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Source: European Accreditation (EA)

EA Celebrating its 15th Anniversary in 2015: the added value of accreditation for industry

The communication campaign that aims at emphasizing EA’s values, achievements and prospects on the occasion of its 15th anniversary is being continued with a few words by Martin Stadler, the Vice-Chair of the EA Advisory Board responsible for the EAAB Industry College. Martin Stadler outlines EA’s role towards the sector of industry and how far the market’s expectations are met by EA.

The prime expectation of industry is that accreditation should lead to “one-stop assessment” with the accredited conformity assessment results being accepted internationally and across all purchasers, at reasonable cost. Has this expectation been met over the past 15 years?

Speaking on behalf of European industry as represented on the EA Advisory Board, I would first of all like to emphasise the fundamental value of accreditation as the internationally recognised third-party instrument to provide confidence in the competence of conformity assessment bodies and to facilitate the acceptance of the reports, certificates and other attestations they issue. The question of how far accreditation has been successful in reducing the number of assessments is complex and would need to be looked at according to the sector of industry and the conformity assessment scheme concerned. Whereas in some industrial sectors and for some issues a manufacturer’s declaration or mutual recognition at the level of conformity assessment are deemed sufficient, acceptance of products in other sectors require attestations backed up by accreditation. Again in other sectors, approvals by the national authorities themselves are still considered indispensable. In general, however, it can be said that, even where not required, the use of accreditation has definitely facilitated the recognition of assessments. From the perspective of industry, national regulatory requirements and schemes still represent the major obstacle to making progress towards “one test – accepted everywhere”, which is why acceptance of conformity assessment results by regulators continues to be one of our main expectations of accreditation. Great strides in this direction were made in Europe with the adoption of Regulation 765/2008. This Regulation set the foundations for a strong European accreditation system, capable of supporting both regulatory and non-regulatory conformity assessment and providing regulators with the necessary level of confidence. However, despite encouraging developments in a number of public policy areas, we recently also saw some setbacks, such as in the field of medical devices, where the role of accreditation is likely to be reduced to the assessment of just “administrative” competence aspects. We strongly reject this idea: for industry, the added value of accreditation lies in the assessment of the technical competence of a body!

What improvements would be needed to develop customers’ confidence in accreditation over the coming years? Should promotion of accreditation be increased?

The EAAB only recently carried out an in-depth review of stakeholders’ expectations with regard to accreditation, and I would like to refer to the contribution from industry in this document. Non-competition between accreditation bodies, operation of accreditation as a not-for-profit activity, strict separation between accreditation and conformity assessment: In my view, these principles of the European accreditation policy are of the essence for developing customers’ confidence in accreditation and need to be actively promoted at the international level. As mentioned earlier, industry calls on accreditors and their organisations to strengthen efforts to promote the value of accreditation and of the multilateral agreements to regulators and governmental bodies to ensure wider reliance on accredited conformity assessment in the regulatory field. Ensuring transparency and effective surveillance of the conformity assessment market is another key issue for increasing end-users’ confidence in accreditation. Efforts to increase reliability and equivalence of accredited certificates need to be stepped up so that the “black sheep” are found out and sanctioned. For this, consistency and rigour in the application of accreditation rules are essential, as ensured in particular through a robust peer evaluation process.

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