IAF Liaisons

New 2021 Edition of “Annex SL” for Management System Standards

Nigel Croft
Chair, ISO Joint Technical Coordination Group for Management System Standards
ISO/TC176 Liaison to IAF

Dick Hortensius
NEN (Dutch National Standards Body) – Secretary of the JTCG

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently undertook a limited revision of “Annex SL” of the ISO Supplement to the ISO/IEC Directives, which forms the basis for nearly all its management system standards (MSSs). The new version was published in May 2021 and applies to all new ISO MSSs as well as the revision of existing standards.

First published in 2012, and now applied by the vast majority of ISO’s MSSs, Annex SL comprises several components:

  • The “body” of Annex SL, which describes (among other things) the “Harmonized Approach” to the development of an MSS
  • Appendix 1, which specifies the justification studies that are required when a proposal is made to develop a new MSS
  • Appendix 2, which contains the “Harmonized Structure” with the identical core text, common terms and core definitions that standards writers are required to follow, with guidance in its use (aimed primarily at standards writers)
  • Appendix 3, which contains guidance on the use of terminology

Overall, the changes are quite small: a new requirement for the organization to determine which requirements of interested parties are to be addressed via its management system (consistent with the concept of “compliance obligations” as defined in ISO 37301:2021); a new sub-clause 6.3 on Planning Change; replacement of text on “outsourcing” by a requirement to control “externally provided processes, products or services”; simplification of the requirements for documented information; and a change in sequence of Clause 10, giving greater prominence to the need for continual improvement.

Of particular interest to IAF members will be the fact that the scope of all MSSs must now indicate the intended results of the management system. These are an important reference point for determining the overall effectiveness of the system, i.e. the extent to which planned activities are realized and planned results are achieved. See also the ISO/IAF/ILAC document “Expected outcomes for accredited certification to ISO management system standards”.

The question of “risk” and the ways in which the various MSSs address “risks and opportunities” varies between different disciplines and sectors, most notably those that operate in a regulated environment, and this topic generated significant debate during the revision process. However, neither the definition of risk nor the text on how to deal with risks and opportunities has been changed. This was considered the best option available within the project time frame. ISO/TC262 (Risk Management) has recently recommended a strategic review by ISO on how all standards (not only MSSs) define and address risk, so to have made any “quick-fix” changes ahead of those deliberations could have caused more confusion than clarity.

The changes made to the Annex SL core text will not have an immediate impact on users, but the Guidance for MSS Standards Writers has been significantly improved, which should result in enhanced alignment and harmonization of “discipline-specific” requirements as the new version filters down into the various MSSs over the coming years.

There is no requirement for published MSSs to be revised within a specific time period solely to incorporate the new Annex SL, so it is likely that the 2012 and 2021 versions will co-exist for some time. However, since there are no fundamental differences between the two, this is not expected to be a major issue.

The complete ISO Supplement to the ISO/IEC Directives (including Annex SL and its Appendices) can be downloaded free of charge here.

Categories: IAF Liaisons