Published: 25 Mar 2020

The CQI|IRCA shares advice and guidance available to help auditors with conducting successful audits amid the coronavirus pandemic.

IRCA certificated management systems auditors may be affected for a considerable time, as organisations put stringent rules in place to cope with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The CQI|IRCA has shared guidance from the accreditation and certification community to assist auditors with auditing during these uncertain times.

Perhaps, the closest experience to COVID-19 that the conformity assessment sector has had to endure was the Japanese earthquake of 2011, which saw the conformity assessments being put on hold until the country recovered from the disaster.

In the context of COVID-19, the conformity assessment industry is adapting its approach to certification audit globally, and should be considering how to:

  • Protect the health and safety of staff and auditors.
  • Protect customers and consumers.
  • Help customers with business continuity.

The global conformity assessment industry business model is built on the audit day rate and heavily reliant on contract auditors. In this instance, it is possible that contract auditors will suffer financially as audit assignments are cancelled. The arrangements that are being introduced by the conformity assessment industry are summarised below.

Accreditation bodies 

The International Accreditation Forum (IAF) has in place guidance IAF ID 3: 2011 – IAF Informative Document For Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances Affecting ABs, CABs and Certified Organizations to deal with these circumstances. Specific guidance on this situation is provided by IAF in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs), which third party auditors should monitor. 

National accreditation bodies should be communicating steps to protect staff and support certification body clients. The United Kingdom Accreditation Body (UKAS) have provided information on its website, which includes guidance for certification bodies.

Sector schemes

Sector scheme owners should also be providing guidance, and it is worth monitoring the following sites:

Food Safety

Automotive

Aerospace

Medical and healthcare

Conformity assessment/certification bodies

Certification bodies (CB) will be translating guidance from accreditation bodies for certification clients and it is worth monitoring CB trade associations for news and positions. Some useful websites and links to consider, include:

Remote auditing

The Association of British Certification Bodies (ABCB) has lobbied for an immediate blanket suspension of physical audits.

It is likely that the accreditation industry will defer to the IAF, which has in place a mandatory document, which outlines arrangements for remote auditing.  

However, it seems unlikely that certification bodies or clients will be fully set up for remote audit in terms of technology and dealing with aspects of audit where physical site assessments are required to witness operational elements.

While there is much disruption to all business activities, it is nonetheless possible and desirable for work to continue where it is feasible, but most importantly, only when and where it is safe to do so. The advice and guidance referenced above is largely consistent with this. Organisations in all sectors must put public health and the safety of those working under its control or direction first.

For more guidance on COVID-19, check out the CQI’s general advice for auditors and quality professionals here.