AIC Services, which manages the AIC supply trade assurance schemes, is planning a phased return to on-site audits as the Covid-19 restrictions start to ease. But future auditing may be delivered through a mix of physical and remote checks for compliance.

“AIC Services, in conjunction with the certification bodies, has led the agri-supply sector in adopting remote auditing during the COVID 19 pandemic,” says AIC Services managing director John Kelley. “This method has proved to be a reliable way of auditing companies and has the support of various sectors of the agri-supply industry.”

But with the lifting of some of the movement restrictions from early July, Mr Kelley says industry and certifiers are discussing a return to on-site auditing. The initial phase of this return will be a “blended” approach to auditing – using new technology that has been adopted over the last few months in combination with some on-site auditing. “The aim is to ensure the safety of both the auditor and the participant from Covid 19, whilst ensuring that standards are upheld within the agri-supply sector,” he emphasises.

Certified companies will still be required to use the on-line portals to submit documents before their audit, allowing it to take place in the most efficient way. The post-audit submission of correction actions will continue to be carried out via the on-line portal, which again will improve efficiencies.

The certification bodies will be taking a pragmatic approach to this new auditing method, with each participant being assessed on a case by case basis. Auditors will undergo a risk assessment to ensure that any Covid-19 risk is minimised both for themselves and the company being audited. Participants are responsible for the Covid-19 risk assessments of their sites and the implementation of any social distancing procedures or wearing of PPE deemed necessary.

“This approach is in step with other certification and audit bodies in the UK and Europe – we look forward to scheme members’ support during these challenging times,” concludes Mr Kelley.