» ISO/IEC 17020 Accreditation for Fire Investigation

Evaluation of Fire Investigation Activities for the Purpose of Accreditation against ISO/IEC 17020 (February 2020)

In order to assist the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) to confirm the appropriate quality framework and timeframes for fire investigation activities, and for UKAS to determine an assessment approach, UKAS undertook a Dry Run Exercise of a Fire Investigation Unit in October 2019. An evaluation of the outcomes of the Dry Run exercise has been undertaken and a report produced which identifies areas which Fire Investigation Unit will need to consider to be compliant with the requirements of ISO/IEC17020 and ILAC G19. In addition, the report also provides some recommendation for the Fire Community (e.g. NFCC/UK-AFI) and FSR to assist in progressing accreditation in this area. A copy of the report can be found here.

Fire Investigation Development Project Update (August 2019)

In July 2018 UKAS and the FSR held a workshop for participants in the UKAS development programme for Fire Investigation Activities. The workshop discussed expectations in relation to standard methodology, validation requirements to verify the reliability of scientific literature supporting an organisation methodology, evidence to verify the reliable implementation of the methodology, quality assurance processes and training/competence requirements.  Since the workshop there has been slow progress from the participants and the community in identifying potential ways to demonstrate the reliability of their methods.  As a result the UKAS development pilot programme has not progressed to an assessment stage.  The assessment stage of the project aimed to confirm the suitability of ISO/IEC 17020 as the standard for accreditation supported by ILAC G19, FSR code of Practice and UKAS Document RG 201.  It would also explore how a proportionate assessment approach could be achieved given some of the supporting activities need to be witnessed as part of the assessment, whilst identify any potential variations between fire investigation organisations. 

In reviewing the current status of the project and progress in the Fire Investigation community the FSR and UKAS have identified a different route to gain the information required to confirm the applicability of Fire Investigation as an accredited activity under ISO/IEC 17020 and also provide valuable information on the assessment approach.  It is therefore proposed that UKAS will undertake a Dry Run Exercise with one of the pilot participants to gain this information. A Dry Run Exercise will follow a similar approach to an initial assessment but focus mainly on the technical requirements of ISO/IEC 17020 and determine an effective assessment approach. It will also enable critical review of a potential validation model and its supporting quality assurance framework.  The Dry Run Exercise will not result in the participant gaining accreditation but it will enable further guidance on how to achieve accreditation to be communicated to the fire investigation community.   The Dry Run Exercise will be funded by the FSR as part of the development project. From reviewing the readiness of all the pilot participants the UKAS/FSR are pleased to confirm that Prometheus Forensic Services are in a position to assist in this Dry Run Exercise in October/November 2019.

After the Dry Run Exercise is complete, the FSR will be able to review the Statement of Requirements and determine if any further documented requirements are required.  It is also hoped that UKAS would then be able to confirm when it will be able to take forward any application for Fire Investigation activities.


Call for expressions of interest to participate in the pilot accreditation programme (October 2017)

UKAS is developing an assessment approach for the accreditation of Fire Investigation at the request of the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR). Accreditation is planned to be progressed using the international standard ISO/IEC 17020 – “Conformity assessment – Requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspections” which is already being used as the assessment standard for volume/serious scenes of crime activities. The technical assessment of the Fire Investigation will also take into consideration the requirements of ILAC G19 – Modules in a Forensic Science Process, Forensic Science Regulator’s Codes of Practice and Conduct and the principles of UKAS document RG201 – Accreditation of Bodies Carrying out Scene of Crime Examination

UKAS is inviting expressions of interest from UK based bodies who undertake Forensic Investigation, to participate in a pilot assessment programme involving the following activities :

  • Determination of the origin/source of a fire
  • Determining the course of fire and ignition method (deliberate or accidental)
  • Identification and Recovery of items for further forensic analysis (optional)
  • Presumptive testing for accelerants and sampling (optional)

The pilot programme will look to identify 4-6 organisations which will apply for accreditation and have their assessment in the middle of 2018. Further details relating to pilot expectation and timescales will be provided at a meeting of the interest parties earlier in 2018.

Expressions of interest in the UKAS pilot assessment programme should be sent to alison.severn@ukas.com and should arrive no later than 17th November 2017.

The following presentation provides some background to UKAS and the development of an accreditation scheme for Fire Investigation. Further information on the pilot assessment programme can be obtained from David Compton (David.Compton@ukas.com)