How Covid-19 affected Certification bodies – A case study of KEBS

How Covid-19 affected Certification bodies – A case study of KEBS

The first cases of Covid-19 respiratory illness were first reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. It was officially reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on 31st December 2019, declared a global health emergency on January 30, 2020.  March 11, 2020 – COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by WHO. 

On 16 April 2020, the International organization for Standardization responded to the pandemic by publishing FREELY AVAILABLE ISO STANDARDS- in read-only format. The list included standards on Lung ventilators, Anaesthetic and respiratory equipment, Protective clothing, Business continuity management systems among others. The whole list can be accessed on this link…https://www.iso.org/covid19

ISO further decided that all technical and ISO governance meetings be held online/virtually or be postponed to a later date not earlier than 31st December 2020. 

This effect trickled down to most certification bodies in the member bodies informing their clients of timeframes on which they will resume physical audits. Some of the organizations were caught up between stages 1 and stage 2 audits while others had just finished the certification audits. The bulk of the organizations were scheduled for surveillance audits

A case study of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) shall be detailed below. Kenya is where the current ISO president Mr. Eddy Njoroge hails from. As a matter of fact, he set his office in the Capital City Nairobi. 

On 31st March 2020, KEBS sent a letter Ref KEBS/CERT/ 1/1/ to all management representatives (MRs) of KEBS certified clients notifying them of POSTPONEMENT OF SYSTEM CERTIFICATION AUDITS.

 “Guided by KEBS Certification Body (CB) Policy on Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances (Copy attached), the purpose of this letter is, therefore, to inform you that all pending, System Audits have been postponed by up to a maximum of six months or until such a time when the pandemic is brought under control, whichever comes earlier.”

CER/POL/09- Rev 0 – KEBS Certification Body (CB) Policy on Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances, provides information regarding actions to be taken by KEBS Certification Body and the certified clients if the body is unable to access the client such that planned certification processes activities on Initial Certification, Surveillance audits and Recertification cannot take place 

KEBS required its clients to evaluate the risks posed by the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic to the Scopes of their Certification. This is the evaluation of the extent of any impact on force majeure situation and its ability to continue to operate in Certification Body requirements. The outcome of the review was to be availed to the Certification Body upon request. 

On Certification audit

According to KEBS “Initial certification and extension of existing scopes can only be operated when the full planned audit and appraisal is possible as in such cases it is not possible to support a certification decision with existing information originating from previous oversight activities. 

When on-site operations and auditing is not possible, initial certification and scope extension can only be done remotely in a satisfactory manner.” Reference – CER/POL/09 Rev 0

Surveillance audits

In the case of the first surveillance audit after initial certification, a postponement of the audit should not exceed six months translating to 18 months from the date of initial certification. For subsequent surveillance audits a postponement of the audits should not exceed 6 months.  

Re-certification 

KEBS offered a consideration on an extension on certification for a period not exceeding 6 months beyond the initial expiry date provided there was enough documented proof to provide confidence that the certified management system was effective.

If a recertification audit was not able to be conducted within 6 months, the certification body was opting to suspend following their regulations.

At the time of writing this article, the 6 months referenced in the letter sent to all the Management representative is lapsing. KEBS auditors are scheduled for training on conducting online audits to facilitate the smooth operations of its processes. 

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