Tweed Shire Council engaged Viridis to undertake the audit of its DWMS. In between project award and the audit, the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed that landscape of conducting audits, and we could not physically attend the site.
The decision was made, in consultation with NSW Health, to proceed with a remote audit, using handheld devices to remotely ‘inspect’ the sites and video conferencing to interviews team members. Additionally, the Local Public Health Unit was invited and called into the opening meeting and several audit sessions.
Whilst there is no substitute for an auditor being on-site and observing infrastructure and operational practices first hand, from an auditor’s perspective, I saw what I needed to see during the ‘site visit’ to confirm the system characteristics and verify the accuracy of the process flow diagram.
Tweed Shire Council said:
“The COVID crisis, unfortunately, broke out just prior to the commencement of our DWMS Audit by Viridis. We initially thought that the audit would have to be postponed, however, Viridis proposed a remote auditing alternate program. This option was then discussed with management and NSW Health and agreed by all.
The remote audit ran smoothly and all the objectives of the audit were completed satisfactorily. There are some advantages to an online audit. The main ones being the saving in travel time and the ability to arrange a variety of interviews with various stakeholders without needing to bring everyone to the same location.
While the site visit and the inspection of SCADA trends and plant records can be done remotely it is probably more efficient to do these onsite. In hindsight, I think a combination of remote interviews backed up with a shorter and focused site visit would be optimal.”
I have to agree with Marty, we see this as an opportunity to improve the way we’ve been doing things. Running interviews and meetings using video conferencing allows greater engagement with auditees and stakeholder, who may be widely dispersed across regional areas, to contribute to audits.
Live video links may also be useful in including more remote sites (good internet connection required) that often get missed during audits due project logistics.
Even though I’m looking forward to getting back out on-site, this has been a good alternative to ensure third-party reviews and continuous improvement of management systems can continue whilst still in lockdown.