What is ISO/IEC 17020:2012 and why is it important for inspection bodies?
ISO/IEC 17020:2012 is an international standard that specifies the requirements for the competence, impartiality and consistency of bodies performing inspection. Inspection is defined as the examination of a product, process, service or installation to determine its conformity with specific requirements or general requirements[^1^]. Inspection bodies can be of type A, B or C, depending on their degree of independence from the parties involved in the inspection[^2^].
ISO/IEC 17020:2012 is important for inspection bodies because it provides a framework for ensuring the quality and credibility of their inspection activities. By following the standard, inspection bodies can demonstrate that they have the necessary competence, resources, procedures and management systems to carry out inspection in a reliable and consistent manner. This can enhance the confidence and trust of customers, regulators and other stakeholders in the inspection results. Moreover, ISO/IEC 17020:2012 can facilitate the recognition and acceptance of inspection reports and certificates across national borders, thus supporting international trade and cooperation[^3^].
ISO/IEC 17020:2012 covers various aspects of inspection, such as:
General requirements for impartiality, confidentiality and liability
Structural requirements for administrative, organizational and management aspects
Resource requirements for personnel, facilities and equipment
Process requirements for inspection methods, procedures, records, reports and certificates
Management system requirements for documentation, control, review, audit and improvement
The standard also provides guidance on the independence requirements for different types of inspection bodies in Annex A and optional elements of inspection reports and certificates in Annex B[^1^].
ISO/IEC 17020:2012 was prepared by the ISO Committee on conformity assessment (CASCO) and was approved by both ISO and IEC. It is the second edition of the standard and it replaces the first edition (ISO/IEC 17020:1998), which has been technically revised[^1^]. The standard is available for purchase from the ISO website or from national standards bodies.
How to Get ISO/IEC 17020:2012 Accreditation?
To get ISO/IEC 17020:2012 accreditation, an inspection body needs to undergo a process of assessment and evaluation by an accredited conformity assessment body (CAB), such as ANAB, NATA, or Excedr. The process involves the following steps:
Application: The inspection body submits an application to the CAB, providing information about its scope of inspection, organization, management system, personnel, facilities and equipment.
Document review: The CAB reviews the inspection body's documentation, such as policies, procedures, manuals, records and reports, to verify its compliance with ISO/IEC 17020:2012 requirements.
On-site assessment: The CAB conducts an on-site assessment of the inspection body's premises and operations, observing its inspection activities, interviewing its staff and witnessing its competence.
Nonconformities and corrective actions: The CAB identifies any nonconformities or areas for improvement and requests the inspection body to take corrective actions within a specified time frame.
Accreditation decision: The CAB evaluates the evidence and documentation provided by the inspection body and decides whether to grant or deny accreditation.
Surveillance and reassessment: The CAB monitors the inspection body's performance and compliance through periodic surveillance visits and reassessments, usually every one to three years.
What are the Benefits of ISO/IEC 17020:2012 Accreditation?
ISO/IEC 17020:2012 accreditation can provide various benefits for inspection bodies and their customers, such as:
Enhanced credibility and reputation: Accreditation demonstrates that the inspection body has met internationally recognized standards of competence, impartiality and consistency, which can increase its recognition and reputation among customers, regulators and other stakeholders.
Improved quality and efficiency: Accreditation helps the inspection body to establish and maintain a robust quality management system that ensures continuous improvement of its inspection processes, methods and outcomes. This can lead to improved quality and efficiency of its services and reduced errors and risks.
Increased customer satisfaction and trust: Accreditation assures customers that the inspection body can provide reliable and accurate inspection results that meet their expectations and requirements. This can increase customer satisfaction and trust in the inspection body's services and products.
Facilitated market access and trade: Accreditation enables the inspection body to participate in national and international accreditation schemes that promote mutual recognition and acceptance of inspection reports and certificates across borders. This can facilitate market access and trade for the inspection body and its customers.