Editor, IFSEC Global

May 26, 2020

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A Barbour guide to business continuity

SSAIB remote auditing continues to support installation firms

Chief executive of the SSAIB, Alex Carmichael, is keen to reiterate that SSAIB is fully operational and continues to provide certification for over 1,800 registered firms and new firms looking to join during the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. And, with two months of remote audits now under its belt, feedback has been good so far, as Southern Fire Alarms explains below. 

Due to the restrictions imposed by the Government – relating to travel and social distancing – SSAIB has embraced new technology to provide remote audits for certification, surveillance and re-certification, due to the pragmatic and positive approach to the pandemic adopted by the NPCC, BAFE, SIA and UKAS – as they apply to SSAIB’s certification schemes.

An amendment to the ICT infrastructure, as required to support the new remote functions, has also allowed the SSAIB’s head office functions, including phone lines, to remain operational, but measures such as home working have been introduced to safeguard the health of all SSAIB staff.

The SSAIB CEO has overseen a widespread transformation to the organisation’s working practices in the last month or so, but is confident that these changes will allow SSAIB-registered firms and any potential new firms to enjoy the benefits of third-party certification during these unprecedented times.

Alex stated: “As soon as it was first mentioned that this crisis could end up with a nationwide lockdown, we made sure to put procedures in place that would allow us to continue to support our registered firms, and the wider security and fire industries, at a time when we knew they’d need our support more than ever.

“By continuing our operations, we are primarily seeking to support our existing clients, while at the same time providing an opportunity to gain certification, for organisations seeking certification for the first time.

“Certification auditing arrangements for each scheme differ and details of these arrangements will be provided to applicants as part of the application process. Arrangements for surveillance and re-certification audits also differ for each scheme and registered organisations will be made aware of these in advance of surveillance or re-certification audits becoming due.

“The feedback we’ve had so far from those firms that have had remote audits has been excellent and has more than justified our decision to introduce them.” One example comes from Southern Fire Alarms, detailed in the case study below.

While it seems to have been a seamless transition for SSAIB to introduce home working for staff and fully remote audits, Alex conceded that he couldn’t rule out further changes, but revealed that any change in circumstances would be managed in a “phased and managed manner.”

Alex continued: “These arrangements will remain in place for as long as financial constraints allow. It may be necessary to amend our services, particularly if the lockdown remains in place for a long time.

“In the event of it becoming necessary to reduce the services we can offer, we will do so in a phased and managed manner to minimise the impact on the services we provide. However, should circumstances change, we will inform our registered firms of any new developments.”

Should anyone have any questions on SSAIB’s new remote auditing procedures for either new or existing SSAIB-registered companies, SSAIB support can be reached on 0191 296 3242.


Southern Fire Alarms remote audit case study

With the remote audit process now having been in place for two months, SSAIB spoke with Heather Martin, Operations Manager of SSAIB-registered firm Southern Fire Alarms Ltd, to discuss its own remote audit conducted during the height of lockdown last month.

SouthernFireAlarms-20The West Sussex-based company was due to have its annual BAFE SP203-1 on April 22, but saw this changed to a remote audit when it was clear that it was no longer possible for Auditor Stephen Jenkins to conduct a visit in person on that date.

Heather commented: “I was very apprehensive beforehand and thought it would be easier to just extend it for six months, as an audit was the last thing we wanted to be doing with the other business changes we were needing to implement. However, in hindsight. I’m so glad we have done it.

“By doing it now, it means that we can carry on for another 12 months and we’re not trying to scramble with everyone else to get in for an audit in six months’ time – as I’m sure there’d be much more of a backlog had SSAIB not switched to remote audits.

With regards to the audit process itself, Heather commented: “The system that SSAIB have put in place was easy to navigate and the guidance document was clear in relation to the evidence that required uploading.

“On the day of the audit, our auditor Stephen called promptly to explain how he would work through the documents. He then called again the following day to summarise his findings.

“The actual remote audit was less time-consuming than normal, to be honest. I had already uploaded everything that we needed to beforehand, so Stephen called promptly at the start of the day to explain how he would work through the documents.

“Therefore, in that sense, I actually gained quite a lot of the time that would have otherwise been spent on a normal audit.

Being ushered into a remote audit isn’t the only change that SFA – who recently celebrated its 20th anniversary – have had to make due to the continuing battle to contain the coronavirus. However, Heather believes that the company’s “loyal core of key personnel” is its secret weapon to help it negotiate the difficult time we all find ourselves in at present.

Despite the impact that COVID-19 has had on the installation company, Heather insisted that SFA’s certification with SSAIB was still of the upmost importance and that it was necessary for themselves and the wider industry to remain as a third-party certified organisation.

Heather said: “I think it’s really important to ensure that we continue our certification with SSAIB during this time – as there is going to be an end to this at some stage and that’ll bring a lot  of work, some of which will be tendered. If we don’t have the certification when that end date arrives then we’ll miss out, it’s as simple as that.

“I also think it’s important for the industry as a whole that we have accreditation and that standards are maintained – especially in the current climate.

“Of course, other companies might not be in the fortunate situation we are with being able to continue with their certification at this time. However, I’d say those companies who are able to carry on like ourselves will reap the rewards of doing so when everything starts picking up again.”

 

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