If you aren’t sure what ISO 13485 is, please visit our two-part training webinar series. During your Stage 1 ISO 13485 Certification audit, the auditor verifies that your company has all 28 procedures required in ISO 13485:2016. During the Stage 2 audit preparation, however, the auditor will be reviewing training records for each employee. A training matrix is one of the best tools for verifying that your training records are completed. First, you create a table of all 28 required procedures in Excel (this is your far left column). Across the top of the table, you need to list each of the employees in your organization. This would be difficult for a large organization, but most companies seeking initial ISO 13485 certification have less than 20 employees. In your training matrix, you need to identify which procedures each employee must be trained on. This is one of the most common ways to identify training requirements, and color-coding the matrix works is helpful.
Once you have defined your training requirements, review and approve this document as a controlled document that you will maintain as the company grows. However, as the company grows, you may convert specific names to job functions. Once the training requirements matrix is reviewed and approved, you should enter the date that training was completed for each employee. This is a more effective check than the “checkbox” approach, and it enables you to verify that everyone was trained since the last revision of any procedure. Now, you have a summary document to prove that 100% of your employees have current training on each of the 28 required procedures.
Interview employees as part of your Stage 2 audit preparation
During the Stage 2 audit, any of the employees could be interviewed by the auditor. As part of your Stage 2 audit preparation, you should interview each employee on your training matrix by asking them the following open-ended questions:
- Can you show me where I can find the company’s quality policy?
- Please explain how the quality policy is relevant to your job.
- Can you show me a copy of the training procedure?
- What quality objectives do you or your department monitor?
The first question is typical of auditors. You don’t have to have the policy memorized, but every employee should know where to find it. My favorite location is the back of employee ID badges, but the quality policy needs to be updated periodically. If everyone has the policy on their ID badge, you might consider handing out updated stickers with the revised quality policy when you hand out paychecks. The second question is related to the first, and it verifies that each person understands the importance of their job function as it relates to quality.
The third question is a test to ensure every employee can locate procedures. Don’t help them, because the auditor won’t. After each employee answers the question, make sure you explain the correct answer concerning where the most current version of every procedure is. Redlined copies in a drawer do not exist. The person should also have read each procedure in their training matrix so that they can answer a question. It’s ok to say “I don’t remember,” but they shouldn’t guess.
The fourth question verifies that top management has established quality objectives for all functions and at all levels within the company. Every manager should have at least one quality objective they are tracking, and progress toward the quality objective should be visibly communicated to everyone in the department. Employees, especially managers, should also be aware of where quality objectives for the company as a whole are posted. Ideally, each employee will know how their job function contributes to one or more of these objectives.
Stage 2 audit preparation – How to handle “stage fright”
Anyone can get nervous when they are being interviewed by an auditor–even the most experienced managers. In particular, a large entourage of observers following an auditor can make the situation worse. Therefore, you should anticipate this and discuss this with every employee in your company when you are doing practice interviews. Tell them this is normal, and it’s ok to be nervous. Remind them to take a deep breath to settle their nerves. Assure employees that they will not get in trouble for being nervous, and the company will not fail and audit just because someone has difficulty answering a question. At worst, you will need to initiate a CAPA and do some more training. The best-case scenario for a certification audit is that you will need to initiate a CAPA and do some more training. Either way, the outcome is the same.
Congratulations on your successful Stage 2 audit preparation
Do not stress everyone out the day before your Stage 2 certification audit. You had six months to prepare, and everyone worked hard to help prepare the company. Now is the time to celebrate with your family. Everyone should go home on time and get a good night’s rest. Positive attitudes and relaxation are as crucial as all the work that has been completed. I learned this lesson the hard way during my first ISO 13485 Certification in 2004. We received certification, but I don’t recommend letting your boss turn purple with rage during the audit–it might be career-limiting.
I have only made the mistake of staying up late the night before on one other occasion–and the client was not recommended for certification at the end of the Stage 2 audit. Fortunately, the auditor was able to schedule a follow-up audit within a few weeks, and we were able to address all the open issues at that time. The client received their ISO 13485 certificate and CE Certificate within three months of starting the project, and the certificates were just in time for an important trade show in Germany.
Additional training resources to prepare for ISO 13485:2016 certification
If you are interested in learning more about ISO Certification, please download Medical Device Academy’s whitepaper and watch our six-part webinar training certification course for ISO 13485:2016 certification preparation.