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The Difference of Audits, Inspections, Assessments, and Checks

This is an updated version of a blog post originally published in June 2016.

Audits, Inspections, Assessments and Checks. Some people might consider them all just synonyms of roughly the same action, but in reality, all these terms have a more specific meaning. It’s crucial to understand the difference between them in order to facilitate communication and understanding between different operations and functions. When the whole team uses the same terminology, the company saves time and money.

Audits portray the big picture

An audit refers to a broad standardised process which examines a certain field of operation. The ISO Standards stand as a good example. The International Organisation offers standardised processes to test various operations such as quality management, environmental performance, or documentation of occupational health and safety. Audit results are built from the outcomes of inspections. The purpose is to showcase a comprehensive analysis of a specific field of operation and possibly obtain recognised standards for it.

Inspections minimise severe malfunctions

Inspections are ordered to check that everything is running smoothly. The goal is to minimise malfunctions and thoroughly investigate the current state of appliances and equipment or properties and apartments. Standardised and pre-prepared checklists are used in the inspection phase and the results are compared to the predetermined requirements. The difference between an inspection and a check is the scope of the investigation. Inspections are more thorough and conducted by specialised staff. In addition, regular inspections are needed in order to collect data for audits.

Assessments draw the lines of action

An assessment refers to an evaluation. It is an estimate of what is going on with a certain process and whether there are new risks or benefits to be considered. An assessment can be done individually or in groups. A good example is a meeting at an office where people discuss together the current state of affairs. The conversation can be conducted rather freely, but checklists are often used to direct the conversation. Unlike an inspection, an assessment is more about updating everyone on the current situation instead of concentrating on details in the machinery or properties.

Checks keep the system running every day

A check is the lightest assignment of the four. The word is not completely established to mean any specific content but is often used to describe one of the simpler processes like machinery maintenance or facility cleanup. No in-depth report is necessarily generated, but a checklist is sometimes used to facilitate the task. Checklists should be well-structured and unbiased. The purpose of a check is to make sure that things are the way they should be in an everyday setting. In case there are any problems, the situation is assessed and furthermore inspected.

Surveys take place almost anywhere

All the above-mentioned options are often linked to a specific site. Whether it’s an audit, an inspection, an assessment or a check, it’s most likely to take place at a location. On the contrary, surveys can take place almost anywhere. A survey refers to a questionnaire, which is targeted to a specific group of people. An example is a set of questions for company customers about customer satisfaction.

How to use this information?

Although all these plans of action have their differences, they’re all closely linked to each other. Information from all levels can be applied to further improvements. Because checklists are used in every phase, the data is measurable and it can be scored and compared to other results. That facilitates company data management tremendously, which then in return offers great potential for gaining competitive advantage. If you're interested to broaden your knowledge about this topic, have a look at our blog series about the VUCA framework.

Once you have defined the process of your audits, inspections, assessments and checks, it is time to think about the optimal way to conduct, share, manage and analyse each of them. Modern web applications have a lot of benefits when it comes to organising audits, inspections, assessments and checks in a clear and easy-to-understand way. Test our audits.io platform FREE for 30 days and experience how it can be done yourself:

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We're a tech company with a passion for helping our customers adapt to the fast changing VUCA world. We're doing that by developing easy-to-use SaaS products that make gathering, managing and analysing field information as easy as possible for the end users. Remove gatekeepers, go horizontal and learn from your mistakes before they actually happen. More info at planbrothers.io.

Safety Management Inspection Terminology

Arttu Vesterinen

Chief Executive Officer