Let's Talk Certification Part 3: What are the stages of Certification Auditing?

Do you know what the various phases of Certification Auditing are? Here’s a brief outline of the things you need to be aware of as the auditee. 

What is a Stage 1 Audit?

What is a Stage 1 Audit? The Stage 1 Audit is really a ‘readiness audit’. Some may argue that if you’ve already done a gap analysis, you don’t then need another readiness audit.

ISO 17021-1 requires that there is a two-stage certification audit process. It’s also very important that the first stage informs the auditee’s readiness ahead of the Stage 2 audit. 

So what do we look at in a Stage 1 Audit? 

👉  Do we have the right profile of competency within the audit team (in terms of the required sector knowledge)? 
👉  Have we anticipated the amount of work correctly? 
👉  What is the risk profile of the organisation? What are the real nuts and bolts about what the organisation does?

How does it inform you, as the auditee? 

🏆  The Stage 1 Audit informs both parties.
🏆  It helps the auditee to understand the working arrangements of the certification audit process.
🏆  It demonstrates the kind of documents and tools that are used by the auditors. 
🏆  This is where the working relationship is developed between the two parties. 

What is a Stage 2 Audit?

The Stage 2 Audit is THE big event. It’s the main certification audit and it is at this intervention that we would be recommending ISO Management System Certification – provided there are no major nonconformities. 

What happens if we have non-conformities?

Major non-conformities are one of the main reasons an organisation won’t receive immediate certification. They do however have 90-days to close out the non-conformities identified. Minor non-conformities don’t prevent recommendations for certification – irrespective of how many there are. 

What about Non-Conformances found at Stage 1?

There may be corrective action requests that come out of the Stage 1 Audit and any major concerns do need to be cleared away before the Stage 2 Audit begins. The Audit Team usually asks to see evidence of these being closed out, before proceeding with the Stage 2 Audit. Many organisations take the opportunity to address them there and then, so quite often it happens at the same time.

What is a Surveillance Audit?

Once the Stage 2 certificate is issued, it has a validity of 3-years. This means that your ISO Management System is Certified for the full period but will be subject to a number of surveillance visits. These visits are used to audit the system to ensure it is still on track. This takes place at least once a year, so you can expect a surveillance audit somewhere within a 12 month period. 

What happens at a Surveillance Audit? 

Essentially, we’ve looked at the whole system during the Stage 1 and 2 certification activities. Over this next period, we split up our activities to look at the entire system, but across several surveillance visits. We use these periodic audits to drill down into more detail, to ensure that we can get further insights into the nitty-gritty of the Management System – that we may not necessarily have been exposed to in the Stage 2 audit. 

Wynleigh International offers additional features at this point of the relationship, which we call our Risk Assurance Service. You can learn more about this service by visiting our website.

What is a Re-Certification Audit?

👉 When we get towards the end of the three-year validity of the Certificate, we usually engage in a three-months-in-advance Re-Certification Audit, to prepare your organisation. 
👉 If there are any major non-conformities, this period of time is used to revalidate the certificate. This means that your organisation doesn’t ever end up without a certificate, and we are able to revalidate your System for the upcoming three years. 
👉 Once we’ve validated your system, a new certificate with a new validity period is issued to your organisation.

Important to Remember:
🔑 We can’t have any major nonconformities during the three-year validity cycle; we need to close them out! 
🔑 If they are not closed out, then the certificate can be suspended 
🔑 We believe that the credibility of the organisation – and of course our brand and certificate – needs to be upheld. So, we need to follow the rules that are set for us and ensure that all major non-conformities are closed out in good time.

Ready to take the next steps?

If the Certification Journey is something that you are ready to begin, I encourage you to connect with Christina – our Certification Operations Manager. Christina will be able to answer the questions you may still have and will guide you through the process with ease.

Already Certified?

Maybe you’ve become aware of the value proposition Wynleigh International Certification Services offers but you already have certification.

The process of transferring your certification is simple and straightforward!

Chat with Christina about your organisation’s current setup, any challenges you’re facing and your future goals. After getting to know your organisation, we pick up the three-year cycle where your previous certification body left off. 

Not ready to get started?

There is no sense in rushing the process. We encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter and to connect with Tony Cunningham and with Wynleigh International on LinkedIn.

A note from the Wynleigh Team:

No matter where you are in the Certification Journey, you can get in touch directly with us via info@wynleigh.com or by calling +27 (0) 31 941 4790. You can speak directly with Christina (our Certification Operations Manager) who can answer your questions about the Certification process.

Access our Industry Directory to find service providers who prepare you for your Certification Journey.

Connect with our Newsletter or on speak to us on social media to continue this discussion even further.

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