However different the conformity assessments of laboratories, certification providers or inspection bodies may be, the determination of their technical competence through accreditation follows a multi-stage procedure that has at its core the application, the assessment, the accreditation decision and surveillance.
In the first step, accreditation begins with the decision of conformity assessment bodies (CABs) in favour of the procedure of an accreditation, and hence of the numerous benefits associated with it. After a successful application, EQRAS assesses both the independence of the CAB and its technical competence, including for example the qualifications of its staff, the quality management system, the necessary equipment and facilities and the methods used.
The procedure follows a defined process through various phases: the application phase, assessment phase, decision phase and surveillance phase.
The first step in the process of accreditation is submission of the application for accreditation and the technical annexes to EQRAS, which together with the relevant department reviews the application. Once the application has been reviewed, the assigned case manager informs the body making the application about the next steps in the process.
In the next phase, a team of EQRAS assessors examines the technical competence and the management system of the CAB. This examination takes place in several ways: as a document review, as an on-site assessment and in some cases also as an additional witness audit – the observation and evaluation of the conformity assessment body’s activities in practice. The examination concludes with a report. If not all requirements are met, the body must take appropriate corrective action within a set time limit, after which it is again examined in a concluding assessment.
In this phase, an Accreditation Committee evaluates the findings of the assessment and decides on the granting of accreditation. If the decision is positive, the CAB receives the accreditation certificate including the relevant accreditation symbol with a unique identifier. This constitutes confirmation by EQRAS to the inspected body that it carries out its conformity assessment activities in accordance with the relevant norms, standards or laws and is therefore deemed technically competent. The accreditation is then added to the database of accredited bodies.
After successful accreditation, EQRAS monitors the accredited body at regular intervals. With this approach, EQRAS ensures that these bodies permanently fulfil the relevant accreditation requirements and can continue to be classified as competent by EQRAS . In the event that any nonconformance is found in the course of the surveillance assessments, this may lead to the restriction, suspension or revocation of the accreditation.