Day ‘x’ as a Remote Auditor - Joe Kelly
I am Joe Kelly and I have been an NQA Assessor since September 2013, based in East Kilbride, just outside Glasgow, Scotland; conducting audits to ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, ISO 50001 and SSIP.
I have now conducted several effective remote audits, all of which have gone exceptionally well, and are much easier to do than both clients & I ever thought could be possible. NQA will be performing all audits remotely up until the end of June 2020 – or until otherwise advised.
So far I have used MS Teams along with e-mail transmittal of documents to conduct the remote audits, however I have audits planned using Skype and telephone. MS Teams seams to just be a more stable version of Skype, definitely easier to use – especially to invite others into the video call (VC) and to share screens.
The use of MS Teams was a first for both my clients and myself, but once connected and sharing screens; it felt like we’d been using it for ever! Very simple & intuitive to use.
Prior to NQA setting up our MS Team accounts, I set up MS Teams using my own personal Hotmail account, which is free to use. So if you don’t have office 365, using an existing Hotmail account is a means by which to get using MS Teams.
I have now contacted all my clients up until the end of June 2020, and the majority are all able to do audits remotely! This is great news to prevent me from doing DIY around the house…or joining queues outside supermarkets. I will then be sending a revised audit plan for the visit, listing indicative records that will be required for the audit at least 2 weeks before the visit, along with a quick call to have a chat about how the remote audit will be run.
The advice I have been giving to clients is to start to gather all the records for the audit into an electronic folder in readiness for the audit. For my ISO 9001 clients, where the process audit typically involved auditing personnel to take me through records of a previous job, project, design etc., I have asked them to start to have a think about who these persons will be. This is so that they can be available, have the agreed video conferencing software installed and again start to collate the records required for the audit as listed in the revised audit plan, which lists the indicative records required.
Making the most of it!
The most memorable part of my remote audits to date, was interviewing a client’s colleague in New Zealand who served as their OHSAS workers representative. He was sat in his garage, 10pm his time – but it truly began to feel like he was just sitting across the desk from me in Irvine; where he should have been when the audit took place.
So far, I have seen only positives come out of the remote audit process. For example I have a client in Edinburgh and just last year I travelled down to Bristol to bring on another facility into their certificate. I was joined by a local assessor in Bristol to ensure a full handover to ensure they could complete the local audits thereafter. However, when this auditor unfortunately became unavailable for their Bristol audit in a few months – the client immediately asked me to conduct their Bristol audit remotely for them, therefore maintaining continuity of assessor for them. This is win win all round, as going down to Bristol for a day and back last year was no fun…
A real life positive is that we need some normality and routine in our lives even in the best of times, but especially right now in order to maintain our mental health – which of course has had a big focus recently. Running audits remotely from home, starting and finishing at my usual times feels strangely, but amazingly normal and has really helped me to remain sane! I’m sure my clients would agree too as does my wife, who stated that Monday to Friday’s still feel strangely normal as she still doesn’t see me until dinnertime as I am remote auditing in my office. The kids are in the same boat too having now turned nocturnal and only venturing out of their rooms for food!
It is more than likely – once we are able to leave the Big Brother house – that where circumstances permit a partial remote audit will continue. We are fortunate at NQA, that we had already developed a remote audit procedure and were just awaiting a full trial of it – let’s face it, it’s having the best trial ever at the moment!
My final experience relates to an audit I completed last year, where I travelled to Trinidad for seven days to conduct an audit – as an example this type of audit could be considered to be completed remotely; which has the added environmental benefit of zero air miles, zero CO2, not away from my family and best of all not having to wait in JFK airport for seven and a half hours for a connecting flight...
Stay safe and sane!
For more information on remote auditing take a look here.