Conformity Assessment bodies
There are different types of conformity assessment bodies (CABs) that can undertake conformity assessment techniques and activities. They can come in any organisational form and ownership, and can be commercial in focus or not-for-profit entities. They can be government agencies, national standards bodies, trade associations, consumer organisations, or private or publically owned companies.
Conformity assessment bodies range from multibillion dollar multinational companies that undertake all types of conformity assessment activity (e.g. testing, inspection and certification), to CABs offering national services within one specific country, or small localised entities that work in a specific sector and region. In most cases CABs can act as first, second or third party that is making the claim of conformity. Where bodies act in a third party capacity, an important feature is that they have to act in an impartial way so that the results of their work can be objective and maintain the highest degree of confidence.
Provision of conformity assessment activities by CABs are generally on the basis of a fee for service which may or may not reflect a return on investment or profit. Many countries have a competitive market amongst CABs for the provision of conformity assessment activities. However in some countries and markets a monopoly is given to one or more government recognised conformity assessment bodies by statute, regulations or through procurement practices.
The structure of the above International Standards is similar in that they contain both technical and organisational requirements:
- general requirements – e.g. legal and contractual matters;
- structural requirements – e.g. specific organisational structures that must be in place;
- resource requirements – competency, equipment and work environment requirements, and subcontracting/outsourcing requirements;
- records and information requirements – e.g. evidence and records retention, confidentiality and public accessibility;
- process requirements – requirements for the specific conformity assessment activity; and
- management system requirements – requirements for the internal management of the CAB to ensure it is managing its overall fulfilment the relevant International Standard.
The above International Standards contain requirements associated with topics that are common, to a greater or lesser extent, across all conformity assessment activities, such as:
- complaints and appeals
- public disclosure; and
- use of management systems by CABs