FAQ: Support For Certification Bodies
  • 12 Dec 2023
  • 10 Minutes to read
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FAQ: Support For Certification Bodies

  • PDF

Article Summary

The following questions and answers are meant to clarify and make more concrete specific requirements that Certification Bodies must audit against. They are organized by topic, and new topics will be added as clarification becomes relevant.

If you have any further questions, please do reach out to us at cbcert@ra.org.

Interviews and worker files review – Auditing medical records


Certification and auditing rules v1.2, requirement 2.10.20 “The CB audit team shall verify at least the following items in a selected worker file […] i. Medical records, where applicable.”

The following core requirements of the Rainforest Alliance Standard might require the auditor to verify the medical records of a worker:

  • 5.1 Assess-and-Address, Child Labor
     To determine the age of a child a birth certificate or any other official identity document including the date of birth might exist. If this is not the case, the CH might have a (written) medical statement in which the estimated age of the child is indicated.
  • 5.1 Assess-and-Address, Discrimination and Harassment
     To determine whether the CH has in place practices that are considered as discrimination or harassment, the audit team might need to verify if the CH has pregnancy test records for hiring purpose, or if the workers experienced harassment or violence (e.g., touching, unwanted comments, shouting) or other discriminatory practices (e.g., not hiring based on age, marital status, HIV-positive) during the intake health checks performed by the CH or another person in charge.
  • 5.3.1 Medical leave and protection in case of illness, disability or accident
     To verify that people who are eligible for medical leave are indeed receiving them. For example, a worker with a disability might have provided his/ her employer with a medical statement from the doctor.
  • 5.6.2 Work related injuries
     There could be records in a worker’s file of work-related incidents, accidents and how those were addressed.
  • 5.6.11 Pregnancy
     While pregnancy tests are not to be requested, a female worker might need to provide the employer with a proof of her pregnancy by for example a statement of her doctor, to obtain certain benefits like maternity leave or time off for nursing.
  • 5.6.16 Medical examination at least 1/year for hazardous agrochemical handlers
     To determine the yearly cholinesterase testing has been performed, the official document demonstrating the results of the testing should be included in the worker file.
What records are considered medical records?

In this context, medical records are any written communication, records and/or documents related to the diagnosis or treatment of a worker, which are kept by the Certificate Holder (CH), who is considered the employee, with the worker’s consent.

Examples of medical records are:

  • medical histories
  • report of clinical findings and diagnosis (e.g., asthma, in case that is relevant in a dust-prone work environment)
  • laboratory test results (e.g., on cholinesterase testing)
  • reports of examination and/or evaluation
  • any hospital admission/discharge records (e.g., related to incidents that occurred on-site) which the person may have
  • records of health checks that the CH provides to the workers as part of the hiring process.

Please note the medical health checks should never lead to potential discriminatory practices and therefore do not include pregnancy tests (as per Standard requirement 5.6.11), or HIV tests, among others.

The medical record of a worker might be a summarized doctor’s statement (e.g., person X is pregnant with due date X, person Y tested negative for the cholinesterase test on date X) or a doctor’s recommendation (e.g., worker X is found to suffer from scoliosis and should not be assigned to activities that requires constant crouching, like harvesting).

What does “where applicable” mean?

This means records should be verified for audits that include the abovementioned requirements in its audit scope. Also, while the abovementioned requirements might be in the audit scope, there can be reasons why no medical records need to be kept. For instance, if no youth are hired or everybody has a birth certificate or other legal proof of their age. Or, on an organic farm, where nobody uses hazardous chemicals or pesticides, since no medical examination is needed, then it is not necessary to examine records.

Please be reminded that document review is just one of the methods to triangulate and corroborate information during an audit. It is also possible in some cases for the audit team to obtain the required evidence through observations and/ or interviews.

Why does a CH keep medical records of workers?

There can be several reasons why a CH keeps medical records of their workers, for example, as a result of implementing the Rainforest Alliance Standard requirements or for other legal obligations. For example, the worker file of an agrochemical handler might include a record that demonstrates results of cholinesterase testing.

What medical records should be verified by CBs (Certification Bodies)?

Please note that the audit team is not asked to verify medical records of the worker that are not directly related to implementation of Rainforest Alliance’ requirements and/or that the CH do not have them in their system. This means, the audit team will not ask an individual worker to directly provide the auditor with medical records from a health check that the worker organized for themselves.

Why should medical records be verified during a Rainforest Alliance audit?

The audit team shall interview workers and review the worker file of a sample of workers during the audit as part of collecting evidence to determine compliance with Rainforest Alliance standard requirements. One of the documents in these worker files will be the ‘medical records’. For some standard requirements, medical records function as a piece of evidence. By triangulating and corroborating the information with observations and/ or interviews, the audit team can determine compliance or a non-compliance at the CH.

Please be reminded that document review is just one of the methods to triangulate and corroborate information during an audit. It is also possible in some cases for the audit team to obtain the required evidence through observations and/ or interviews.

How can confidentiality be ensured?

As with all elements of the audit process, CB personnel are required to uphold the confidentiality of information obtained, viewed, or heard during the audit process. To do so, as per the Rules for Certification Bodies version 1.1:

  • requirement 1.3.32, the CB shall have a policy on provision of information management and data protection. This policy shall be publicly available for certificate holders.
  • requirement 1.3.35 requires the CB to have a procedure in place to ensure confidential information from CHs (Certificate Holders) is protected.

As per Auditing rules, 2.7.11:

  • the CB should also communicate to the CH during the opening meeting the confidentiality matters. This is a suitable moment to clarify to the CH and worker representative how confidentiality is ensured.

Referenced Documents

Use of interpreters


The Certification and Auditing Rules, Annex AR11 describes the requirements related to the use of interpreters.

How to determine the "adequate number of interpreters"?

Point 4 of the Certification and Auditing Rules clarifies that CBs need to ensure that an ‘adequate number of interpreters’ is used, ‘to ensure communication between the audit team and the intended audience including management, workers, and any other relevant stakeholders.

To determine that adequate number, it is important for the CBs to collect all languages that management, workers, and the other stakeholder speak. It is then important to identify how many languages are spoken and which languages can be covered by the audit team. If other languages remain, the CB shall use interpreters to cover those.

How to choose the languages?

The CB needs to make a clear and visible effort to cover all languages in the audit cycle, prioritizing the most vulnerable workers.

We recommend the CBs that audit in areas where workers speak multiple languages, to:

  • Select auditors with those language skills, or train current auditors in those languages
  • Create a network of potential interpreters in the region where multiple languages exist.
Who can be an interpreter?

As per point 1, the CB needs to have a documented procedure in place to select interpreters. The CB shall ensure that there is no conflict of interest, and thus it is not possible to use the CH’s own personnel. The CB can for example reach out to the Trade Union or worker representative to ask if they know any reliable interpreter.

Referenced Documents

 Assurance risk-based approach – Forced labor 

The Rainforest Alliance requires CBs to implement a risk-based approach on forced labor, including on child labor. This means that if risk levels for occurrence of forced labor are considered high in a country and sector combination, there will be additional assurance requirements. The aim is that through better preparation, understanding of the risks, the audit team can better focus the audit to determine whether the CH has taken the appropriate actions to mitigate those elevated risk levels.  

Which documented procedures does a CB need to have in place, linked to Forced Labor?

Each CB is requested to have documented procedures in place, applicable to all audits, to ensure a standardized approach to increase the overall quality of audits.

The following are more particularly linked to auditing forced labor:
  • Stakeholder consultation (Annex AR 4.2)
  • Remediation (Annex AR4.5)
  • Off-site investigation (Annex AR4.10)

Audit preparation

In preparation for an audit, it is important for the auditor to be familiar with the level of risk of forced labor, and the indicators of forced labor that may be most common in the country/ sector context of audit scope. This will allow the audit team to better target and plan for the audit in a more efficient way.

  1. Use the forced labor sector risk maps to identify the risk score for forced labor. You can also perform a Stakeholder Consultation (Annex AR4.2) You may use this letter to facilitate reaching out to stakeholders.
  2. Use the Audit Risk Assessment(CAF (Certification Application Form)) to determine whether there is a high or very high risk on social topics. Additional requirements (Annex AR4.1) include:
    1. Make a specific risk overview for the topic of forced labor. You may use the CAF – Guidance Template called Social Risk Assessment to fill in the Specific Risk Overview for Social Topics, see sheet 2C point B).
    2. Perform an off-site investigation (see Annex AR4.10).
    3. Increase the sample size of worker interviews and worker files.
    4. Make sure the audit is planned in a period where you can collect and verify the most relevant information.
    5. Ensure experienced and adequate audit staff are included in the audit team.
Audit execution

The Certification and Auditing rules clarify the further process of the audit itself. For example, on opening and closing meeting, worker interviews, facility tours. More specifically for auditing the Assess-and-Address requirements, it is useful if the CB is familiar with the following other documents which include the binding requirements:

  1. Standard requirements (Farm or Supply Chain)
     Requirements 5.1 on Assess-and-Address, incl. forced labor
  2. Annex S1 Glossary
     Definition of forced labor, and some indicators
  3. Annex S3 Risk Assessment Tool
     Requirement 5.1.2
  4. Annex S4 Remediation Protocol
     Requirement 5.1.4

The following guidance material can help CBs to better understand the Assess-and-Address approach and how to implement it. These are meant to serve the Certificate Holders (CH) with implementation and support the CB staff in understanding the requirements.

  1. General Guide
     High level explanation of the assess-and-address requirements
  2. Guidance L Assess and Address
     In-depth guidance on the assess-and-address system
  3. A&A e-course
     E-course on implementation of A&A requirements
  4. A&A Video Tutorials
     Video tutorials which give a detailed explanation on the implementation of the A&A requirements

During the audit itself, the audit team needs to verify whether the Assess-and-Address system is in place and if it is functioning accordingly (Annex AR 4.3). The Auditor Verification Protocol can provide you with ideas on what to verify and how to verify this system.

More particularly, as part of Standard requirement 5.1.3, the audit team will verify if the CH has put in place a monitoring approach that matches the level of risk. A potential indicator that the monitoring system is not adequately addressing the risks is when the audit team identifies a case of forced labor during the audit.

What happens if an auditor finds possible indicators of forced labor?

If an auditor finds possible indicators of forced labor, the auditor takes the following steps:e

  1. Determine whether it is a confirmed case of forced labor:
     Perform the “two-part test”: are both types of indicators present? If yes, it can be considered a case of Forced Labor.
  2. Find out whether the case was already identified by the CH’ monitoring system and whether other people might be in a similar situation.
  3. If yes, is it being remediated using the Remediation Protocol (Annex S4)?
  4. If not yet, apply the remediation approach (Annex AR4.5), among others to safeguard the (potential) victim.
  5. Perform the Severity test (Annex AR4.4) to identify if the case is considered as ‘severe’.
  6. Identify which type of certification decision would be adequate (Annex AR4.3), for the Certifier to confirm.

How will the findings of forced labor be recorded as a certification decision?

The Certifier will take a certification decision, being aware of the following:

  • The rules explained in Annex AR4.3, clarifying in which case a non-conformity (NC), suspension, cancellation, or negative certification decision.
  • The rule in 1.7 that explains in case of a NC also the timelines for full remediation.

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