What do I need to know?
It is an observation activity conducted during a certification audit. This in order to validate the skills of a new auditor or to calibrate an experienced auditor. Witnessing is a mandatory and fundamental step in the (re)qualification process of each auditor.
There are two types of witnessing:
Initial witnessing: this is the final step to qualify an auditor. The witnessing is carried out by a qualified and competent person in the sector, who guarantees smooth accompaniment of the audit.
Calibration witnessing: Performed between experienced auditors. Auditor A observes auditor B, and auditor B can observe auditor A during another audit. This is called calibration.
The presence of a witnesser during an audit is an integral part of any auditor (re)qualification procedure. It is an essential and indispensable step to qualify an auditor and/or to maintain the qualification of an auditor.
According to the rules of each standard, an auditor must be witnessed every 2 or 3 years.
An auditor who is not witnessed timely loses his/her qualification.
The witnesser has the unique role of observing the auditor throughout the audit process, so he has to accompany the auditor.
The witnesser is not involved in the audit process, is not part of the audit team and cannot ask questions, make comments or even identify non-conformities.
It is important to know that witnessing is not an examination or an evaluation of the auditor. It is an observation of good audit practices with the objective of improvement and calibration.
The witnesser must not intervene in any way during the audit, i.e. he has no direct exchanges with the auditor and especially not with the auditees.
An audit with witnessing should be conducted in the same way as a normal audit, therefore the result of the audit should not be different.
The organization having signed a certification contract is obliged to accept the presence of a witnesser, if it is requested. However, if the organization refuses it for internal reasons, it is important to know that this can have a direct impact on the maintenance of the auditor's qualification and consequently on the availability of the auditors for a subsequent audit.
The COVID-19 protection concept must be adhered to during all witnessing activities.
The purpose of the protection concept for audits and inspections is to describe measures for the protection of the auditor (also in audit teams and for witnessers or observers) and the employees of the company, in addition to the requirements issued by authorities, companies and other stakeholders.
It is conceivable that further protective measures may be introduced for individual industries and standards; these will be handled by the certification bodies listed here in addition to this concept.
The protection concept was developed in cooperation between the two certification bodies ProCert and SQS for the performance of management system and product certification audits.
It is open to other certification bodies to join the protection concept and support its further development.
The document is available for download here.