The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that UKAS could not conduct assessments in their traditional form. Early on in the pandemic, UKAS assessments were evaluated to determine the best approach to ensure accreditation could be granted, maintained or renewed.
Initially, the primary method was remote assessment, however, since restrictions have eased we have adopted a blended approach where safe and practical to do so. The amount of on-site assessment required, if any, will be determined on a case-by-case basis and communicated to the customer as appropriate.
We are committed to supporting our customers by continuing to provide trust and confidence in the marketplace through accreditation. Blended assessment allows us to protect the health and safety of both our staff and yours.
How will technical activities be witnessed remotely?
This will depend on how your business is currently operating and the technical activities in question. Our ultimate aim is to confirm ongoing technical competence but we acknowledge the need to be pragmatic about how this can be achieved and also the extent to which it can be demonstrated. UKAS has previously successfully undertaken witnessing by remote means for a variety of different types of customers, so this is achievable.
UKAS’s preferred option is to witness the technical activity by ‘live stream’. However, where this is not possible a recording of the technical activity which can be played back by the assessor with the relevant member of staff on hand to explain is a suitable alternative. If it is not possible to witness the activity as it is not currently being performed, then a vertical audit (e.g. post audit review) of recent work with the relevant staff member on hand to explain to the assessor may be an option. Where there is no recent work then a technical interview with authorised staff could also be considered as an option.
Successful remote witnessing in any of these forms requires good internet connection with audio, visual and potentially screen sharing of suitable quality to enable the assessor to interact with your staff and view the activity being performed.
Are there any differences as to how on-site technical activities are witnessed compared to those at a permanent facility?
The techniques and technology used are broadly similar. However, where live streaming is being utilised the CAB will need to check there is suitable WiFi or 4G connectivity at the site to facilitate a remote assessment in advance of planning it in.
Where the technical activity takes place over a long period of time there is a need to plan and coordinate with the assessor such that they can efficiently witness the key stages of the technical activity rather than them spending long periods watching parts of the process that are irrelevant or unproductive.
Is it acceptable for an Inspection Body to use remote means (e.g. video or live streaming) to check the readiness of an inspection job before sending inspectors to site?
Yes, this is acceptable although determining when an inspector needs to attend forms part of the routine functions of the inspection body. If the IB is deviating from it’s normal (accredited) procedure it will need to document the differences and provide a risk-based justification to ensure the procedure remains fit for purpose.
(Generally, the decision on whether to deploy inspectors does not form part of the accredited activity – if the inspection item is not ready to be inspected then it would result in re-work for the IB and delay for the end customer but no impact on the validity of the inspection performed)
Can organisations conduct their own internal audits remotely? Either of work on site or of staff working from home?
Yes, undertaking internal audits is feasible if you are confident that the area or activity can be audited effectively. This may include audit by way of document review of records or reports, etc, which can be further supplemented by interviews with staff involved via phone or web-meeting. Site work can be trickier to audit but is possible using video conferencing or recording, as discussed in other FAQs relating to how UKAS undertake assessment of on-site activities remotely.
If we conduct some technical activities remotely, how will UKAS assess these?
If you are performing your technical activities remotely then it may be possible for UKAS to be included on the remote viewing/web-conferencing solution that you are using to enable us to assess the remote activity directly. Where this is the case please contact your Assessment Manager to discuss how this can be achieved.
Can recent recording we have used for our own internal audits be used to cover witnessing of technical activities?
Yes, where these recordings are recent, demonstrate the current process and involve currently authorised staff then they may be used for our assessment.
Where a CAB conducts its activity remotely (e.g. an audit or an inspection) does UKAS expect the CAB to retain a recording of that remote activity?
If an organisation is conducting accredited activities remotely, we would expect them to retain appropriate records. It may be that the easiest mechanism is to retain recordings but as long as it is possible to establish an appropriate audit trail this does not necessarily need to be the recording itself.
Does a remote certification audit replace the requirement for an on-site audit during that year of the audit programme?
In principle, depending upon the effectiveness of the remote audit, this can replace the on-site audit although each case should be considered based on the risks to the integrity of the certification, the requirements of any certification scheme and the obligations within IAF Publication MD4. In addition the following IAF FAQs need to be taken in to consideration:
If we have multi-site accreditation will the remote assessment cover all sites or just the HQ?
We will have planned as part of your 4 Year Accreditation Cycle to sample your sites at a frequency that is relevant to the activities you perform at those sites. This plan will be carried forward into any remote assessments that are performed, using a risk based approach to determine the best way to conduct an effective assessment. As part of that planning, we will manage any differing restrictions you may have in place at your separate sites.
How will the witnessing of tests that take a long period of time to perform be conducted?
Remote assessment potentially makes this easier than it would have been via a normal on-site assessment because it is easier to break up the assessment so that the assessor is only conducting their witnessing when critical activities are happening. How this can be achieved can be discussed prior to the assessment or at the opening meeting and agreed by all parties.
How do you manage witnessed audits when the CB and UKAS have differing processes or requirements covering the carrying out of remote audits? Who’s process takes precedence?
As UKAS is observing the CB’s audit then we will be using the web-conferencing solution and processes that has been agreed between the CB and their client. There should be no need to alter the auditing process to accommodate UKAS witnessing.
The role of UKAS is to determine the competence of the CB, and therefore when witnessing an audit, we will need to witness the processes and techniques being used by the CB at the time. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the CB to agree with its customer how it intends to proceed (ensuring that this is in compliance with any scheme requirements) and discuss with UKAS how best we can observe the audit taking place.
If we can provide remote access to our systems is that something that UKAS can use to support its remote assessments?
In principle yes, where UKAS can access the system this is possible. However, it is the customer’s responsibility to provide details of the product in advance and assurances that it is secure and presents no risk to the integrity of UKAS’s data or systems. Additionally, if your company requires UKAS to agree to additional confidentiality/security arrangements to enable this access, we recommend contacting us significantly in advance of the assessment as this may take some time to arrange.
What happens to the documentation that is shared with the UKAS assessment teams during the remote assessment?
Whilst the volume of documentation exchanged for a remote assessment is larger than that exchanged for traditional on-site assessments, how UKAS handles and retains the documentation is generally unchanged from that in our standard procedure. The use of file sharing sites does bring in some changes however and it should be noted that these sites will not be used for document retention. As such, documents will only be retained on file sharing sites for as long as they are needed to complete the assessment and related activities and will then be removed – any files that UKAS subsequently retain will be discussed and agreed between the customer and the assessment team.