As understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop and the UK appears to have passed the peak of the virus, Government guidance has turned to outlining how the UK will emerge from lockdown and the measures that will be put in place to prevent a second peak of infections. UKAS is closely following this guidance and as a result of the lockdown exit plan outlined by UK Government on 10th May 2020, we have updated our policy regarding remote assessments.
What remains clear is that UKAS’s guiding principle that the Health and Safety of our Staff, Contractors and Customers remains of paramount importance. It is also apparent that the need to avoid unnecessary social contact will be with us for some time to come. However, there is a clear need to restart the UK economy whilst we all take measures to continue to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.
Taking all this into consideration, there is a continuing need for UKAS accreditation to provide confidence in businesses providing conformity assessment services, and a need that our services continue to be delivered in a way that does not create unnecessary risk to the health and safety of our staff, contractors or customers. As such, remote assessment will remain UKAS’s primary assessment technique until at least 1st October 2020. This is in part due to the need for, ancillary services such as public transport and hotels to be widely and safely available and for our customers to be able to safely accommodate our assessment teams before on-site assessments can become routine again. In addition, due to the supplementary risks and challenges associated with international travel, all non-UK UKAS assessments will be conducted remotely until at least 1st January 2021.
We recognise that as lockdown measures are it will become possible for UKAS to conduct some assessment activity on-site before 1st October 2020. However, on-site assessment during that period will only be considered to facilitate the witnessing of technical activity where that it is absolutely necessary for the granting, renewal or reinstatement of accreditation and where there is agreement between all parties involved to conduct an on-site assessment.
To reduce risks associated with conducting on-site assessments, the following applies:
- On-site assessments will be for the minimum time necessary, with as many aspects of the assessment as possible being conducted remotely;
- All necessary PPE must be available and all necessary safety precautions in place, based on a risk assessment of the activity to be performed;
- UKAS will not utilise assessors who are vulnerable on-site assessments.
Those customers with annual assessments due prior to 1st October 2020 are encouraged to contact their Assessment Manager to begin discussions about the best way to conduct their assessment remotely. Additional information, including a series of recorded webinars is available to assist customers in preparing for their remote assessment. In addition, all customers are encouraged to follow UKAS on social media (Twitter or LinkedIn) for real-time, up-to-date information regarding UKAS’s policies and approaches to assessments at this time. Details will also be made available through the UKAS website.
Looking towards the future we had already commenced a strategy to include remote assessment as a more regular feature in UKAS’s assessment approach and we are committed to continue with this objective. Whilst feedback from customers that have had remote assessments has been extremely positive, we are keen to learn about the areas that we could improve upon therefore we would encourage all customers to complete their post assessment surveys and provide us with feedback that will enable us to provide better service.