What is accreditation?
IASFC accreditation sends a clear message. It says your certification or inspection body can be counted on to perform its duties in an authoritative and impartial way. It flags that you have been approved by an independent third-party as a professional body that acts with integrity when certifying or inspecting for conformity assessment.
Third-party accreditation is recognised around the world as the highest and most credible type a certification or inspection body can obtain.
What are the benefits of accreditation?
IASFC accreditation is internationally recognised. This symbol of assurance offers you many direct benefits.
- Highlights your competence and credibility.
- Confirms you are independent and impartial.
- Gives you international recognition with the international accreditation organisations IASFC has formal arrangements with.
- Enables you to benchmark ongoing performance against relevant standards.
- Informs your clients you have met the highest level of assessment and professionalism in the industry.
- Flags your ability to meet mandatory regulatory requirements.
- Strengthens your ability to compete overall.
Accreditation throughout the market chain is increasingly important. The business world we live in is growing quickly and is highly complex with many inspectors and certifiers operating without accreditation. This is risky for all players, right through to the ultimate consumer.
Without accreditation there is no certainty that goods and services can be depended upon. On the other hand, accreditation provides certainty in a world where standardisation and certification are an integral part of the global economy. And it supports trade and commerce.
IASFC offers accreditation for these themes to support government, industry and the community to achieve their goals:
- business and innovation
- health and human services
- product certification
- food and biological systems
What system does IASFC use to accredit?
IASFC’s accreditation process is systematic and comprehensive in its assessment of an applicant’s capabilities and systems.
Before our Governing Board grants an accreditation, the conditions of accreditation as set out in our detailed accreditation manual must be met.
Our accreditation process is open, transparent, fair and ethical every step of the way.
Once accreditation is granted, you sign an accreditation deed and agree to all of its undertakings.
We then monitor compliance and request adjustments or withdraw your accreditation should you not be fully compliant.
After four years, bodies need to apply to be re-accredited.
APPLYING FOR ACCREDITATION
What are the broad steps involved in applying for accreditation?
Here is a broad description of the broad steps involved in becoming accredited through IASFC. More details are in the application pack.
It is important to note that the length of time it takes to become accredited depends heavily on the quality and completeness of your application. If your application is incomplete, IASFC will automatically return it to you for further action. We will do this as many times as is required. This will delay your application.
To do this, complete this application inquiry form. You will then be sent a link to a portal where you will be asked to submit information regarding your application. This is the pre-application form. IASFC Secretariat staff will review the information provided, and indicate whether you will be able to proceed to the application stage.
If your organisation succeeds in the pre-application process, you can then start the assessment procedure.
To do this you:
- review the Accreditation Manual
- sign the Applicants Deed
- upload all required documentation through the portal
- pay the application fee.
We review your application to decide if we can accept it. If your application is inadequate at the outset, we are under no obligation to progress your organisation to accreditation.
Note: You need to be confident that your organisation can meet the conditions of accreditation and the criteria relating to the scope of application. This is all explained in the Accreditation Manual.
If your application is accepted, then IASFC performs a:
- Systems assessment – examine your documentation and conduct on-site visit. You need to invest time and effort in preparing system documentation since this stage is about you demonstrating to us that you are an acceptable risk.
- Compliance assessment – conduct an office assessment and witness assessment. We do not accredit on documentation alone. You need to demonstrate to us that you can put your systems into practice.
4. Reporting on assessment and accreditation decision
IASFC present its findings to the Accreditation Review Board for a decision on whether to grant accreditation and if conditions are to be placed on the accreditation.
If your application is approved you are issued a Certificate of Accreditation.
If your application is not approved you are sent a letter by email outlining why. It could be that your application is not complete or contains errors. Or your application can be rejected on other grounds.
5. Post accreditation compliance
If you are accredited, IASFC will monitor your compliance throughout your four-year accreditation term – this provides you with important feedback on maintaining your systems and performance.
This will include scheduled and unscheduled:
- surveillance visits, involving a range of activities. Our assessors may, for example, visit your premises to assess how you work, witness your performance, conduct probity and validation tests.
- surveillance assessments. Our assessors will do this in your offices and they will want to observe your auditors with your clients.
The number of scheduled checks may go up or down over time based on your performance.
If all goes well your accreditation continues until the end of the four-year term.
If our surveillance highlights emerging problems, you will need to make changes and it could be that we will have to reduce the scope of your accreditation or terminate your accreditation. If this is the case you will be notified in writing of the reasons why and given the opportunity to appeal these decisions.
Certification is a complex business and systems and practices can get out of alignment. With emerging problems it is critical that you let us know how you are responding. Are you solving the problem? Do you understand the underlying cause of the problem? Does your proposed solution convince us that you are in control?
You inform IASFC of what you are going to do through your portal. Then you are responsible for putting changes into practice.
If variations have to be made to reduce the scope of your accreditation or terminate you accreditation then you will be notified of the reasons why and given the opportunity to appeal these decisions.
COSTS AND TIMEFRAMES FOR GAINING ACCREDITATION
How much will accreditation cost?
The costs of accreditation differ based on the following factors:
- Size of the body seeking accreditation
- The complexity of the organisation, as this will have an effect on assessment durations
- The number of sites from which services are offered
- The number of schemes and standards that the body wishes to be accredited for
- The technical scope that the body is seeking accreditation for, that is the number of technical sectors and
- The number of countries that the body wishes to be accredited for.
These factors will affect the number and type of assessments to be undertaken during the initial assessment and for ongoing surveillance.
Once accredited, the annual fees and certificate fees will be charged. These are published through our accreditation manual, available to all applicant and accredited bodies.
How long will it take for our organisation to become accredited after we apply?
The length of time that it will take to gain accreditation will be dependent on how well prepared the applicant is. The major issues that we encounter with applications that extend out the timeframes include:
- Poor quality documentation.As a document review against the accreditation requirements is undertaken prior to an on-site assessment poor documentation may mean that there are several nonconformities that need to be addressed before the application can be progressed.
- Lack of evidence of implementation of the structural requirements of the accreditation criteria.The criteria require particular structures to be formed, such as mechanisms to ensure impartiality.We often find that there is a lack of understanding around these requirements, and poor implementation.
- Lack of evidence implementation of procedures.This is often detected at the initial assessment, where practices and procedures just do not match, and so nonconformities are raised that need to be addressed before accreditation can be granted.
If all is in good order, IASFC can usually schedule the first visit within three months of receipt of application, with the complete process taking between 6-8 months from application to accreditation.
ACCREDITATION OR CERTIFICATION
IASFC often gets enquiries about certifying or inspecting an organisation, product or person.
We accredit certification and inspection bodies to signal that they are competent and can be relied on to carry out their duties. We do not, however, certify or inspect ourselves. This is handled by certifiers and inspectors engaged to assess if their clients’ organisations, products or people conform to standards.
So even though the terms ‘accreditation’ and ‘certification’ may appear to be the same in everyday language they are different and each has a specific definition in the conformity assessment industry. It is important to be clear to understand that while IASFC accredits, it does not certify.
HERE ARE THE ISO DEFINITIONS OF EACH TERM:
Accreditation entails the endorsement of a conformity assessment body’s competence, credibility, independence and integrity in carrying out its conformity assessment activities. This enhances the authority of conformity assessment bodies in conducting its conformity assessment activities in certification and inspection.
The ISO defines accreditation as a third-party attestation related to a conformity assessment body conveying formal demonstration of its competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks.
Certifications are sought from conformity assessment bodies to demonstrate the applicant‘s compliance with specified standards and defined by the ISO as a third-party attestation related to products, processes, systems or persons.
In essence, certifications are third-party endorsements of an organisation‘s systems or products, while accreditation is a third-party endorsement of the certification.