It’s time for what is called a stage 1 audit. The certification audit consists of two stages. Stage 1 involves making sure that all the requirements of the standard have been met and that the activities are planned and carried out. This usually means one session with the person responsible for the management system. At this session, you go through all the parts and how they’re handled and implemented. Stage 1 is brought to a close with the auditor writing a report that includes audit findings and any deviations. We go through the report together, dealing with any audit findings and deviations.
The auditor returns after two or three weeks to carry out stage 2, the final stage of the certification audit. At this point, the auditor looks at the company and develops a deeper understanding of the system and its activities. The auditor will also want to ensure that the staff are informed and involved in the system’s various activities and that the management are committed. After stage 2, we deal with deviations and audit findings together. A report with replies to the deviations is then sent to the auditor. The certifying organisation looks at the replies and, after giving its approval, issues a certificate. You will receive the original certificate by post, but a copy will also be emailed to you. We follow up the project with an evaluation and complete our checklist. Congratulations! Let’s celebrate!
To make the project a success, the following things are important during this phase.
- Book both stages of the certification audit at the same time, with two or three weeks in between, so that you don’t waste time or lose interest.
- Inform your staff about the visits and about what is going to happen. Make sure that they don’t worry about giving the “wrong answers” or not being able to answer at all. This is not supposed to be a test. We had enough of that sort of thing at school.
- Keep an open mind and use a questioning, common-sense approach at the audit sessions.
- The auditor goes through all the deviations verbally, relating them to the standard with explanations. You need to understand the deviation and feel that it is relevant.
- Inform your staff about the process and its outcome.