The EA Multilateral Agreement (MLA), signed so far by 43 EA Members, carried on growing and extending during 2019, when, notably, EA welcomed a new signatory – our special congratulations to EGAC, the National Accreditation Body (NAB) of Egypt.
Paulo Tavares (IPAC, the Portuguese NAB) is the Chair of the EA Multilateral Agreement Council (EA MAC), responsible for the effective and impartial management and monitoring of the peer-evaluation process. He summarized the MLA activities 2019 as follows:
“Since 2017 EA paved the way for expanding the scope of the EA MLA for Reference Materials Producers (RMP) according to EN ISO 17034. After the first peer evaluations and the first members recognised as successfully evaluated during 2018, the EA MLA could be launched for this scope in May 2019 with the first seven EA MLA signatories for RMP.
Last November the General Assembly decided to extend the EA MLA under “Validation and Verification” to include new EN ISO/IEC 17029: Conformity Assessment – General Principles and Requirements for Validation and Verification Bodies as new EA MLA Level 3 standard. Something that brings quite interesting technical challenges that we need to address and start to operationalise during 2020.
During 2019, EA succeeded in keeping a cruising speed to manage and improve the peer evaluation process. Since a significant number of trainee team members could be assigned to peer evaluations – our thanks to the peer-evaluation teams and to the hosting national accreditation bodies – there was no need for EA to organise a newcomer training session in 2019 to boost EA’s pool of evaluators. Training efforts were focused in refresher sessions including one for team leaders and deputy team leaders, which was particularly important considering the on-going EN ISO/IEC 17011 transition.
With a total number of EA evaluators similar to the one last year, EA carried out less peer evaluations in 2019. Indeed, the total number of man-days allocated to the peer evaluations performed in 2019 decreased by about 30% compared to the previous year.
Peer evaluations against the revised EN ISO/IEC 17011 have been progressing quite well in 2019, when about one third of EA MLA signatories have already made successfully the transition from previous version of the standard. The decisions regarding the other EA MLA signatories’ transition need to be done until November 2020.
EA has also increased its recognition of MRA scopes in ILAC (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation). The formal decision on EA’s peer evaluation by ILAC in favour of the extension of its MRA signatory status to accreditation of proficiency testing providers (PTP) was made in May 2019, when EA has become the first regional co-operation body member of the ILAC MRA for accreditation of PTP against ISO/IEC 17043.
Lastly, the full re-evaluation of EA by ILAC and IAF (International Accreditation Forum), which includes the scope extension for RMP, ended in May 2019 with the evaluation of the EA MLA Council’s decision-making process during its meeting in Reykjavik. The overall outcome revealed no non-conformity and only one concern that has been closed.
The strongest commitment of all those involved in the EA MLA system, i.e. members of the EA MAC and its Management Group, peer evaluation teams and trainers, and especially the MAC Secretariat, made the progress achieved in 2019 possible. I am very grateful for their outstanding contribution to maintaining the EA MLA as a sustainable mechanism for ensuring both European and international reliable equivalence and mutual acceptance of certificates and reports issued by accredited conformity assessment bodies.
We have substantial challenges in front of us.
The COVID-19 outbreak will most likely add an economic crisis to the human tragedy that we are living. It will certainly have an impact in the conformity assessment infrastructure. Strong but also flexible accreditation and peer-evaluation systems are vital to maintain the confidence in the public service that we provide.”