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What's the difference between an Audit, an Assessment and a Surveillance visit?

We’re sure there’s a great joke answer to this (anyone know what it is?), but this is an area that can cause some confusion – so here are the basic differences between an audit, an assessment and a surveillance visit.


  • Gathers evidence that policies and processes are in place and working, and meet the requirements of the relevant standards and the stated objectives of the organisation.

  • Can be carried out by the organisation itself or by its representatives such as consultants with appropriate experience – this is an internal audit. Many standards include internal auditing as a requirement for registration.

  • Can be carried out as part of an assessment or surveillance visit by an external certification body – this is a third party audit. Second party audits may be carried out by other interested parties such as customers.


  • Carried out by a third party certification body, preferably one accredited by UKAS. Involves a comprehensive audit of system documents (manual, policies, procedures etc.).

  • Aims to confirm whether the system meets all stated requirements of the relevant standard and if the organisation has set realistic objectives for ongoing improvement.  Is followed by a detailed inspection on site to confirm whether those documented procedures are being carried out in practice.

  • Outcome of a successful assessment: the issuing of a certificate of registration to the relevant standard or standards.

Surveillance visits

  • Are a condition of continuing registration once a certificate has been issued.

  • Ensure that the organisation continues to adhere to the Management System and requirements of the standards.


To find out how Penarth Management Limited can support your organisation to meet the standards relevant to your industry, please contact us at or on 029 2070 3328.

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