FAQ- Facts on international standard, certifications & accreditations
What is an international standard
International standards are market driven business improvement tools to enhance management performance in various functional disciplines such as Quality ( ISO 9001), Environment (ISO 14001), Occupational Health & Safety ( BS OHSAS18001/ISO 45001) , Information Security(ISO 27001) and Food Safety management systems(ISO 22000).
Why should industries adopt these standards?
The industries adopt these standards to achieve predetermined business objectives/goals related to information security, food safety, Quality control, Pollution control, Prevention of health & safety hazards in the workplace etc.
What is the difference between a standard and a technical regulations ?
While standards are voluntary technical regulations are standards which are deemed to be mandatory by the governments according to WTO . Over 90% of the international standards are voluntary and the rest are made into technical regulations by the government. in cases such as in regulated sectors where standards are made into technical regulations , government recognized notified bodies involvement in the conformity assessment process becomes obligatory for organizations dealing in certain categories of products which requires guaranteed or protected origin such as CE markings of toys and lift products etc. Government of different countries set up information’s centers to apprise the public about the technical regulations prevalent in their respective states . Exporters willing to export their products in the respective countries can get in touch with the information bureaus of the specific countries to obtain a list of the technical regulations prevalent inside their geographical territories.
who can adopt these management system standards
industries of any size from any sector can adopt the international standards as per its needs and regulatory requirements.
What is certification?
Third-party verification related to products, processes, systems or persons.
Is certification a mandatory requirement for a business enterprise?
No. certifications are voluntarily adopted by business organizations to demonstrate an independent attestation of its compliance with the stipulated requirements of the international standards.
Who can provide certification services?
ISO publishes international standards which are voluntarily adopted by companies from any industrial sector such as ISO 9001 ,ISO 14001, ISO 45001 etc but do not undertake any kind of certification activities. Certification is mostly provided by private external third-party Conformity Assessment Bodies also known as certification bodies or registrars in north America .
What is self assessment ?
Organizations can simply buy an ISO international standard to implement its specific requirements across its functional processes. After the standard is fully implemented as per the stipulated guidelines , organizations can conduct a self assessment to gauge the adequacy or effectiveness of the international standard vis a vis its operational processes. On successful conclusion of the self assessment process an organization can declare itself to comply with the requirements of the ISO voluntary international standard or seek an external assessment to have a neutral view on its attainment of the international standard .
What is conformity assessment?
conformity assessment can be classified into three broad categories and they are as follows;
1. Audits- Audits are an effective means to demonstrate that the organization has successfully complied with the requirements of the respective international standard. there are generally three categories of audit processes which are as follows;
1st party audits is generally undertaken by the internal members of the company which is also known as internal audits to evaluate its performance in respect to satisfactory fulfillment of the requirements of the standards.
2nd party audits are generally conducted by the clients of the business organization or its buyers in respect to the fulfillment of the audit criteria’s set by the client or the respective guidelines of the international standards
3rd party audits are generally conducted by neutral third party external agencies also called certification bodies/ registrars to evaluate the compliance of its client organizations with the respective requirements of the international standard.
2. Inspections- inspections is a means to find defects in products and services in a particular batch when the product/ services has already been manufactured or services rendered to the customers . There are various types of inspections which are being carried out to evaluate a products conformity such as incoming inspections, in process inspections and finished products inspection and documented reports are retained accordingly. It must be noted that Products inspections are temporary solutions which is being carried out after the products are already manufactured and the defects are already inbuilt in the fault of the interrelated systems or processes, which cannot be rectified without streamlining the process interactions.
3.Testing – Testing is a means to validate the products/ services conformity with the requirements of the standard . There are various forms of testing which is being undertaken by the customers of the organization or the organization itself to find out the output of its products and services are not being compromised . Examples of testing are calibration of critical equipments, pathological testing undertaken by laboratories , air, water and soil testing etc.
What is Accreditation?
Third-party verification related to a conformity assessment body conveying formal demonstration of its competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks.
Is accreditation mandatory requirements for a certification body ?
No. According to ISO , accreditations are voluntarily undertaken by conformity assessment bodies at their free will & choice.
What are the international legislations & regulations governing accreditation boards engaged in accreditation of conformity assessment bodies?
“Global Accreditation boards need not get governed under any specific network of law . Any body can provide accreditation services in India including foreign accreditation boards provided it has the right infrastructure”.Ref: The honorable Competition appellant tribunal ( COMPAT) of India order dated 17th jan 2014 under indian competitions act 2002.
According to European accreditation ( EA) : " In the European Union, accreditation is performed by national accreditation bodies (NABs)appointed by governments as required by Regulation (EC) 765/2008. In the voluntary area, where there is no specific legislation, companies seek accreditation to provide the market with an impartial attestation of their competence in guaranteeing products and services quality, safety, security, etc". Ref: accreditation a tool to support regulators by EA .
The UK Department of Business Energy & industrial safety (BEIS) official policy principles on Conformity Assessment and Accreditation in the UK clearly states; “ Except where government has specialist regulatory expertise and responsibilities, or where justified by legitimate end-user/consumer concerns, conformity assessment should be a free-market, competitive activity. Accreditation is applicable to both the regulated and non-regulated sectors but should remain voluntary unless required by specific legislation.”
United States of America –USA : In USA The Sherman Act already outlaws every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade, and any monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize. The penalties for violating the Sherman Act can be severe, individuals and businesses that violate it may be prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
According to ISO (international organization for standardization);
"In most countries, accreditation is a choice, not an obligation and the fact that a certification body is not accredited does not, by itself, mean that it is not a reputable organization. For example, a certification body operating nationally in a highly specific sector might enjoy such a good reputation that it does feel there is any advantage for it to go to the expense of being accredited. That said, many certification bodies choose to seek accreditation, even when it is not compulsory, in order to demonstrate an independent confirmation of their competence”-
According to BSI UK : “ in the UK, there are several other accreditation bodies but only UKAS is recognized by the government. It should be noted that there is no law against anyone setting up “an accreditation body”in uk . According to BSI If a certificate is not accredited does not mean it will be necessarily bad ! For legal and other reasons UKAS is sometimes unable to grant accreditation for certain products, especially in the development stage which other CB”S do without UKAS accreditation”. ( ref: Understanding Certification and Accreditation by BSI)
Is it mandatory for an Accreditation Body to become a member of International Accreditation Forum?
According to the policies of International accreditation forum(IAF) and international laboratory accreditation forum(ILAC), their membership is voluntary for accreditation boards as clearly stated on their website. According to ISO , Accreditation boards around the world have formed several global associations including International Accreditation forum. Therefore it is clearly evident that there is no legislation or regulations in India, USA,UK, European or Global – which states that being part of any single group or association is mandatory for a recognised accreditation board. Under INDIA, UK, USA & European free trade laws it is not legal for any country or group of countries to dictate any such legislation or legislate that there can only be one of any type of organization operating in any of its territories due to monopolies regulations.In USA The Sherman Act already outlaws every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade, and any monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize. In the UK, there are several other accreditation bodies but only UKAS is recognized by the government. It should be noted that there is no law against anyone setting up “an accreditation body”in uk. COMPAT Order dated 17th January 2014 clearly specified that Accreditation Bodies are not required to be covered under any network of law and are free to grant certificates of accreditation to the certifying bodies in India.Any accreditation board would have the equal authority to act as the accrediting body in India provided it has suitable infrastructure Even ISO, clearly states on its website that accreditation is voluntary for a CAB and it is upto the consumers/ end users to decide which accreedtation body to choose. In UK, USA, European unions, India several independent nongovernmental accreditation board functions legally including the government approved national accreditation boards.
Are the Certificates issued by independent non governmental accreditation boards globally accepted ?
Conformity assessment is mostly a free market activitiey around the world. it is up to the consumers to decide on its preferred choice of cab based on its infrastructure and competencies in the relevant technical areas, without any bias or undue influence from any quater as such.
There are a large number of independent nongovernmental accreditation boards already operating globally and their certificates are also universally accepted by the cross section of the industry . Forestry certification scheme by FSI and Social accountability international OR SAI are pioneers in making private accreditation board models globally recognized which are now being followed by several non-governmental private accreditation boards in its quest for international recognition. It must be noted that IAF, ISO AND ILAC are all independent private sector nongovernmental legal entities NGO’s and do not operate under any governmental authorities but do have members participation from government as well as private sectors. There fore to this point we are not aware of any Certificate issued in voluntary sector of conformity assessment activity is being legitimately rejected by any organization because of its lack of approval from any single specific accreditation board or association. Competition /antitrust laws, debars any such monopoly practices in democratic countries where free trade laws are prevalent in the market.
The Parliament has enacted a law to ensure that a level playing field is created to all market players irrespective of their size, resources, market position, economic strength etc. The intention of the statute is very clear that there should not be any discrimination between a private player and a government player and all players should be treated equally so that they can operate independently and freely in a given market. This is the reason why in section 2(h) of the Act even government departments are included. So, if any enterprise for that matter is being denied a market access, it is against the basic philosophy of Competition Law. This mind set has to be changed. This is the reason why government is contemplating to bring National Competition Policy to create a competition culture in the country. Needless to say about the positive relation between the Competition Law and the GDP. Ref :Competition commission of India minority order under 26(1) Of the competition act, 2002, dated 7th November 2012
How does a CAB earns its recognition?
As per ISO a particular CAB may earn its recognition through of any one or combination of the following three methods
Governmental recognition- A cab gets recognized by the country”s government in two levels and that is administrative recognition and technical recognition. examples of administrative recognition is on the basis of its registered charter to operate in the particular location as per the country’s legal system and examples of technical recognition is license to operate ,enlistment of the particular CAB in a specific list of supplier with predefined criteria’s of eligibilities ,
Accreditation – accreditation is a third-party conformance of a cab”s functions by an independent & competent authority. the structure of an accreditation board can be government, private , nonprofit organizations and public trust.
Peer review- Peer Review means an examination and review of the systems and procedures to determine whether they have been put in place by the practice unit for ensuring the quality of attestation services as envisaged and implied/mandated by the Technical Standards and whether these were effective or not during the period under review. Practice Unit means members in practice, whether practicing as an individual auditor or a firm of auditors and experts. examples of a peer review group can be an association of certification bodies who are in the same line of business and undertakes its peer review process by members of the same group to their fellow members of the group.