The revision of EA-1/22 EA Procedure and Criteria for the Evaluation of Conformity Assessment Schemes by EA National Accreditation Body Members was finalized and published on 17th April 2020. This revision was necessary to address necessary clarifications in this document and to answer questions brought up by stakeholders and Scheme Owners. Sjaak Hendriks, the Horizontal Harmonization Committee (HHC) Vice-Chair (RvA, the Netherlands) was the convenor of the Task Force Group which led the revision.
First of all Sjaak, could you please explain in simple words what is a scheme?
I would like to refer to the definitions in the ISO/IEC 17000: 2004 (and ISO/IEC 17065: 2012): A Conformity Assessment Scheme (CAS) is for instance a certification system related to specified products, to which the same specified requirements, specific rules and procedures apply. ‘ Products’ might be tangible products, processes or services.
Examples are the CASs established by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in the food sector or the assessment scheme established by the European Union Agency for Railway (ERA) in the railway sector.
Why EA-1/22 was initially needed and how is it helping National Accreditation Bodies?
The ISO/IEC 17011 requires National Accreditation Bodies (NABs) to have procedures in place to determine the suitability of Conformity Assessment Schemes and standards for accreditation purposes.
In the past, NABs had different approaches and procedures and to harmonize them, the EA publication EA-1/22 was developed. Another aspect is that international schemes, operated by more than one NAB, were evaluated in a different way by the NABs involved. The present EA-1/22 offers Scheme Owners the possibility to have a CAS evaluated only once by a so-called “Home-AB” and have thereafter the CAS accepted by all EA member NABs.
You were the convenor of the TFG who worked on the revision of 1/22, to bring several clarifications and improvements. What has been clarified and/or improved?
The document has been improved and changed on several aspects. The layout of the documents has been changed to move some of the text to a more logical place in the document, chapter 3 has been split up in two sub chapters (requirements for Scheme Owner’s and requirements for CAS’s) and further the flow chart has been deleted, as it did not add any value.
New aspects have been added:
- Dealing with “old” schemes that existed before the “international” approach was in place;
- Clarify the process for changes introduced in a scheme by the Scheme Owners;
- Clarify process for managing (additional) requirements to NABs;
- Handling of IAF/ILAC accepted schemes;
- Procedure in case home-AB is no longer willing to act as the home-AB;
- For ISO/IEC 17065 schemes, identification of applicable requirements of relevant international standards.
Some new developments occurred under IAF-direction which had to be taken into account. Could you please tell us more about this?
The development of the new EA-1/22 took quite some time, we started in March 2018, and in parallel IAF was working on documents IAF MD X:20XX “Criteria for the evaluation of Conformity Assessment Schemes” and the revision of IAF PL 3 202X “ Policies and Procedures on the IAF MLA structure and expanding the IAF MLA scope”. We monitored these processes and carefully reviewed both draft documents in order to see if there were contradictions with EA-1/22. We shared our findings with other EA NABs, so that, by their comments to IAF, we might be able to move both documents more in the direction of EA-1/22.
There is a transitional period until April 2021. What does EA Members need to do to be in compliance with the revised version?
There is a transitional period in order to allow NABs to align their approach and procedures with the new EA-1/22. Also there is some work in progress, schemes and changes of schemes that are under evaluation to the “old” EA-1/22 right now.
What is the next phase for 1/22 and its implementation?
Next phase is an EA training on the EA-1/22 which is scheduled on 7th October 2020. We also intend to improve the communication with Scheme Owners. This will be discussed during the next EA HHC meeting in September.