UKAS welcomed the communication published by the European cooperation for Accreditation (EA) regarding the outbreak of COVID-19. Published on 23rd March, the communication builds upon similar communications from the international accreditation groups (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation – ILAC, and International Accreditation Forum – IAF) and acknowledges the difficult decisions that conformity assessment and accreditation bodies are now being forced to make.
In particular, UKAS is reassured to see that our own pragmatic approach to dealing with this situation is reflected within this communication, and that we are all striving to provide accreditation services that support conformity assessment bodies during this most challenging of periods whilst ensuring that the technical validity of the accreditation and conformity assessment services are maintained.
Of importance is the communication’s promotion of the use of remote assessment techniques, both by accreditation bodies and by conformity assessment bodies where this does not adversely impact on the technical validity of the service provided. UKAS has already informed its accredited bodies that all assessments from 17th March will be conducted remotely wherever practicable, which is in keeping with the policies being developed by the majority of other accreditation bodies from around the world.
In addition, UKAS is pleased that the EA has been very clear in recognising that both accreditation and conformity assessment bodies may be required to temporarily deviate from certain requirements included in the standards or in the accreditation rules. The communication goes on to state that in such situation, bodies are required to act responsibly, to analyse the risk of providing services with deviations from the requirements and not to provide them if such deviations jeopardize the technical validity of that specific activity.
UKAS is currently producing a Technical Policy Statement (a formal UKAS publication) that will consolidate the UKAS position, previously issued in UKAS Technical Bulletins and customer updates, and that clearly states how the guidance provided by EA, ILAC and IAF has been taken into account in determining the UKAS policy on accreditation and conformity assessment during the coronavirus outbreak. The intention is to publish this TPS by the end of the current week (W/C 23rd March).