Accreditation is the formal recognition of a body’s competence to conduct a specific activity such as testing, inspection or certification. This recognition is based on compliance with international and European standards. Compliance with these standards requires organisations to demonstrate competence, impartiality and integrity. It is often difficult for customers to distinguish between the quality of products or services available in the marketplace.
Certificates of conformance or test reports are normally used to make that distinction. These certificates or reports are only useful or reliable if the organisation or individual conducting the assessment or test is competent and qualified. The accreditation of the organisation, for a defined scope, is the mechanism that provides the customer with this confidence.
The international nature of the standards means that a company or product in Ireland can be assessed or tested to the same standards as a company in Switzerland or Australia, providing confidence in the comparability of certificates and reports across national borders.
The Benefits of Accreditation
Confidence in the market place and in our public services is essential. Trust is placed in the products and services on offer often without a second thought by the customer, such are the regulations and standards against which products are manufactured and services provided.
There are many duties placed on government departments, local authorities and other agencies to ensure that trust is maintained. Whether it be health, water quality, food, consumer goods or transport safety, for example, the public sector provides the framework for the assurance that goods and services are safe and the environment we live in is clean and secure.
Accreditation by SAF can also limit the need for government to regulate industry and the professions. It provides an alternative means of ensuring the reliability of activities that have the potential to impact on public confidence or the national reputation. SAF, where requested, assesses organisations and recommends to government their appointment as Notified Bodies as required by EU Directives and Regulations.
Companies big and small buy independent evaluations either through choice (to reduce the risk of product failure for example) or as a consequence of legal requirements (such as health and safety regulations). Most commonly these evaluations are calibration of equipment, product testing, inspection of equipment and certification of quality management systems.