Obtaining ISO 17020 accreditation is a significant achievement for inspection bodies seeking to demonstrate their competence, impartiality, and reliability. This internationally recognized standard sets forth the requirements for the operation of inspection bodies, ensuring that they maintain consistent quality and adhere to best practices. In this article, we will delve into the key requirements for ISO 17020 accreditation, providing a step-by-step guide to help inspection bodies navigate the accreditation process successfully.

Step 1: Understanding the Scope:

The first step towards ISO 17020 accreditation is to clearly define the scope of inspection services. This includes specifying the types of inspections conducted, the sectors or industries served, and any limitations or exclusions. Having a well-defined scope allows for a focused approach to meeting the standard’s requirements.

Step 2: Developing a Quality Manual:

A comprehensive quality manual serves as a documented framework for the inspection body’s quality management system (QMS). It outlines policies, procedures, and processes that align with ISO 17020 requirements. The manual should cover areas such as organizational structure, responsibilities, and the management of resources.

Step 3: Competence of Personnel:

ISO 17020 emphasizes the importance of competent and impartial personnel. Inspection bodies must establish procedures for selecting, training, and evaluating their staff to ensure they possess the necessary qualifications, technical knowledge, and skills. Competence should be regularly assessed and documented.

Step 4: Ensuring Impartiality:

Impartiality is a critical aspect of ISO 17020 accreditation. Inspection bodies must establish measures to identify, analyze, and manage any potential conflicts of interest that may arise during inspections. This includes maintaining independence from external pressures or influences that could compromise objectivity.

Step 5: Establishing Inspection Procedures:

Inspection bodies need to develop documented procedures that define the methods and processes used during inspections. These procedures should cover everything from receiving inspection requests to conducting inspections, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting results. They should also address how non-conformities are handled and corrective actions are implemented.

Step 6: Maintaining Equipment and Facilities:

Inspection bodies must ensure that their equipment, facilities, and calibration processes are suitable, properly maintained, and traceable to recognized standards. Regular calibration, verification, and maintenance schedules should be established to guarantee the accuracy and reliability of measurement equipment used during inspections.

Step 7: Document Control and Record Keeping:

ISO 17020 requires inspection bodies to implement effective document control procedures to manage and maintain relevant documents, including policies, procedures, records, and reports. These procedures ensure that the latest approved versions are readily accessible to authorized personnel, while obsolete documents are properly removed or archived.

Step 8: Continual Improvement:

To maintain ISO 17020 accreditation, inspection bodies must demonstrate a commitment to continual improvement. This involves establishing mechanisms for internal audits, management reviews, and corrective actions. Regularly reviewing the effectiveness of the QMS helps identify areas for improvement and ensures compliance with changing regulatory requirements.

ISO 17020 accreditation provides inspection bodies with a globally recognized framework for demonstrating their competence, impartiality, and commitment to quality. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, inspection bodies can navigate the accreditation process with confidence, ensuring that their operations align with ISO 17020 requirements. Achieving ISO 17020 accreditation not only enhances the credibility and reliability of inspection services but also opens up opportunities for collaboration and growth in the industry.