WHAT IS ACCREDITATION?
Accreditation is the formal recognition which attests that an organization is competent to perform specific processes, activities or tasks (which are detailed in a scope of accreditation) in a reliable, credible and accurate manner.
Accreditation is therefore a structured mechanism to assure customers of the competence of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) including laboratories, inspection bodies, certification and verification bodies.
Conformity Assessment Bodies that, at present, can be assessed by the NAISM are:
- Testing Laboratories (ISO 17025)
- Calibration Laboratories (ISO 17025)
- Inspection Bodies (ISO 17020)
- Certification Bodies (ISO 17065, ISO 17024, ISO 17021)
- Verification Bodies (ISO 14065)
International trade relies on certificates and reports issued by competent bodies. Confidence in accreditation is based on a series of confidence building steps between the accreditation bodies and accredited organizations and the assurance given by the accreditation body that the accredited body constantly implements the relevant criteria and maintains and develops its competence continuously as defined in the relevant standard as an ongoing process. This assurance is achieved through accreditation which includes an initial assessment, regular surveillance and reassessment visits, enhance, where appropriate, by other surveillance activities.
BENEFITS OF ACCREDITATION
- Prove your competence to customers;
- Increase the opportunities for improvement;
- Obtain an endorsement of independence, integrity and technical competence;
- Gain acceptance and recognition on an international scale;
- Use accreditation as a marketing tool;
- Strengthen your reputation of professionalism;
- Have additional defence during possible controversies in court;
- Save costs by improving the management and technical systems in an effective and efficient way;
An estimate of the costs of the assessment process may be provided to CABs interested to apply for accreditation or for accredited CABs who wish to extend their current scope of accreditation.
The costs are calculated on a case-by-case basis. This depends on the effort needed to carry out the assessment properly. Factors affecting the costs of accreditation include the size of the CAB, the scope and the variety of the activities for which the CAB is seeking accreditation.
It is very important that the CAB explains very clearly the activities which it would like to have accredited. For this reason it is highly recommended to held a meeting with the NAISM before submitting an application.
Technical guides, regulations, policies and application forms can be obtained from the NAISM upon request.
2) Document Review
The documents submitted by the applicant are assessed by the NAISM. The Lead Assessor, together with Technical Assessors where necessary, will analyze them to identify whether there is the need for further documentation, the need for a preliminary visit, to highlight any deficiencies in the system and to propose the final composition of the Assessment Team.
3) Preliminary Visit
The preliminary visit helps the NAISM to determinate whether the applicant body appears to be sufficiently prepared for an initial assessment to have a reasonable chance of success. The benefits of a preliminary visit include:
Proper preparation for the initial assessment, including preparation of visit plan, determination of approximate duration of assessment and type of assessors required, clarification with the applicant of the applied scope of accreditation. The lead assessor can have therefore a general idea of the level of implementation of the quality system described in the submitted documentation and its compliance with the standard.
4) Assessment Team
The assessment is carried out by experts according to the scope of accreditation. The team responsible for the assessment will have been chosen to ensure they can cover every aspect of the organization’s operations. All assessors will have previously attended an assessor training course and will be aware of the necessary standards of assessment and any particular requirements of the NAISM. NAISM uses contracted external assessors all of whom sign a confidentiality agreement, since it is vital that any information gained during the assessment visit is kept confidential. For more information about this latter aspect, please visit also our Values and Principles area
5) Assessment Visit
The official assessment is carried out by experts according to the scope of accreditation. The date of the assessment will be agreed by NAISM and the CAB.
The result of the on-site and witness visit is a detailed report on the evaluation of the organization highlighting any areas that require attention prior to the organization being recommended for accreditation.
6) Accreditation Board
This Board is a wide representation of organizations having either a direct or indirect interest in accreditation. Members come from both the Public, the Private and the Consumers Associations. The Accreditation Board is responsible for providing advice on technical issues, business strategy and promotion of accreditation, and on the operation and development of an accreditation scheme. It is also responsible for taking the decision on the granting/withdrawal of accreditation – this is based on the report and recommendation presented by the Director of the NAISM.
7) Scope of Accreditation
The accreditation certificate is issued against a scope of accreditation which details the specific areas accredited. The scope is published and maintained by the NAISM.
8) Surveillance & Reassessment
Surveillance visits are carried out to ensure that the accredited body continues to conform to the requirements of accreditation on a permanent basis. The first surveillance visit is carried out 6 months after the decision on accreditation. The accredited body will also need to be reassessed, after a five year period, through an audit similar in detail to the initial assessment one.