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Remote auditing key to maintaining certification during COVID-19 pandemic

21 May 2020

WITH MANY businesses having to put their routine auditing on hold amid Coronavirus restrictions, Bureau Veritas is encouraging firms to make use of remote auditing services in order to maintain the validity of accredited certifications during the pandemic.

The advice comes in the wake of the Government publishing guidance for employers to assist them in making sure their businesses are back up-and-running and that workplaces are operating safely. The guidelines differ according to the working environment. They require firms to maintain social distancing in the workplace, operate strict hygiene practices and include home working where possible. There is also advice on carrying out COVID-19 risk assessments with employees or Trade Unions.

As businesses take the time to digest these new guidelines before allowing external contractors on site, certification expert Bureau Veritas is urging them to consider remote auditing to help maintain accredited certifications essential to business operations.

Karolina Lachi Kolarova, business unit director for certification at Bureau Veritas Certification, said: “Many businesses will no doubt be trying to decipher these eagerly-awaited guidelines on how they can safely exit the Coronavirus lockdown. It’s likely that many firms have implemented a ‘phased approach’ towards resuming business operations that may only allow essential personnel on site. Therefore, we predict that compliance professionals, for their own safety and that of others, may not be able to conduct site visits for statutory inspections and auditing for many weeks or months to come.”

Kolarova added: “While it may seem prudent to wait until such restrictions are fully lifted to continue standard inspection and auditing processes, this will not only create a significant backlog, but could also compromise the validity of accredited certifications. The good news is that the compliance sector, like many other industries, has done a great job of taking its services online where possible. Hence, we’re encouraging firms to make the most of virtual or remote site visits using video technology and digital file-sharing, which will ensure firms uphold certification that is essential to running their business during this difficult time.”

Remote Management System Audits, for example, cover partly routine audits including surveillance, re-certification and transfer. This involves a risk assessment, followed by remote audits via video link, enabling the firm’s expert auditors to communicate, share and review documents with clients in real-time. An audit report will then be issued, complemented by an on-site audit within the next six months to cover any clauses not audited during the remote audit.

In conclusion, Kolarova stated: “We’re doing everything we can to support our new and existing clients to maintain robust, accredited certifications during these unprecedented times and we would urge them to make use of our new remote auditing service. All our auditors have full access to our systems and a range of tools that can be used for video conferencing, remote calls and screen sharing. This means we are able to conduct Stage One audits, surveillance audits, recertification audits (where applicable) and follow-up audits, essentially helping businesses navigate compliance as the Coronavirus pandemic evolves.”