Understanding Accreditation

Based on insightful answers by Peter Unger Co-Founder – Executive Director of International Quality Excellence in Infrastructure Systems, LLP and Former CEO-A2LA / ILAC Chair 2011- 2016

(marked in quotes are replied from Peter Unger / PU)

History and Notable Individuals related to accreditation

The first national system of laboratory accreditation was started after World War II in Australia by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA)” -PU

Incredible note, worth reading about the Laboratory Accreditation can be accessed here.

“Some notable names who have contributed who come to my mind are Howard Forman, Per Thoft, John Gilmour,  John Locke ” -PU

Mr. Per Lund Thoft of the Ministry of Trade, Denmark and Dr Howard Forman of the US Department of Commerce convened the first conference on International Laboratory Accreditation, in Copenhagen in 1977 along with members from 20 countries. This was the birth of International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation

John W. Locke who was the coordinator of the US Commerce Department’s National Voluntary  and manager of the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program in the eighties (when IEC/ISO 17025 was called ISO guide 25). He retired  as  the president of the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (know known as A2LA) and manager of NVLAP

In case the subject interests you; publications and documents at below links are worth reading. You can also head to this link to learn about the TIC Industry and who the key stakeholder are 

Mr. John Gilmour, was the CEO of NATA, co-founder of ILAC  was part of the team when he was a UNIDO Consultant to publish about lab accreditation here (Working paper number 2)

What is accreditation 

“Simply put, accreditation is a recognition of competence as contracted with certification which is a recognition of conformity” -PU

As the world view evolved during and after the world wars, The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947) that was signed in 1947 migrated to World Trade Organization gathering steam of more and more countries and businesses.  Now the agreement (GATT) also had a “standards code” or “Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade”, created that needed accreditation and its inter-acceptance.

There are some very interesting rabbit-holes to follow if you like reading law on the WTO websites. Examples being this one or this one. If you like these and get off from this article, I doubt you will return!

Accreditation came to the fore when it provided a suitable solution facilitate the acceptance of cross-border test results to facilitate trade, reducing technical barriers as envisioned by the GATT before the establishment of WTO TBT.   ” -PU

Nowadays Accreditation Bodies can be government bodies, part government, Not for Profit and For profit? How does that impact accreditation.

The type of ‘ownership’ of an accreditation body is irrelevant as long as impartiality of the accreditation process of not compromised” – PU

The answer to this question is very similar to wide sweeping standards and laws which are published. The user needs to understand the depth, width and implication to utilize them fully!

Are there some base rules of accreditation that every AB has to follow?

Mitigating risks to impartiality in the operation of accreditation schemes is among the most important rules.  Competence of personnel including assessors and decisionmakers is equally important. Establishment of a functioning, internationally conforming management system is also necessary. ” -PU

What are the most popular accreditation programs in the world and which ones are least?

I believe the most popular accreditation programs are for testing laboratories, followed by calibration laboratories and management system certification bodies.  Perhaps the least popular programs are proficiency testing provider and reference material producers only because there are fewer of these organizations worldwide. ” -PU

About Peter Unger 

Peter started in the position of Assistance Coordinator of the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program in 1978 and joined the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation in 1985. His work spans the world and his contributions to accreditation have paved progress across industries.

(last question) What do you focus your free time nowadays?

Development of assessor competence is number one in my mind followed by nurturing accreditation body staff to be competence peer evaluators of other accreditation bodies to support the international system of recognition of competent accreditation bodies under the ILAC MR and IAF MLA.  Furthermore, providing in-house consulting on procedures, internal audits and management system development continues to be my focus. Helping conformity assessment bodies attain accreditation is also an area of service. I can be reached through www.iqeis.com


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