During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, IANZ staff were operating from their home office only, with time spent in the IANZ offices only when required. Only assessments deemed essential and requiring the physical presence of an assessor were carried out onsite during the lockdowns at Level 4 or Level 3. Instead, desktop assessments, remote assessments and hybrid assessments became our default methods of working.
Desktop assessments are performed via a prescribed list of documents that are provided to IANZ for review. Documents are assessed against the usual accreditation criteria and organisations contacted for the usual exit meeting, with an assessment report provided at the end of the assessment. There is limited interaction with the laboratory throughout the day, and assessments are generally limited to Surveillance Assessments.
A remote assessment is where the assessment is performed via MS Teams (or Zoom) and achieves the same outcome as an assessment performed on-site. All the documents and records we would normally review onsite are reviewed via a shared screen. This does rely on the laboratory having all of the documentation readily available electronically. There is also a need to ensure that testing can be reviewed i.e. via cameras.
Some remote assessments can also be a hybrid assessment where one of the assessment team is attending remotely e.g. the IANZ Lead Assessor is attending via MS Teams while the Technical Expert is on-site. This is very similar to the remote assessment in terms of what is reviewed and what the organisation needs to have readily available.
The different assessment types adopted worked well where all parties were prepared, however the assessment preparation took significantly longer. For both Remote and Hybrid assessments a pre-assessment check was performed to ensure that the IT processes were available and could be readily operated by the laboratory.
Desktop assessments, hybrid assessments or remote assessments are a deviation from the standard assessment cycle and as such a risk assessment must be performed for each assessment. Risk assessments are raised by the IANZ Lead Assessor and reviewed and approved by programme management prior to the assessment being confirmed.
Under the new Traffic Light system, IANZ can only perform assessments on-site under a Red Traffic Light under certain conditions. Some organisations have issued COVID-19 safety policies that IANZ needs to comply with i.e. vaccination certificates, temperature checks, and/or negative COVID-19 test results. If the organisation being assessed cannot confirm all assessment staff have been vaccinated an assessment cannot commence. IANZ has also had a 100% vaccination policy in place since December 2021 to ensure all IANZ staff and Technical Experts are fully vaccinated.