Now's the Time for You to Demand that Certification Bodies Conduct Audits Remotely

Posted by Peter Rogers

With the COVID-19 outbreak in full swing and most sites in lock down, some of the regulations around on-site certification body audits of standards like ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, ISO 22000 and ISO 27001 must change.

As a customer of Certification Bodies (CBs), you must demand that your external audits this year must be conducted remotely.

If you think about it, conducting external audits remotely is both efficient and effective for all concerned.  This is a win-win for all.

IAF Aren't Playing Fair

The IAF (International Accreditation Forum) need to take a stand and allow all external audits by CBs to be conducted remotely.

Others in the industry are asking the IAF for a 12 month extension of certifications and accreditations.  

However, the IAF is not playing ball. For initial audits, the IAF are demanding some level of on-site audit by the CB in almost all cases. This is not helping anyone. You need to protest this IAF stance to your CB.

Other Problems for CBs

Not only is COVID-19 a major issue for CBs, let’s take a look at some other issues:

  • The average auditor’s age is increasing - in Australia it's about 58 years.  It's getting harder and harder for young Auditors to enter the industry.
  • Anecdotely most auditors struggle with new technology.
  • Auditors are leaving the industry because of the amount of travel and away time from their families.
  • This time away takes a toll on their family life.
  • There is more and more competition in the CB market.
  • Day rates are being pushed down.

So How Can Remote Auditing Help?

CBs have been allowed to do remote auditing for some time. The regs for that have been around since 2008.

Therefore, why have they taken so long to change and embrace remote auditing? Here are some of the reasons:

  • Is it they are frightened of change?
  • Are they frightened of technology tools (like Zoom, Skype, and Gotomeeting)?
  • The status quo is easy, why change it?
  • They can't easily verify some evidence because the evidence is on the shopfloor.  

When I observe external CB audits, 90% of the audit is the auditor sitting in a room reading documents!  That activity can be done remotely.

This current situation with COVID-19 has shown how fragile the industry really is. Let’s say an average CB has 15 auditors and each auditor conducts 17 audit days in a month. During this time of lockdown and quarantine that is 255 days without income to both CB for the month and to the Contract Auditor. Then when a customer returns to normal operation, they won't allow an auditor back on day one. The customer probably won’t risk having an auditor on their premises without a Doctor's certificate confirming their health status. Plus the Auditor may not want to return to auditing on-site until they were assured they would not become infected.

So some CBs may not make it through this period and extra pressure will be added to the rest of the industry.

Remember it will get worse, I predict that this situation will last longer than expected.

Demand that Your Next Certification Audit is Remote

CBs need to adopt a technology and remote auditing strategy.  Doing this strategy has advantages for all:

  1. There is a cost saving for clients.
  2. It will remove stress from their auditors.
  3. There will be reducing time sitting in planes.

CBs need unique ways of verifying on-site evidence. Your job is to help them do that.

This is a big change for CBs.  This is a big leap for them.  But that leap must be taken.

So it’s time for you to demand they start doing remote auditing.

Tags: Compliance, External Audit, Integrated QHSE, 26 Ideas for Working from Home