ISO 17021:2020 is the latest version of the international standard for the competence and impartiality of certification bodies that certify conformity to occupational health and safety (OH&S) management systems standards. It was released in November 2020 and replaces the previous version of the standard, ISO 17021:2011.

Updates to ISO 17021:2020

The following are some of the key updates to ISO 17021:2020:

  • Emphasis on risk-based thinking: ISO 17021:2020 places a greater emphasis on risk-based thinking throughout the certification process. This requires certification bodies to identify and assess the risks to their impartiality and competence, and to implement appropriate controls to mitigate these risks.
  • Enhanced requirements for impartiality: ISO 17021:2020 includes enhanced requirements to ensure the impartiality of certification bodies. These requirements include new provisions on conflicts of interest, commercial relationships, and the use of subcontractors.
  • New requirements for competence: ISO 17021:2020 includes new requirements to ensure the competence of certification bodies and their personnel. These requirements include new provisions on training, experience, and assessment.
  • Revised requirements for certification activities: ISO 17021:2020 includes revised requirements for certification activities, such as audits, assessments, and the issuance of certificates. These requirements are designed to improve the consistency and quality of certification activities.

Implications for certification bodies

Certification bodies will need to make a number of changes to their operations in order to comply with the new requirements of ISO 17021:2020. These changes may include:

  • Updating their management system: Certification bodies will need to update their management system to reflect the new requirements of ISO 17021:2020, including the new requirements for risk-based thinking, impartiality, and competence.
  • Training their personnel: Certification bodies will need to train their personnel on the new requirements of ISO 17021:2020. This training should cover all aspects of the certification process, from audits to assessments to the issuance of certificates.
  • Updating their procedures: Certification bodies will need to update their procedures to reflect the new requirements of ISO 17021:2020. This includes developing new procedures or updating existing procedures on risk-based thinking, impartiality, competence, and certification activities.

The new requirements of ISO 17021:2020 will help to ensure that certification bodies are competent and impartial, and that their certification activities are consistent and of high quality. Certification bodies that are accredited to ISO 17021:2020 will be able to demonstrate to their clients that their OH&S management system certification is credible and reliable.

Here are some additional tips for certification bodies that are transitioning to ISO 17021:2020:

  • Start planning your transition early. The transition to ISO 17021:2020 may take several months or even years to complete, depending on the size and complexity of your organization.
  • Get buy-in from senior management. The support of senior management is essential for the success of the transition.
  • Communicate with your clients. Keep your clients informed of the changes that you are making to comply with ISO 17021:2020. This will help to reduce any disruption to their business operations.
  • Use a consultant to help you with the transition. A consultant can provide guidance on the requirements of ISO 17021:2020 and help you to develop a transition plan.

By following these tips, certification bodies can ensure a smooth and successful transition to ISO 17021:2020.