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Changes to Approach for Planning Witnessed Assessments for Certification Bodies.

As part of our assessment programme for certification bodies (Management System, Product and Personnel), UKAS conducts witnessed assessments of Certification Body audits to help confirm the competence of the certification body. UKAS needs to conduct sufficient Witnessed Assessment on an annual basis to allow maintenance of accreditation and to cover the scope of the Certification Body over a 4 year cycle to allow renewal of accreditation.

Historically UKAS has taken the approach of discussing the required Witnessed Assessment for that year at the head office assessment of the Certification Body. However this approach has led to delays in witnessed assessments being conducted and for some Certification Bodies caused issues with renewal of accreditation in the 6 month window between Head Office assessment and expiry of accreditation.

More recently UKAS has been trialling several different approaches to help with the planning and arrangement of witnessed assessments. By far the most successful of these has been an approach whereby the plan for the witnessed assessments required is communicated to the Certification Bodies significantly in advance of their profile month for the Head Office visit, and the Certification Body provides UKAS with details of audits to witness significantly in advance of them occurring. This approach allows the witnessed assessments to be conducted over a period of between 3 to 12 months (depending on the size of the Certification Body) around the Head Office visit. In addition to these trials UKAS has been reviewing the approaches taken by some of our fellow accreditation bodies with respect to witnessed assessments.

UKAS has decided to introduce changes to our approach for planning witnessed assessments from the end of 2013 with an aim of fully implementing by the end of 2015. It is UKAS’ intention to communicate, by the end of 2013 separately to each certification body details of the witnessed assessments planned in relation to the 2014 assessment programme, along with any remaining to be completed from the 2013 programme. These witnessed assessments can then be booked to occur anytime during 2014 and will not be so tied to the date of the Head Office visit as was the case previously. The aim will be to complete the witnessed assessment programme for all Certification Bodies by the end of 2014, whereupon the 2015 programme will be communicated.

We recognise that for those Certification Bodies whose assessment falls towards the end of the calendar year this approach may potentially mean that 2 years of Witnessed Assessment programme is completed within 1 year. Therefore some phasing in of this new approach for bodies whose visit falls towards the end of the calendar year will be in place and communicated separately to those bodies. The overall aim will be to have all Certification Bodies completing an annual programme of witnessed assessments in a calendar year by the end of 2016.

Once all Certification Bodies are on an annual programme of witnessed assessments UKAS will at that time consider whether to implement a policy whereby if witnessed assessments are not completed within the year (not as a result of actions taken by UKAS, e.g. where UKAS has been unable to resource multiple opportunities presented by the CB), that the scopes related to these witnessed assessments will be removed from the Certification Bodies schedule of accreditation until such time as a witnessed assessment is conducted. UKAS will consult with stakeholder groups and customers on this matter at the time, prior to implementation.

These changes do not affect our initial assessment or extension to scope process where witnessed assessments are likely to be required before accreditation or the extension to scope can be granted.

Certification Bodies should also be aware that the European Cooperation for Accreditation (EA) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) are developing a new guidance document on the witnessing of management system audits, once issued UKAS will consider it effect, if any, on the above approach.

If you have any queries regarding this bulletin, please contact Jeff Ruddle (Operations Director) [email protected] or Nigel Overton (Accreditation Manager Certification) [email protected]