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Eqras | Standarts | ISO/IEC 17020 Inspection Bodies Accreditation 

Inspection bodies are concerned with the regular inspection of items and the documentation of their condition. This allows safety aspects to be critically examined and the risk of accidents to be reduced. Well-known examples are inspections of motor vehicles, industrial plants or fairground rides. The work of inspectors is also in demand in the construction industry and in medicine. The international standard for inspection bodies is ISO/IEC 17020.

What are inspections?

Everyone is talking about inspections – but what are they exactly? ISO/IEC 17020, the standard for inspection bodies, describes an inspection as an examination of items, for example materials, products, installations, equipment, processes, workflows or services. A fundamental difference to testing and certifications is that in an inspection, a technical expert assesses the extent to which the examined item complies with the specified requirements.

Criteria such as quantity, quality, fitness for purpose or safety play a role here. Important: the inspection can apply to all stages of the life cycle of an inspected item, including the design stage.

Inspection bodies carry out these assessments on behalf of private clients, parent companies or public authorities. The goal is to determine whether an inspected item is in accordance with the relevant regulations or standards and conformity is assured. The result is an inspection report, including a statement of conformity that informs the client or authorities about the current condition of the item.

ISO/IEC 17020 defines the general and specific requirements that an inspection body must fulfil with regard to independence, structure, resources and processes. It is applied at every stage of inspection, from type testing and initial inspection to in-service inspection. Compliance with this standard is the basis for accreditation as an inspection body.

What types of inspection bodies are there?

ISO/IEC 17020, the international standard for inspection bodies, distinguishes between three types of inspection bodies, regardless of the field of activity: A type A inspection body is an independent “third party” that receives external orders for the inspection of products, processes or services. The products, processes or services are also external, i.e. not part of the business of the inspection body.

  • Type A inspection bodies returns their inspection reports to the external client after the inspection has been completed.
  • A type B inspection body, by contrast, is always part of the organisation concerned with the product to be inspected. This type of inspection body inspects only the organisation’s own internal products. It is an identifiable but separate part of the organisation and provides inspection reports only to the internal client.
  • In contrast to type B, a type C inspection body is part of an organisation concerned with the products to be inspected that is not clearly separated but can be identified. This type of inspection body inspects both its own internal products and similar or external products and provides its inspection reports to both internal and external clients.

The general requirements of the standard apply to all types of inspection bodies.