What’s the Difference Between the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Audits?

A businessman working at a laptop surrounded by audit and compliance symbols

Do you know your Stage 1 audits from your Stage 2 audits? No clue? No problem.

First timers to the world of management systems and certification often find the audits a daunting and sometimes confusing prospect. But it’s not as arduous as you might think, with a little know-how about what exactly Stage 1 and Stage 2 audits are for and what’s involved.

In short, two audits need to be conducted for you to become certified – the Stage 1 and Stage 2 audits.  Their key differences include –

  • Purpose
  • Duration
  • Evidence reviewed
  • Location (depending on the individual nature of your business)

Let’s take a look at both stages in more detail.

Stage 1 audits

The objective of a Stage 1 audit is to determine your business’s readiness for your Stage 2 Certification Audit. Think of it a pre-emptive strike. 

It’s typically conducted over a day or a few days, at your main business location, (or there might be instances when it’s conducted remotely).

During the Stage 1, the Certification Body (CB) will:

  • ensure you understand the Standard, what it requires, and the overall operation of your management system
  • review the scope of the management system
  • audit the management system documented information
  • evaluate your site conditions
  • verify internal audit and management review processes
  • confirm that the objectives and key performance indicators are in place and have been understood

Your CB will obtain information from you about things like your –

  • processes and operations
  • equipment
  • levels of control that you’ve established
  • statutory and regulatory requirements to ensure that compliance is achieved

The overall implementation of the management system is assessed to determine if your business is ready to move on to Stage 2.

Once the Stage 1 audit is completed, you’ll get a report outlining your readiness for the Stage 2 audit.  The Auditor will discuss and summarise their findings, which is a normal part of the process and shouldn’t worry you. But these findings must be addressed before the Stage 2.

Stage 2 audits

Stage 2 audits confirm your management system is fully aligned to the Standard, and that it’s entirely operational within your organisation. 

The duration of the Stage 2 Audit is determined in accordance with the relevant IAF Mandatory Documentation. Your CB will explain this to you and advise on the number of days required. It’s usually for a minimum of two days up to several days. In addition, a sample of your locations are audited if you’re a multi-site operation.

The auditor evaluates the implementation and its effectiveness, and will make a recommendation for your formal certification when the Stage 2 Audit is concluded.

The Stage 2 audit involves:

  • evaluating the operational controls of your processes and the overall effectiveness of your management system
  • gathering evidence of your alignment to the requirements of the Standard, through observation, discussions and interviews with employees
  • checking that your management system complies with all appropriate regulatory and statutory requirements
  • measuring how your management system is performing against your objectives
  • ensuring that internal audits and management reviews have been satisfactorily conducted

Getting Your Certification Body Right

Associating your company with a recognised and trusted certification body brings true value, demonstrating to your customers that you hold their satisfaction and expectations above all else. 

It’s critical to the process that every organisation undergoing certification should maintain open, clear and honest communication with their CB. And certification can be a lengthy process.

You’ll be working with your CB and auditor over years to come. With this in mind, it’s essential that you choose a Certification Body that’s the right fit for your business. After all, you’re going to be having a lot of dealings with each other during the years ahead. So, the right fit for both parties is fundamental to nurturing a relationship of mutual trust and support for optimum results.

Brookfields Consultancy is proud to be recommended by the major United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) certification bodies and will only recommend UKAS Accredited Certification Bodies to their clients.

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