Accreditation can provide many benefits to the bodies holding accreditation, as well as the market place and wider society in general. One of the benefits is in providing global confidence in conformity assessment and therefore, reducing barriers to international trade. In order for this benefit to be realised, it is important that we have confidence in the performance of the bodies awarding accreditation, and to this end multilateral agreements or mutual recognition arrangements (MLAs) are in place that demonstrate accreditation bodies are competent to provide specified accreditation schemes. Accreditation bodies must demonstrate that they meet the minimum requirements set by the international standard ISO/IEC 17011 before they can become a signatory to these agreements, and this is renewed on a 4-year cycle.
UKAS is a signatory to the regional European (EA) MLA, as well as to the international ones managed by ILAC and the IAF. Currently the EA MLA covers accreditation of testing, calibration and medical laboratories; management system, product and persons certification bodies; inspection bodies; verification bodies; and proficiency testing providers. With the publication of ISO 17034 in late 2016, relating to the competence of reference material producers (RMPs), EA is in the process of including this activity within its MLA. Peer evaluations of accreditation bodies providing accreditation of RMPs are being conducted during 2018, with the intention of successful bodies signing the new RMP MLA in April 2019. UKAS is one of a small number of accreditation bodies going through this process, and our on-site evaluation is due to take place in mid-June. This will involve evaluation of our policies, procedures and records at our main office as well as witnessing of an assessment of an RMP taking place.
At the same time that EA is looking to extend its MLA, it is also considering the changes that have been introduced in the revised version of ISO/IEC 17011. This was published at the end of November 2017, and accreditation bodies must demonstrate that they meet these new requirements within three years (i.e. December 2020) in order to maintain signatory status of the MLA. As UKAS had its last full peer evaluation by EA in November 2016, its next re-evaluation is not due until November 2020, which will not allow sufficient time for a decision on compliance to the revised standard to be made before the deadline. As a consequence, UKAS is requesting that the scope of the June 2018 evaluation is extended to include compliance of our services with ISO/IEC 17011: 2017 as well as RMP accreditation.
The outcome of the June 2018 peer evaluation and confirmation on the signing of the new EA MLA on reference material producers will be published during the summer.