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11. Call in the External Auditor

What can you expect at your certification audit? An external audit is usually conducted in two steps with stage one often called a 'documentation audit' and stage 2 called the 'certifcation audit'.

If you need that certificate, this is the final step.

External audits are typically performed in two stages.

Stage 1

During a stage 1 audit:

  • The auditor will check your management system documentation to make sure that it meets the requirements of the standard
  • Any legal and regulatory requirements will be identified
  • The auditor will tour your site(s) to gather information for planning the stage 2 audit, e.g. the scope of the management system, the nature and complexity of your processes, your locations
  • The auditor may identify gaps or non-conformances that you need to resolve.
  • At the end of the stage 1 audit, an evaluation will be made as to whether you are ready to proceed with the stage 2 audit.
  • You should receive an audit report and a plan for the stage 2 audit.

Stage 2

For stage 2, the auditor is evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of the management system. The audit is conducted at your premises and the auditor will:

  • visit different areas/locations
  • interview personnel
  • examine records
  • look for evidence of continuous improvement, internal auditing, management review, communication, awareness, and that you follow your own system documentation (that you DO what you SAY you do).
  • The auditor may identify non-conformances or areas for improvement.
  • At the end of the stage 2 audit you should receive a detailed report and a recommendation on whether you have passed your certification audit or not. The plan for future audits will also be arranged.


The auditor makes a recommendation but the final decision is made by the certification body.

Depending on the severity of the audit findings, you may need to demonstrate you have taken actions to resolve the problems before you can be accredited to the standard. (Usually a ‘non-conformance’ must be addressed, but an ‘observation’ or ‘area for improvement’ does not.)

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