on three more individual documents. (There are interview questions for managers, supervisors, and workers).

Each compilation can be used for each mode of the audit. For example, the auditor would only review documentation during the first mode, while using the compiled sheet of documentation questions. There would be no searching through a large audit tool for documentation questions.

The list could go on and on, and even these four topics could be expanded upon. Hopefully, it is becoming clear that the auditor, their preparation, and their technique is very important to the outcome and successful completion of an audit. Please contact us at for questions or comments or visit our FAQ page.

COR Decal

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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