Non UKAS Accredited Certification

Posted by Chris Passmore

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Recently I spoke to a frustrated potential client needing advice on one of the most confusing elements of the "Certification Business".

He had got both ISO 9001(Quality) and 14001 (Environmental) certificates which over a number of years had served him well in getting on to tender lists and subsequently winning business.

More recently he had been advised by a major customer that he would now only get a 50% score for his ISO certificates since they were "non UKAS accredited" and this has meant that he is no longer on their tender list, costing him the opportunity of winning a number of significant contracts.

There is no "legal" requirement for ISO certification to be "UKAS accredited" and I have come across a number of well implemented "non UKAS accredited" systems which are working as well or even better than some systems that are "UKAS accredited". 

However a number of major organisations, like our potential client's customers, are aware that with the normally higher level surveillance requirements specified by UKAS, those businesses that do have "UKAS accredited certification" will be more thoroughly assessed. This creates greater confidence that these businesses will be able to perform more consistently and to a higher standard.

"Non UKAS accredited" certification bodies do carry out surveillance assessments, which could potentially be to the same standards as UKAS, however a "non UKAS accredited" surveillance is normally an office based document review and some training, rather than as required by UKAS, spending at least some time "face-to-face" with frontline staff gathering evidence that can verify that the documents presented in the office, do reflect actual working practise.

Who are UKAS?

UKAS stands for the "United Kingdom Accreditation Service" and is the sole national UK accreditation body recognised by the British Government and was established by a Memorandum of Understanding by the Secretary of State for Business Skills and Innovation. It is funded by fees from the certification bodies that it oversees and ensures that all UKAS assessments are carried out to a consistent standard with competent auditors and for the same duration. All UKAS accredited certification bodies receive regular visits from UKAS to verify that they are carrying out its assessments to the required standards and UKAS does take action when they detect what they consider to be inconsistencies.

There is a role for "non UKAS accredited certification" as a "one-stop-shop" to providing both knowledge and certification to businesses. The consultants that carry out this work are competent and provide good advice both in the implementation phase and in the subsequent annual surveillances. However this route cannot provide the same level of objectivity and impartiality that is required by UKAS certification.

To achieve "UKAS accredited certification" and to be certain in getting "top marks" from your customers, does require businesses to negotiate a more complex route and to understand how the different "certification" elements work together to provide the impartiality and objectivity that many consumers increasingly require.

There is no simple answer to my potential client's dilemma and I would encourage anyone who wants to take their business on the ISO certification route to "shop around" and properly research the market to decide whether you do or do not require UKAS accredited certification,

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