The Importance of an Audit Trail on a Recall

A recall happens when a manufacturer or consumer watch group discovers defects that could hinder performance, harm consumers, or lead to legal issues for the producers. Companies need to handle the product recall process successfully, as a recall itself is already harmful. An audit trail is essential in this process because it allows you to retrace the reason for a recall. If you work in the manufacturing or product design and management industry, you need to understand product recalls and how to best go about them.

What To Do When There Is a Recall

A recall is when someone determines that a  product creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards. For example, a vehicle, a child’s toy, or a food item could be recalled. 

In the case of a recall, follow these steps to help you manage the recall procedure:

  1. React quickly to the recall
  2. Notify authorities
  3. Give an explanation
  4. Be available for questions
  5. Offer refunds
  6. Use product recall insurance
  7. Reintroduce the updated product

Why Is It Important To Manage Recalls Properly?

Managing recalls properly is important because they can affect your brand and your customer’s health. Because defects in the item may affect the safety of customers, it’s critical to recall malfunctioning products quickly. 

Managing product recalls effectively can also help ensure companies keep good reputations. Using successful strategies for product recalls often allows companies to take accountability for their product. However, to manage recalls efficiently, you’ll need to look into audit trails.

Man looking at laptop while doing an inspection

What Is an Audit Trail?

An audit trail is a record of an event that provides evidence for authentication and verification of operational actions. Many industries use different kinds of versions of an auditing trail to document progressions based on a series of events. These records show that you’re following the rules and regulations. 

Audit trails can also help identify areas of non-compliance by providing audit information, which helps to manage recalls. Whether it is tracking the design changes of a new product, recording financial transactions, or communicating with customers, an audit trail records actions and outcomes. These records almost always include details such as date, time, and information related to the transaction and help manage recalls.  

Three men walking down a working site, doing an inspection

What Makes a Good Audit Trail?

We have found that a good audit trail contains five elements, so make sure that your audit trail includes the following points:

1. An audit trail needs to trace every step and action.

 You can’t just have a checklist that says everything is done. It has to track all activities and changes, including who did what, and on what day and time they did it. It is essential that your audit program specifically documents who made what changes and when. 

2. It has to be up-to-date.

Completing compliance and risk management activities won’t help you demonstrate compliance to examiners and auditors if you can’t show them the most current version of your policies, procedures, strategic plans, board minutes, risk assessments, activity logs, and other documentation. You know the drill: If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.

3. The audit trail has to be easy to follow.

Anyone looking at the trail should be easily able to quickly identify mistakes that were made, and also show if and when they were corrected. It’s very helpful if your audit management program makes it easy to generate an automated audit report for internal and external stakeholders. 

4. The audit needs a clear timeframe for retention.

There’s a lot of debate about how long an organization needs to hold onto documentation. While there is no hard and fast rule, your organization needs to make sure that the records necessary for your audit trail are safe, secure, and regularly backed up. They won’t do you any good if they are lost or accidentally deleted. 

5. Audit trails aren’t just there for auditors.

They are also there to help you uncover issues along the way. Regularly reviewing your audit program helps you accurately identify and reduce riskeverything from noncompliance and fraud to opportunities to improve internal processes. A good audit trail is more than just a record. It’s a warning system. 

When Should an Audit Trail Be Used?

An audit trail is most utilized when the accuracy of something needs to be verified, as it might be in the case of an audit. Audit trails can be useful tools when determining validity. 

Audit trails are important because they provide a baseline for trend analysis or an audit if you initiate an investigation. Depending on the organization, the purpose or importance of an audit trail can take many forms. For example, a company may use audit trails to generate historical reports, plan future budgets, or manage risks.

A Solution To Create Audit Trails

We have found that there is a solution to create audit trails. Most industries today fall under several different regulatory statutes. Those entities, especially those that store electronic records, should maintain an accurate and complete audit trail and logging system. The right tools like a QHSE management platform can play a good role in the records’ maintenance, availability, and integrity to provide auditable information for industry compliance. Audit trails are most effective when they are automated.


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