Accreditation: Delivering a safer world

Md Abu Abdullah | Published: June 08, 2018 21:18:10 | Updated: June 10, 2018 21:45:23

The theme of World Accreditation Day, 2018 focuses on how accreditation delivers a safer world. June 09 marks World Accreditation Day -- a global initiative, jointly introduced by International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) to raise awareness about the importance of accreditation.

What are the issues? There are more than 2.78 million deaths per year as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases. Approximately 125 million people in the   world are exposed to asbestos - in the workplace, resulting in an estimate of several thousand deaths from asbestos-related lung cancer each year. One in eight of global deaths, around 7.0 million people die annually from air pollution and there were 1.25 million recorded road traffic deaths globally in 2013 published in reports of World Health Organisation.

There are also 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses every year, many of these resulting in extended absences from work. Apart from the significant human cost, the  economic impact of poor occupational safety and   health practices is estimated to be 3.94 per cent of global  Gross Domestic Product (or about US$2.8 trillion,  in direct and indirect costs of injuries and diseases)  every  year, according to a report of International Labor Organisation.

Recent problems with tainted food, drugs, electronic devices and other consumer products have made clear that more needs to be done to protect consumers. Injury statistics indicate that design problems, defects and inadequate safety information for consumer products are associated with many injuries. 

THE ROLE OF ACCREDITATION: Completed projects, raw materials, products, services, management systems, and/or personnel can be evaluated against a standard, code of practice, or regulatory requirement by testing and calibration laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies (collectively known as conformity assessment bodies). Conformity assessment bodies are used to check that products and services are safe to use.

Accreditation is the independent evaluation of these conformity assessment bodies against recognised standards to carry out specific activities to ensure their integrity, impartiality and competence. Through the application of national and international standards, government departments, businesses and wider society can have confidence in the calibration and test results, inspection reports and certifications provided.

Accreditation bodies are established to ensure that conformity assessment bodies are subject to oversight by a competent body. Internationally recognised accreditation bodies, which have been evaluated by peers as competent, sign international arrangements that enhance the acceptance of products and services across borders, thereby creating a global infrastructure to support health and safety related processes.

These arrangements are managed by International Accreditation Forum (IAF), covering accreditation of certification bodies and verification/ validation bodies, and International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), in the areas of testing, calibration and inspection body accreditation. This system ensures that the accreditations issued by different accreditation bodies are consistent across the globe. As a result, products and services tested, inspected or certified once under the IAF and ILAC umbrella, can be accepted everywhere.

BENEFIT THAT ACCREDITATION PROVIDES FOR GOVERNMENT & REGULATORS:  The role of the government and Regulatory bodies is to ensure that businesses provide a safe working environment. They can set policy or technical requirements for products or services that are placed in the market and rely on accredited conformity assessment bodies to verify compliance with those requirements. Accreditation can be used to support health and safety policy in different ways. For example, markets can 'self-regulate' through businesses voluntarily agreeing to meet set standards. This can be applied where there is a need to reassure markets on the conduct of business while minimising risks. Businesses that demonstrate compliance with standards through accreditation may earn 'recognition' from regulators who trust them to comply with their legal obligations. This enables the regulators to reduce oversight and inspection visits, saving tax payers' money. In this way, the cost of regulation is reduced for both the government and the regulated businesses. International accreditation arrangements provide regulators with a robust and credible framework to accept accredited test results, inspection reports and certifications from overseas, with an equivalent level of confidence as if they were carried out in the local economy.

We can examine case studies of accredited services around the world. Dubai has beaches, hotel pools, residential and sports complexes, and water parks that are under the supervision of thousands of lifeguards. The Public Health & Safety Department of Dubai Municipality uses the accredited certification of lifeguards as a measure to create a safer experience for tourists.  The scheme uses ISO 17024 and covers the certification   of pool lifeguards, shallow water lifeguards and beach lifeguards. The scheme assesses lifeguards for water rescue and basic first aid skills. After successfully completing examinations and certification requirements, the lifeguards receive a certificate and card from an accredited provider.

Accredited certification is used by the Ministry of Regional Development of the Czech Republic to assess the professional competence of those that use electronic tools or carry out operations using electronic equipment. Accredited certification is required through the public tender procurement process as per the rules and requirements stated in the Regulation No. 9/2011 Coll.  Accreditation against the requirements of ISO/IEC 17065 (product certification) is used for assessment of professional competence to ensure that electronic tools are used competently and therefore, safely.

IMPORTANCE FOR BUSINESSES: Businesses can demonstrate compliance with best practices by implementing a health and safety management system in order: to improve reputation and increase opportunities to gain new business, minimise risks of accidents,  improve commitment with legal obligations, and achieve potential cost savings from public liability insurance premiums and retain and attract staff.

Northern Ireland requires Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS)-18001 in construction tenders. contractors, consultants (and their supply chains) seeking to tender for public sector work contracts must be able to satisfy the Government Construction Client that they have the resources and competence to manage health and safety. Businesses with OHSAS 18001 accredited certification are, therefore, well placed to be eligible to tender for work.  It is a de facto 'licence' to trade as key purchasers expect. Accreditation provides market differentiation and objective proof that products are safe and meet specifications. Accreditation is increasingly recognised in tender documents and for overseas trade. In some cases, it can result in reduced levies or audits.

IMPORTANCE FOR EMPLOYEES: Working for a company that has implemented an occupational health and safety management standard sends a clear signal to employees and stakeholders that they view employees' health and safety as a priority within the organisation. It will identify risks and ensure a safe working environment.

IMPORTANCE FOR CITIZENS: Public confidence can be gained from goods or services that are accompanied by an accredited certificate of conformity. All adventure tourism operators throughout New Zealand require safety certification under the New Zealand Adventure Activities Certification Scheme. Providers need to undergo and pass a safety audit that certifies safety processes meet the safety audit standards.

SUPPORTING PROTECTION FROM TERRORISM: The UK government has introduced a surveillance  camera code of practice that contains 12 guiding  principles to ensure and demonstrate to communities that  cameras are only ever used proportionately, transparently  and effectively by relevant authorities (police, police  crime commissioners, local authorities and non-regular police forces). Accredited third party certification enables organisations to clearly demonstrate that they comply with the surveillance camera code of practice. Certification indicates best practice and compliance with the code.

Accreditation provides a globally-recognised tool to not only assess and control risks of the internal operation of businesses but also the products and services they place in market. In this way, regulators, purchasers and employees can demonstrate confidence that accreditation delivers a safer world.

The writer is a former Director General of Bangladesh Accreditation Board.


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