What Is An ISO 17020 Checklist?
Quality and security standards are as important as ever in a world that is becoming more globalised every single day. Having internationally recognised standards that qualify products, services and systems helps cross language barriers and builds trust in your company.
Even the inspection bodies that certify companies need inspecting – to ensure that their assessments are legitimate and justified. With major industries relying on reliable inspection findings, it’s imperative that all inspection bodies are dependable and trustworthy. The ISO 17020 standard ensures that organizations are competent, consistent, and impartial in their inspection activities.
The requirements to measure such competency and impartiality are laid out in the DIN EN ISO 17020. The conformity assessment is meant to provide assurance to private and public institutions that accredited inspection organizations meet the required standards and possess the necessary qualifications to carry out inspections.
However, meeting the international standard for inspection bodies is no easy feat. And so, institutions should ideally utilize an ISO 17020 checklist designed to comply with all relevant clauses required in the accreditation and not lose track of any of the specifications. An ISO 17020 checklist can be thought of as a preparatory tool that helps guide institutions from the initial assessment until the reassessment visits. Furthermore, it can be used to facilitate the gathering of data and serve as documentation to prove compliance.
Essentially, the conformity assessment divides inspection and examination bodies into three categories depending on the nature of their services (i.e. inspections, surveys, and risk-assessments) and independence. These classifications are Type A, B, and C.
The criteria included in the ISO 17020 standard are:
- General requirements: Impartiality and independence, and confidentiality
- Structural requirements: Administrative, organizational and management
- Resource requirements: Personnel, facilities and equipment, and subcontracting
- Process requirements: Inspection methods and procedures, handling inspection items and samples, inspection records, inspection reports and certificates, complaints and appeals, and process
- Management system requirements (TYPE A): Documentations, control of documents and records, management review, internal audits, corrective actions, and preventive actions
This article covers the following topics:
What Is The Difference Between ISO 17020 And ISO 17025
There is plenty of confusion when it comes to differentiating ISO/IEC 17020:2012 and ISO 17025. While both of these are published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and have similar management requirements, there is a nuance in the criteria that they require.
That is, the ISO standards for accreditation indicate ISO 17020 as the criteria for inspection bodies while ISO 17025 is for testing and calibration laboratories. Both of these standards are equally important.
Here are their differences in more detail:
The ISO 17025 accreditation is essentially the most important standard for testing and calibration laboratories across the board. In fact, results and certifications from an accredited laboratory are accepted internationally, making cooperation easy between organizations.
Its fundamental purpose is to confirm that a laboratory is competent enough to produce test results and calibration data are valid, precise, and free of any errors. This includes:
- The traceability of measurements and calibrations are set to national standards
- The technical knowledge and skills of the laboratory staff are competent
- The regular maintenance of the test equipment being used
- The quality assurance of the test and calibration data are executed well within standards
- The test methods are valid and appropriate
- The transportation and handling of the test items follow proper protocols
- The quality of the testing environment and sampling is acceptable
Laboratories are subject to regular assessments to make sure that their technical expertise and practices meet international standards. On top of this, they also need to regularly demonstrate their competency through periodic proficiency tests.
As previously mentioned, there is a nuance in the purpose served by both standards. If the ISO 17025 standard is for laboratories processing samples found in inspections, then the ISO 17020 standard is for the inspecting bodies who actually are taking the samples.
The main purpose of the ISO 17020 is to set the requirements for inspection bodies. Institutions that meet its compliance requirements and receive certification on this standard not only demonstrate their technical expertise and competence but also their professional judgment. Their findings are deemed impartial and valid.
Accredited companies can:
- Conduct inspections and assessments
- Consolidate sampling plans
- Gather samples and forward them to ISO 17025 accredited laboratories for analysis
After the accredited laboratory provides the analysis report of the sample, the accredited inspection can:
- Take into account all evidence and findings of the inspection, and the laboratory report to make a professional judgment on what those results mean.
- Provide their interpretation and assessment pertaining to those results. In some cases, they can also provide certifications.
Both ISO 17020 and 17025 are sovereign norms solely supervised by the Accreditation Bodies (SAS in Switzerland), and their standards are distinguished in their scope, respectively. Simply put, inspection bodies can only testify compliance with a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ result; whereas, laboratories also provide measurement results.
The 7 Steps Of An ISO 17020 Audit
The ISO 17020 accreditation certification involves a series of inspections that include monitoring, auditing, and eventually – if all requirements are met – approval. It is crucial to be well prepared for the audit since it is a complex process that requires both time and energy, but offers great rewards as well.
An accreditation process involves seven steps that we have summarized here:
- Inspection bodies will set inspection parameters and conduct a comprehensive survey and gap analysis.
- All employees will be provided training materials prior to the application of the standard so that they can familiarize themselves with all the requirements.
- Guidance on proper documentation protocol will be given. These can be quality manuals, standard operating procedures, and inspection parameters. It’s in this stage that creating an ISO 17020 internal audit checklist is highly beneficial.
- Follow-up visits and corrective actions will be conducted, followed by an internal audit by a consultant. Afterward, an accreditation body will perform an external audit.
- Conformities and non-conformities will then be evaluated and resolved.
- The accreditation decision is given and a certification issued, if applicable.
- Compliance monitoring will be periodically done for the reassessment of competency.
The Main Benefits Of An ISO 17020 Accreditation
As an international certification, the ISO 17020 carries a lot of weight and can help propel your business forward. It may be a lot of work to prepare for an accreditation, however the benefits far outweigh the hardships you may face along the way. And if you stay organized and on top of your processes, getting ISO 17020 certified will be almost no trouble at all. Especially if you stick to a checklist and work your way through the undertaking.
Being certified by ISO 17020 standard will benefit your business and operations in many ways, such as:
- Being recognized globally
Because the 17020 accreditation is recognized by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), it will pave the way for international recognition and elevate your inspection services as top-tier in the global market.
- Ensuring and guaranteeing that processes and staff are highly competent
The accreditation is essentially the guarantee of the technical competence of quality management systems that your inspection body has in place and can assure yourself, your employees, as well as your clients of the trustworthiness of your institution.
- Providing guidance on equipment maintenance and helps facilitate accurate results
Unless control of equipment and inspection records are properly handled, the accuracy of results is not guaranteed. The requirements essentially ensure that all necessary equipment is reliable, thus ensuring that results are properly judged, impartial, and precise.
- Reducing costs and risks
Inaccuracies will require re-working, but results that are correct and accurate do not need to be re-inspected. This saves money and time potentially lost during a repeat inspection.
- Increased credibility
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of the accreditation is the fact that it increases client confidence in the inspection services and results provided, earning you a potentially larger client base and more revenue subsequently.
Facilitate The ISO 17020 Accreditation Process With A Digital Checklist
Performing safety and quality inspections has never been easier than with a digital checklist. Carry it around with you in your pocket and conduct inspections wherever you are from your smartphone or tablet – online or offline. By creating a checklist for your ISO 17020 Audit you take preparation into your own hands and won’t let fate decide.
- Since we already offer thousands of ready-made templates to choose from, you can quickly and safely embark on your digital journey. Adapt and change checklists as regulations change or as you improve your processes.
- If you prefer to use your own checklists, our flexible Lumiform form builder helps you convert any paper-based ISO 17020 checklist into a digital format within minutes. Completely flexible and near-effortless, you will never need pen and paper for inspections again.
- With our intuitive mobile app you and your team can perform inspections with ease, anywhere and save time.
- Results are automatically summarised in a report and can then be shared with responsible personnel to keep everyone in the loop and to never miss any corrective measures.
- Our comprehensive and automated analyses will help you uncover any errors fast and effectively and thus allow you to concentrate on improving your processes continuously.