IAF Regions' news

Accreditation provided in a Virtual world

Aparna Dhawan


As societies cope with lockdowns and travel restrictions, it remains critical that products and services placed on the market continue to be safe. However, Accreditation Bodies (ABs) have an obligation to protect the health and safety of their assessors, their staff and their customers.

As a result, the accreditation community in the Asia Pacific region has explored the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to carry out assessments remotely. The policies were based on the guidelines set out in IAF documents IAF ID 3 Informative Document for Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances Affecting ABs, CABs and Certified Organizations, IAF MD 4 IAF Mandatory Document for the Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Auditing/Assessment Purposes, and IAF ID 12 Principles on Remote Assessment. These documents enabled seventeen ABs in the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC) to develop robust processes to continue to deliver market confidence.

In order to support a harmonised approach throughout the region, APAC hosted a webinar in May for 116 accreditation body assessors based on the theme: “Assessing and Auditing in a virtual world”. Sheronda Jeffries, IAF User Advisory Committee Chair, provided guidance on the methodology and stressed the need to ensure the security of information gathered during this process.

Reinaldo Figueiredo, the chair of the International Organization for Standardization’s Committee on Conformity Assessment (ISO CASCO), shared his views on how to approach the planning, performing and reporting of virtual assessments, as well as how to view risks and opportunities. Brahim Houla, APAC Capacity Building Committee Chair, shared learning points and experience from conducting remote assessments in the Gulf Cooperation Council Accreditation Center (GAC).

The presentation can be viewed on https://accreditation.teachable.com/, as well as an article by an Independent International Organisation for Certification (IIOC) member providing experiences from other conformity assessment bodies undertaking remote assessments.

Peter W. Staton, Technical & Quality Director of Lloyd’s Register Inspection Services, stated: “The speed at which the pandemic arrived meant that we had to react and change our modus operandi very quickly in order to support the critical services needed to keep supply chains moving. Our cloud based IT systems along with our exceptional engineer surveyors and support teams have adapted quickly to provide the necessary support without comprising integrity or impartiality. Our mission remains “to protect life and property with everything we do”. A similar approach has been adapted by other CABs in the region.

ABs have quickly adapted to using IT tools. For example, the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) in India consulted with stakeholders to plan assessments, in addition to holding harmonisation workshops for assessors to communicate the mode of operation. Trial runs were conducted in advance to test timing, and IT security protocols were observed by seeking information in advance. NABCB has successfully conducted 19 remote assessment audits amounting to 46 person days.

ICT tools have been adopted by different ABs to maintain supply chain confidence and fluidity, without compromising the integrity of assessments and compliance with codes and standards.

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