Inspection is the examination of a product design, product, service, process or installation, to determine conformity with general or specified requirements. Inspection bodies must demonstrate, to an accreditation body, that they have the necessary competence to perform specified tasks before they can achieve accreditation.
Inspection is an essential part of ensuring the operational safety of many items that the public use in their daily lives. Safety of food production is a prime example, as are cranes, boilers and pressure vessels used in the workplace. The competence of inspection services employed by local and national authorities and other organizations to ensure regulatory requirements are being met is often assured by accreditation.
There is a close relationship between inspection, testing and measurement. Inspection involves examinations by competent personnel using techniques including:
- Visual examination
- Visual comparison with standards (e.g. colour matching)
- Dimensional checks
- Examination using gauges and instruments.
Examples of activities which benefit from accreditation include inspection of pressure equipment, cranes and passenger ropeways, inspection of offshore structures for oil and gas exploration and production, mechanical equipment inspection, non-destructive testing, inspection of meat, dairy products and other food production, bio-security and border control inspections, to name a few.
There are many companies that provide inspection services, sometimes at what initially appears to be low cost. However, before commissioning an organization to undertake such work it is important to consider the risks:
- Are you confident that the organization has the technical competence to undertake the work in question?
- Are you satisfied that the organization has the resources to do the work?
- Are the inspectors working to suitable codes of conduct to ensure inspections are carried out impartially and with integrity?
- Are you confident that the organization has an adequate management system in place?
- Are you satisfied that safeguards are in place, e.g. effective complaints and appeals procedures, in case difficulties arise?
Inspection body accreditation is a formal means of determining the technical competence of inspection bodies to perform specific types of inspection. Accreditation provides a ready means for customers to identify and select reliable inspection services, suitable for their needs.
Throughout the world, many countries rely on a process called accreditation as a means of confirming technical competence. Accreditation uses criteria and procedures specifically developed to determine technical competence. Specialist technical assessors conduct a thorough evaluation of all factors in an inspection body that affect the outcome of inspections.
The criteria are based on the internationally accepted standard ISO/IEC 17020: Conformity assessment – requirements for the various types of bodies performing inspection, which is used for demonstrating the competence of inspection bodies throughout the world. Accreditation bodies use this standard specifically to assess factors relevant to an inspection body’s ability to produce consistently reliable and impartial inspection results, including consideration of the following:
- technical competence of staff (including qualifications, training and experience)
- appropriateness of inspection methods
- the use of suitable equipment (properly calibrated and maintained)
- safeguards to ensure impartiality and confidentiality
- code of conduct and processes for working safely
- effective quality assurance procedures
Inspection body accreditation uses criteria and procedures specifically developed to verify technical competence. Once accredited, inspection bodies are re-assessed regularly to ensure continued compliance with requirements, and to check that the required standard of operation is being maintained.
Accredited inspection bodies are authorized to issue inspection reports or certificates bearing some type of symbol or endorsement indicating their accreditation. Users of inspection services should also check with the inspection body what specific inspections they are accredited to do. This is normally specified in their Scope of Accreditation, which may be supplied by the inspection body upon request and is normally listed on the accreditation body’s website.
Inspection bodies can be audited and certified to an international management systems standard such as ISO 9001. This standard is widely used in manufacturing and service organizations to evaluate their systems for managing the quality of their products or services. Certification of an organization quality management systems against ISO 9001 confirms compliance of the management system with this standard, but does not specify requirements for technical competence and impartiality of the inspection body.
Most economies around the world have one or more organizations responsible for the accreditation of their nation’s inspection bodies to the ISO/IEC 17020 standard, ensuring a uniform approach to verifying inspection body competence. This consistent approach allows economies to establish cross border agreements, based on mutual evaluation and acceptance of each other’s inspection body accreditation systems. Such international agreements, called mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs), are crucial in enabling inspection reports to be accepted between these economies. In effect, each partner in such an MRA recognizes the other partner’s accredited inspection bodies as if they themselves had undertaken the accreditation of the other partner’s inspection bodies.
The criteria used by signatories of the ILAC Inspection Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) for accrediting inspection bodies is the Standard ISO/IEC 17020 Conformity assessment – requirements for the various types of bodies performing inspection.
This system of international MRAs between accreditation bodies enables accredited inspection bodies to achieve international recognition, and allows reports and certificates accompanying exported goods to be more readily accepted in participating economies. This effectively reduces costs for manufacturers, suppliers, exporters and importers, as it reduces or eliminates the need for products to be re-inspected in other economies.
Inspection and verification accreditation is offered to all Inspection and Verification services from one person operations to in-house manufacturing inspection and verification services and wholly independent inspection and verification bodies. If your business conducts any type of inspection and verification, KENAS Inspection and Verification Accreditation provides credible and independent recognition of your expertise.
- KENAS has systems that balance the needs for transparency with those of confidentiality and provides impartial and technically-focused evaluation of competence.
- As the sole accreditation body recognised by the Government of Kenya, KENAS’s operations are monitored by IAF, ILAC, industry, government and professional bodies, some of whose representatives make up KENAS’s Board.
- KENAS’s accreditation programs use internationally-recognised standards. Technically focused criteria include evaluation of technical competence, an aspect not provided by certification processes such as ISO 9000 certification. This specific technical evaluation, combined with KENAS’s international recognition by its overseas counterparts, offers KENAS accredited organisations world-wide recognition of their technical expertise. KENAS is also active in, and represents its members at, national and international forums and conferences relating to accreditation standards and practice