Following the government announcement at the weekend, and with the protection of the audit workforce and members in mind, FORS has announced that all FORS Bronze audits from Thursday 5 November will now be held via video conferencing
The FORS Bronze audit is the first step members take at the entry level of the progressive scheme, Bronze. New FORS members seeking first time accreditation, and existing members who wish to maintain FORS Bronze accreditation, are audited to ensure they meet the requirements set out in the FORS Standard.
This thorough audit looks in detail at a member’s operations, to ensure they have the correct procedures and policies in place to meet the requirements of the FORS Standard.
In ‘normal’ pre-Covid circumstances a qualified FORS auditor is required to attend the operating centre in question to conduct the audit face-to-face. FORS has taken the decision that all face-to-face audits will be conducted remotely until 31 January 2021, after which time members will be able to undertake either a remote or face-to-face audit. This position will be reviewed on a regular basis and is subject to change.
The remote audit will last around the same time as an on-site audit and will follow the same robust format. The auditor will need to see evidence the member can meet all the requirements of the FORS Standard, in the same way as is required at a face-to-face audit. Members will need to have a device with a working camera and microphone and will be asked to provide their evidence either by sharing screen or by presenting the relevant information to the camera during the audit video call.
FORS manager Sonia Hayward explains, “FORS Bronze audits were suspended in March at the start of the national lockdown, with existing accreditations maintained at the pre-lockdown levels to make sure members were not penalised for something that was out of their control. In line with government advice, we introduced FORS Covid-19 rules and requirements to ensure on-site audits could resume safely in July. However, with a new lockdown due to come into force in England, and the firebreak in Wales, we have decided to adapt to the circumstances to ensure that members can undertake their audit safely to gain, or maintain, their accreditation.”
The change is the latest in a series of measures FORS has put in place to help its diverse membership manage accreditation in the wake of the pandemic.
In April, FORS moved all its face-to-face manager training to online learning. It launched the FORS Professional Virtual Classroom in September to further enhance this online learning, which will now remain part of the FORS training offering long-term.
The latest iteration of the FORS Standard, version 6, which was due to be launched this month, has also been postponed by at least a year to minimise disruption to members, and relaxations to the on-cycle element of the FORS Professional Safe Urban Driving and Van Smart courses, a requirement at FORS Silver, are in place.
FORS Member Briefings have also gone online, with sessions hosted through August, September and October, allowing 331 members to join the interactive sessions. More briefings are timetabled for November to ensure FORS members are up to date with FORS developments.
Sonia Hayward says, “Since the onset of the pandemic, it has been really important for FORS to be as flexible as possible to help our members who are working in incredibly difficult circumstances. We hope the introduction of remote audits will help members to gain and maintain their FORS accreditation during this difficult time.”