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Sedex Virtual Assessments (SVA)

Verner Wheelock Sedex Virtual Assessment SVA

We are very pleased to announce that Verner Wheelock has been approved to undertake Sedex Virtual Assessments (SVA).

To achieve this status we had to demonstrate that we had the appropriate competencies, technology and infrastructure to enable the virtual assessments to take place.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with SVAs, we’ve put together a set of questions and answers below. These should give you a better idea of how they work and when they can be used.

What is a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA)?

Put simply, a Sedex Virtual Assessment checks the performance of a site based on the SMETA methodology. Instead of an ethical auditor visiting the site in person, the assessment takes place via video conferencing. Documentation is sent through electronically for review.

Does an SVA replace a SMETA audit?

No. SVAs do not replace a full SMETA audit. If you have an SVA you may still be required to have a full audit at a later date. However, they are a useful interim assessment if you are due a full audit, but it cannot take place. Reasons for this could include lockdown due to a pandemic, or a remote site location. A virtual assessment can also be used for a follow-up audit in some circumstances.

How does an SVA differ from a normal SMETA audit?

Firstly, it is all conducted virtually over the internet. A week before the audit an online pre-assessment meeting will take place to test technology and provide an overview of the format of the assessment. Secondly the assessment needs to be carried out on an ‘announced’ basis so that we can ensure that all the relevant technologies are working on the day. We will require a full site map and much of the documentation to be sent to us prior to the assessment. There will also be the facility to upload supporting documents e.g. wages and working hours information, to a shared portal during the assessment.

Will you still be undertaking worker interviews?

Yes. As with a regular audit, worker interviews will form an essential element of the assessment. These must take place as group interviews via video conferencing, but if this is not possible, we will use direct worker engagement. As always, workers’ identities will remain confidential.  A suitable room and a freestanding laptop with a camera and microphone will need to be provided.

Can any site have an SVA?

The short answer is ‘no.’ First of all, your buyers have to agree to it. Any site wishing to undergo an SVA will then be subject to Site Suitability Checks. You need to ensure that you have suitable reliable technology in place. This means a good, stable Wi-Fi network with secondary back-up. You will also need a fully charged smartphone or tablet connected to a reliable mobile network. The smartphone or tablet must have a powerful camera (8 megapixels or higher) capable of recording detail as it will be used to ‘walk’ the assessor around the site. A site must commit to providing all requested documentation including a detailed site map.

The history of the site and any open non-conformances will also need to be taken into consideration. Companies who have a previous history of coaching employees, attempted bribery or lack of transparency in their operations will not be permitted an SVA.

How does it work?

The structure of an SVA is similar to an ethical audit and is based on the SMETA methodology. Once the request for an assessment has been made and your site has met the suitability criteria, the scope of the assessment is agreed. You will then be allocated an assessment date.

On the day there is an opening meeting with the auditor and the audit team/management, as normal, and then a virtual tour of the site is live streamed via smartphone or tablet. Just like on a regular ethical audit, the auditor will be asking questions throughout and will be requesting supporting documentation. This can be uploaded to a secure shared portal. Worker interviews will take place via video conferencing. Once all the interviews have taken place and the auditor has all the information they require, the closing meeting can take place. The auditor will then write the report and it will be uploaded to the Sedex platform.

For more information on Sedex Virtual Assessments or SMETA ethical audits, please contact Samantha Day on 01756 700802 or samantha.day@vwa.co.uk

five things about VWA in-house courses

If you have 5 or more staff to train, an in-house course can be the most cost-effective way to do it.

‘In-house’ means that only staff from your company will attend the training course. This is in contrast to our open courses where delegates from several different companies attend the same course.

We offer all our HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing and Specialist courses as in-house courses. As always, they are delivered by trainers with considerable experience of working within the food industry.

5 facts about our in-house courses

5 things about VWA in-house courses

Not used Zoom or Microsoft teams before?

Don’t worry, we will be happy to take you through how to connect and the different functions you can use before the course takes place. Just give us a call or drop us an email beforehand and we can set up a practice session.

Feedback from recent remote courses

We have had extremely positive feedback to our remote courses. Here are a few recent testimonials:

“This was the first training course I’ve completed using Zoom. It was better than I expected and almost as good as face to face training.”

“Excellent trainer, patient, knowledgeable and fun. Even via Zoom there was a great team vibe and connection to the trainer.”

“Very captivating and knowledgeable – didn’t lose focus whilst listening, even though the course was run virtually.”

“Once again an excellent service from the VWA team. The tutor did a great job delivering online. It is a new way of working for everyone but worked well. The course was well structured and tutor knowledge excellent.”

“Training, even during the difficult period of COVID restrictions and limitations was managed in the best possible way. Materials were pre-selected and delivered prior to Day 1 of the class.
The pack was nicely organised, segregated and was super easy to navigate during the sessions. Course had plenty of the group and individual exercises. Each workshop was refreshed following morning with the time to ask the questions. I would recommend the course to anyone that is looking for upskilling session as well as to experienced individuals.”

Find out more about in-house courses

To enquire about in-house courses, please call Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk

Verner Wheelock in-house or open courses

In the good old days before Covid-19, we at Verner Wheelock offered just two types of course. ‘Open’ or ‘In-house.’

Open courses

Open courses are so-called because they are open to anyone. Delegates from several different companies all attend the same course. So, you might have a Technical Manager from one company on the same course as a Quality Manager from another. It’s a great opportunity to share experience and ideas and relate the course content to different processes at the same time as learning.

Verner Wheelock Training Room

Open course dates are scheduled for specific dates and appear on our Training Calendar and on the Verner Wheelock website. The fees are paid for each individual attending a course.

In-house courses

In-house courses are attended only by people from the same company and normally take place ‘in-house’ i.e. at the company’s own premises. They are most cost-effective if you have five or more staff to train. These are charged on a ‘per course’ basis and there are two pricing tiers: up to seven delegates; and up to fifteen delegates (or twelve if it’s an advanced level course.)

Unlike open courses, you choose the dates that are convenient for the training to take place, and we organise it all at your chosen venue.

Remote training

remote food industry training

With social distancing and travel restrictions due to Covid-19, we have adapted our offering so that courses can be delivered remotely via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Delegates booked on to remote courses click on a link that is sent to them and they attend a live instructor-led training session with one of our trainers. They can join the training from wherever they happen to be – at work or at home – so long as they have a computer, laptop or tablet with internet connection and audio. 

All the content of a classroom-based course is included in a remote training course, to ensure the usual syllabus is covered

Dual delivery open courses

We are able to provide dual delivery of our open courses, so you can choose to attend either in person at our training centre, or remotely.

Due to social distancing restrictions, we can only accept up to six people at Skipton, so places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Please be assured that we have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment and taken the necessary precautions to make your visit as safe as possible.

In-house courses can be delivered remotely too

When you book an in-house course with us, we will ask whether you want the training to take place on site, or remotely. If you opt for remote training, your staff do not need to be in the same room. If they are working from home, they can log in from there. Otherwise, if they are at work, they can log in from their desk or any other room.

Course materials

Everyone attending one of our courses will receive a course folder and handouts (plus a text book for Level 3 and Level 4 Food Safety courses) sent to their home or place of work.

Open courses – If you are attending an open course in Skipton these will be ready and waiting for you when you arrive. If you are attending an open course remotely, you will be sent the course materials via courier a few days before the course begins.

In-house courses – For face-to-face in-house courses, we will deliver all course materials to site. However, if the course is being delivered remotely, there is also the option to have the course materials delivered to home addresses. Our Training Support Team will organise this for you.

Examinations

We can arrange for exams to be taken with remote invigilation to avoid unnecessary travel.

We hope that this article has helped to clarify the different training options. You can find more information about our open and in-house training on the main website.

The team look forward to seeing you on one of our HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing or Specialist courses very soon.

Verner Wheelock Excellence Award Winners

We might have been in lockdown and in and out of tiers last year, but the pandemic didn’t prevent us from delivering their training courses to the food industry or providing ethical audit services. It certainly didn’t stop us from presenting our annual Excellence Awards last week.

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards were introduced in 2015 to coincide with our 25th anniversary and comprise six categories. These are: HACCP Student of the Year, Auditing Student of the Year, Food Safety Student of the Year, Individual Excellence, Company Excellence and Ethical Excellence.

And the winners are…

  • HACCP Student of the Year 2020
    Sarah Eames, Group Technical Manager at World Wise Foods
  • Food Safety Student of the Year 2020
    Michelle Teape, Technical Compliance Auditor at Müller Milk & Ingredients
  • Auditing Student of the Year 2020
    Sue Nock, Technical Systems Manager at Saputo Dairies UK
  • Individual Excellence
    Helen Harris, Training Co-ordinator at Pladis Global
  • Company Excellence
    Pilgrim’s UK
  • Ethical Excellence
    Berry Gardens

Normally, the Awards are presented in person at the recipients’ premises, but this year they took place virtually via a Zoom conference call.

“This year has certainly been different,” said MD, Alison Wheelock, “but we were determined to continue to provide our customers with the training and audits they need and to recognise outstanding delegates and customers through our Excellence Awards.”

Awards criteria

The HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety awards are given to delegates who have shown a genuine interest, understanding and flair for their subject. They have engaged and interacted well with the course trainer and other delegates and demonstrated excellent knowledge through impressive examination results.

VWA HACCP Award Winner

“Verner Wheelock and our trainer, Julie, did a fantastic job”

Sarah Eames, World Wise Foods

Sarah Eames, recipient of the HACCP award said, “It was a lovely surprise to hear that I’d won the HACCP student of the year award!  When we scheduled the training course last April, I wasn’t too sure how well it would work – we were all remote (including two of my team based in Bangkok!) and we had both level 3 HACCP and level 4 HACCP students in the same classes.  Verner Wheelock and our trainer Julie did a fantastic job of tailoring the course appropriately and we all thoroughly enjoyed having some time together as a team whilst completing some of our training needs.  Thank you!”

Sue Nock attended a Verner Wheelock FDQ Lead Auditor course last year. As part of the course, the delegates perform a mock audit of Verner Wheelock’s Quality Management System (QMS). The entire course and audit was delivered remotely and Sue’s natural auditing style really impressed the Verner Wheelock team. She said, “I was absolutely thrilled and surprised to be awarded Auditing Student of the year.  It was a privilege to be nominated and to be recognised for the hard work.  I found the delivery of the course to be inclusive, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable especially in the current climate.”

An exception to the rule

All previous Individual Excellence award winners have been course delegates. However, this year the decision was made to present the award to Helen Harris, Training Co-ordinator at Pladis UK’s Ashby de la Zouch site, who had been outstanding in her efficiency throughout the year.

Helen said, “I am truly honoured to have won this award. I have been in this role nearly four years and have been working with Verner Wheelock during that time. I have always found the Verner Wheelock team extremely professional, helpful, accommodating and a truly lovely, friendly bunch of people to work with.

I have to organise training for approximately 80 people from 11 different sites, so co-ordinating this many people can prove challenging, but between myself and the Verner Wheelock team we have always seemed to manage it.  2020 was obviously a different year for everyone and Verner Wheelock stepped up to the mark once again and helped me arrange remote training for team members that needed it.” 

Michelle Teape of Müller Milk & Ingredients was thrilled to receive her Food Safety Award.The skills I have are testament to the development I have received within Müller, and the encouragement I have received from colleagues on a daily basis,” she said. “I would like to especially thank the Müller Milk & Ingredients technical team for supporting my progression and the excellent training given by Verner Wheelock.”

Ethical Excellence

Andy York, Responsible Sourcing Manager of Pilgrim’s UK, the largest pig farming business in the UK, summed up the feelings of many on news of his Company Award, saying, “Thank you so much, it’s so nice to have some positive news for a change!” Pilgrim’s are an ethical auditing client of Verner Wheelock who are committed to ensuring that audits take place and the continuous improvement of environments and workplaces for their workers.

Lizzy Nuttall VWA Award Winner

“It’s lovely to receive news like this, in all this misery”

Lizzy Nuttall, Berry Gardens

Lizzy Nuttall of Berry Gardens, another of Verner Wheelock’s ethical audit customers, echoed his sentiments. “It’s lovely to receive news like this, in all this misery,” said Lizzy.

Berry Gardens, the UK’s leading berry and stone fruit production and marketing group, has won this year’s Ethical Excellence Award. Lizzy said, “This award demonstrates the work that has gone into improving our management and post audit follow up of ethical auditing internally. Also the work that our growers have put in to all aspects of worker welfare on their farms, as seen by the reduction in numbers of non-conformances raised in ethical audits in recent years. This can also be demonstrated by the positive feedback received from growers with regards to the way the whole process is managed.

We have worked with Verner Wheelock for a number of years and over that time, the relationship has improved greatly. They are our first point of contact for queries on matters relating to worker welfare. The team understands our business and the challenges presented by ethical auditing for our growers. They are willing to adapt and communicate fully with us when issues arise which may affect our ability to complete audits and also follow ups within the timescales we would like. The auditors that visit our farms are understanding of the issues our growers face, and this has been particularly evident in 2020 with the restrictions and concerns that our growers have had regarding on farm physical audits.

Verner Wheelock also have a good relationship with retailers which gives us confidence that issues we are facing are communicated to the right people, therefore aiding resolutions where they might be required.”

Staying strong in 2021

We are committed to providing high quality training and ethical audits for the food industry, even during Covid-19. Our courses are offered face-to-face (subject to social distancing requirements) and remotely and cover all levels of HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety as well as specialist courses such as Legal Labelling and Managing Food Allergens. Live SMETA audits are also going ahead wherever possible.

More information can be found at www.vwa.co.uk

Alison Wheelock in business awards final

We’re really excited to report that our Managing Director, Alison Wheelock, has reached the finals of the Business Chameleon category of the annual National Business Women’s Awards.

Alison Wheelock finalist in business award

The Business Chameleon award is a new category for 2020 and invited nominations for those business leaders who have successfully adapted their business offering and practices in order to continue during this challenging year.

Adapting to change

As a company providing face-to-face training courses either at our training centre on the Broughton Hall Estate or on-site at customers’ premises, Covid-19 lockdown could have proved problematic for Verner Wheelock. Alison was determined that as many courses as possible should run and so organised the IT, infrastructure and training to make this a reality.

In April 2020, we moved to providing live training courses in HACCP, food safety, auditing and specialist subjects such as food labelling and food allergens via Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Customer feedback about the remotely delivered courses has been very positive.  As it looks like remote training is here to stay, we plan to develop these courses further in 2021.

Alison’s staff all continued to work full-time from home during the first lockdown, thanks to the company’s VoIP phone system, cloud-based accounts package and contact database, and daily staff Zoom meetings, which keep everyone up-to-date, and also promote staff wellbeing. 

Training throughout the pandemic

We’re a close-knit team at Verner Wheelock and have found new ways of working under difficult circumstances, so our company can continue its busy training schedule, providing courses to key workers employed in food and drink manufacturing and retailing.  

In September, we were able to resume classroom-based courses, but with limited numbers to comply with social distancing rules. We have also successfully run ‘dual delivery’ training with learners in the training room and online simultaneously.

Alison was delighted to hear that she had been shortlisted for the award. Marketing Manager, Rachel Coote, who nominated Alison for the award said, “Alison fully deserves this. She has adapted the business offering to ensure that key workers in the food industry are able to continue with essential training and has kept staff and trainers in employment. I’d love her to win!”

Let’s hope she does!

ISO0991 cerificatation

We’re really pleased to announce that we have been successful in our 3-year ISO 9001: 2015 re-certification audit – without incurring any non- conformances. We have ensured that our Quality Management System (QMS) has been kept updated to reflect changes in working processes since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes the remote delivery of courses and flexibility in staff working.

What is ISO 9001?

ISO 9001:2015 is a quality standard and Verner Wheelock retain Lloyds Register as our certification body. Mitch Morrison is responsible for the implementation and day-to-day management of the QMS at Verner Wheelock. It was first developed by MItch in 2017 together with our MD, Alison Wheelock. The QMS helps us to focus on customer feedback and trainer performance and analyse the data in more detail.  

Mitch is delighted with the result of the audit. “It’s great news that we have been able to renew our certificate. Customer feedback is extremely important to us as a company and customer satisfaction is a major part of our QMS. To have achieved an audit with no non-conformances is really excellent news following a tough year. It shows that we have suitable systems in place. Also that our staff are totally committed to delivering training with consistently high levels of customer service, whatever the circumstances,” he said.

As part of the ISO 9001 certification programme, Verner Wheelock undergoes annual external audits, but this is the first time that the audit was conducted remotely. Mitch said, “It wasn’t quite the same as a regular face-to-face audit, but it worked well. We were able to communicate via Microsoft Teams and upload documentation to a secure portal to provide the required documentation.

Future opportunities identified

One section of the QMS covers Risks and Opportunities. One future opportunity identified this year is the development of blended learning and the skills and technology to embrace remote training delivery, due to the risks highlighted from recent lockdowns restricting travel and social contact. We are already providing remote and classroom-based courses but will be looking to introduce further interactive elements over the coming months.

In addition to the external audit, the Verner Wheelock team has had several internal audits against ISO 9001 this year as part of our 4-day Lead Auditor course.  Each course includes a live audit with opening and closing meetings and report write-up, and sections of the QMS are audited by the delegates.

For more information on Lead Auditor and other auditing courses, please click here.

in-house remote training

In-house courses are a cost-effective way to train several members of staff at once. Last year our trainers delivered over 140 in-house courses at companies all around the UK and even abroad.

This year, of course, things are a little different. We are still happy to deliver training at customers’ premises subject to Covid-19 risk assessments. However, we appreciate that many sites are not accepting visitors, or that staff might be working from home or on furlough.

If that’s the case, you can still benefit from the cost savings of a Verner Wheelock in-house course. Instead of coming to your premises, we can deliver the same training courses remotely. That way, your staff can all log in and train together, wherever they happen to be.

Even during lockdown or if staff are on furlough, they are still able to train. The rule is that as long as the individual/company is not gaining financially from the training, it is permitted.

Same content as regular in-house training

You can be reassured that your staff will receive the same high standard of training that they have come to expect from Verner Wheelock. The same professional trainers with food industry experience will be able to answer your questions. The content is essentially the same as a face-to-face training course and there is still the opportunity to interact with the trainer and the other delegates. Plus, there are no travel or accommodation costs to pay.

Train when it’s convenient

Apart from the cost savings, another benefit of in-house training is that you can choose when the training takes place, unlike open courses where there is a set calendar of training courses.

For those unfamiliar with Zoom or Microsoft Teams, a member of the Verner Wheelock team is on hand to assist with any queries or technical issues. You can even request a practice training session beforehand.

Remember, any of our HACCP, auditing, food safety or specialist courses can be delivered remotely. Don’t let your staff miss out on the training they need. Give Claire Lennon a call on 01756 700802 or email her at claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk and she will be happy to help.

Visit VWA with Confidence during Covid-19

Covid-19 meant that for several weeks our training centre was closed. Thankfully we were able to deliver our courses remotely and our customers could receive the training they needed. However, we know that many of you prefer to learn in a classroom environment, so we’re pleased to report that we recently resumed face-to-face courses at our training centre here in Skipton.

Of course, we wanted to ensure that all delegates felt comfortable and as safe as possible during their visit, so we undertook a thorough Covid-19 risk assessment prior to re-opening. As a result, we have put several safeguarding measures in place.

Covid-19 Safeguarding Measures

  • No more than 6 classroom-based places available per course
  • Hand sanitising stations located throughout the building
  • Disposable masks and gloves available
  • NHS Test and Trace QR Code check in
  • Sign in via mobile phone/tablet
  • Tables spaced 2 metres apart in the training room
  • Doors kept open to limit unnecessary touchpoints and assist ventilation
  • Clear screen at the office door
  • Thorough cleaning and sanitising of premises each day
  • Individually packaged lunches and refreshments

View our video

For anyone unsure about attending, we have created a short video to put your mind at ease. You can see for yourself that we are taking the safety of visitors, trainers and staff very seriously.

We also asked delegates on our recent 5-day Level 4 Food Safety course how safe they felt coming to our premises. Here’s what a couple of them had to say:

“I feel fully confident in your good procedures and feel adequate steps have been taken – the best you can in the given climate. Well done!” J.P.

“I feel very safe here. People maintained social distance and everyone used hand sanitisers prior to having refreshments” M.G.

In addition, we have successfully managed to combine classroom-based and remote training. Through the use of audio visual technology, both sets of delegates are able to see and interact with each other and the trainer.

Really good and interactive day! I had my doubts about how it would work with some delegates at the VWA office and some remote, but it worked really well with a great set-up. Lots of activities and discussion to keep the day interactive.” C.W.

See you soon!

For those of you who prefer to train remotely, we will continue to run courses in this format. If, however, you fancy getting away from it all and training in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, why not come back to Broughton? We’d love to see you.

Click here to view our latest training calendar.

Celebrating 30 years in business this year!

The VWA Team L-R Back Row: Alison, Mitch, Claire, Amberley
Front Row: Rhyanna, Samantha, Rachel

It’s official, Verner Wheelock is 30 this year! We’ve come a long way since 1990 when our Chairman, Verner, took early retirement from his post as Head of the Food Policy Research Unit at the University of Bradford and we ran our first ever training course.

Last year we delivered 140 in-house courses, 70 open courses in Skipton and carried out 212 ethical audits. We have 20 different courses and regularly review them to ensure the content is current. This year, we’ve diversified into remotely delivered courses and launched our own Basic Food Safety & Hygiene online course.

Of course, we wouldn’t be able to do this without our lovely customers and excellent trainers.

In different circumstances we would have had a big 30th anniversary party to celebrate. Instead we’re going to mark the occasion with an online lecture.

Ivor Cummins

We very much hope that you’ll be able to join us on THURSDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER at 9.30 am to spend a couple of hours with the Verner Wheelock team and our special guest, Ivor Cummins, who will be presenting a two-part webinar with a question and answer session.

Who is Ivor Cummings?

The Chief Program Officer for Irish Heart Disease Awareness, Ivor is an extremely engaging presenter, who really makes us think about the food we eat and how it impacts our health and well-being. For the past 8 years, he has been intensely researching the root causes of modern chronic diseases, with a focus on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. He has shared his research insights at public speaking engagements around the world.

In recent months, Ivor has devoted his attention to COVID-19. Using his approach of going back to the basic science and interacting with first class scientists, he has developed a very sound understanding of the risks involved and how they can be controlled.

30th Anniversary Webinar

In the first section of the webinar, he will share the knowledge that he has collected on COVID-19 based on the experience of many different countries. He will explain the risks and the steps that individuals can take to reduce them through nutrition.  Finally, he will discuss some of the policy options that could be adopted by the authorities.

In the second section, Ivor will explain why a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats is a critical aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

We hope that you find these talks both interesting and thought-provoking.

More about Ivor

In addition to his speaking activities Ivor is joint author of Eat Rich, Live Long: Use the Power of Low-Carb and Keto for Weight Loss and Good Health and is a prolific blogger on the benefits of a low carb lifestyle.

His website The Fat Emperor is an amazing source of valuable information, which includes detailed discussion with leading scientists in the field.

30th anniversary goodie pack

The event is invitation only and those who attend will also receive a VWA 30th Anniversary goodie pack.

Here’s to the next 30 years!

ethical audits

Understandably there has been some uncertainty surrounding ethical audits during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, do you still need an ethical audit? Can audits be delayed? How will they work with social distancing? Can ethical audits be conducted remotely?

Our customers are asking these questions and many more. Below are answers to the most popular questions:

Are you still carrying out audits?
Yes! Our audits had been on hold due to travel and social distancing restrictions. They have now resumed – subject to conditions (see below)

Have you changed your processes in any way?
Yes, we have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Our auditors will also complete a health questionnaire. This will be sent to customers prior to their visit to show they have not been in contact with anyone with symptoms etc. Customers will need to submit a copy of their own COVID-19 risk assessment together with information on any cases they have had within their workforce.

How will the audit take place with regard to social distancing and PPE?
Our auditors have access to PPE and sanitiser. They will comply with all hygiene and social distancing measures in place on a site.

What about site visitor policies and restrictions on site?
Verner Wheelock auditors will only visit one site per day and will aim to avoid a visit on the same day as another visit to your site.  They will comply with your visitor policies and will also wear PPE as advised by that company.

Can our SMETA ethical audit be announced?
Retailers usually require audits to be conducted during a three-week semi-announced window. However, since risk assessments and health questionnaires need completing prior to the site visit, some retailers are accepting announced audits during this time, for the safety of staff and auditors.  This also ensures that personnel required for the audit are on site on the day, as we realise that some office staff are working from home or on furlough. Please check with your customers for more information on this matter.

Can we have an extension on our audit deadline?
Sedex and the retailers are advising that audits go ahead. We had been informed they were allowing an extra 3 months, but please check with your customers first if you wish to postpone or delay your audit.

Can my SMETA Audit be carried out remotely?
Sedex are introducing a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA). This will be available from July 2020 onwards. It is unclear as yet whether all retailers will accept the SVA.  Also, sites will need to meet certain criteria to be allowed to have an SVA. Verner Wheelock is applying to Sedex to be one of the audit companies that can offer this service.

Is a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA) the same as a SMETA audit?
An SVA is not a full SMETA audit. Sites that undertake an SVA may also find that they need to have a SMETA audit at a later date.

Will staff need to be interviewed on site?
The auditor will need access to a private, well-ventilated room where staff can be interviewed individually or in small groups, following social distancing guidelines. If the weather permits, particularly on farms, the interviews may take place outdoors.  If you are having a virtual audit, interviews can be conducted remotely or may not always be included in the audit.

Can we close off Non-Conformances by desktop to reduce visits to site?
In some instances we might be able to follow-up remotely if sufficient evidence has been provided.

Is Verner Wheelock registered with APSCA (Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors)?
Yes. Verner Wheelock is a member firm of APSCA. All our auditors are registered with APSCA and are currently completing the new CSCA exams. From 1st July 2020 SMETA audits can only be carried out by APSCA registered auditors from a member firm.

We hope the above provides clarity to help you to prepare for your next ethical audit. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01756 700802 or by emailing samantha.day@vwa.co.uk