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UKAS is very proud to be a signatory to the European cooperation for Accreditation Multilateral Agreement (EA MLA), and fully recognises the importance of this to our customers when operating in the international market. It is therefore our policy to ensure that the scope of our MLA covers all activities, and to this end UKAS applied to be in the first tranche of accreditation bodies to become a signatory for the new MLA covering accreditation of reference material producers.
EA has been developing its new RM Producer MLA in parallel to the drafting of the new standard for this activity (ISO 17034:2016), and began evaluating member accreditation bodies for it in early 2018, with the aim being that the MLA is signed in Spring 2019. UKAS applied for an extension to its MLA at the turn of the year, and the peer evaluation visit took place during the week of 11th June 2018. The Evaluation covered a 4-day period, including witnessing of a UKAS assessment of an RM Producer, by a team consisting of two RMP evaluators, and a Team Leader.
At the same time that this extension evaluation took place, UKAS took the opportunity to request that our systems and processes were also assessed against the requirements of the revised standard for the operation of accreditation bodies: ISO/IEC 17011. The new version was published in November 2017, with an agreed transition period of three years, meaning all accreditation bodies must demonstrate compliance with the new requirements by the end of 2020 in order to maintain MLA signatory status. As UKAS was heavily involved in the revision of ISO/IEC 17011 we felt confident that we would be in a position to demonstrate compliance at an early stage. EA agreed that this could be covered at the same time as our RM Producer extension, and this was examined extensively by the peer evaluation Team Leader.
UKAS is now delighted to report that the peer evaluation was highly successful on both counts, with the EA peer evaluation team reporting:
“UKAS has managed the transition to ISO/IEC 17011:2017 in a reliable and professional way and that the necessary actions have already been implemented in order to ensure substantial compliance with the requirements of the standard. Specific attention was paid by UKAS to the management of competence at all levels of the accreditation process, to the implementation of risk-based approaches and to the actions aiming to ensure continuous improvement.
The level of competence of UKAS staff and assessors with respect to the requirements of ISO 17034 was further demonstrated during the witnessing of an assessment for transition from ISO Guide 34 to ISO 17034 of a reference materials producer with a large accredited scope (including other level 3 standards).”
UKAS will now work on the few minor findings raised by the team so that the evaluation can be formally closed. At that stage the final report shall be submitted to the EA Multilateral Agreements Council for a formal decision on signatory status at the next meeting, either October 2018 or May 2019. UKAS shall provide confirmation once this has occurred.