The User Advisory Committee (UAC) under the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) structure is the interface/link between the market, and the committee that represents the industry and voices its expectations on the accreditation topics. Today the following organizations are members of the UAC: QuEST Forum, The Quality System for Feed Additives and Premixtures (FAMI-QS), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC), GLOBALG.A.P, International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), Bruel & Kjaer Sound & Vibration Measurement A/S, Dental Trade Alliance (DTA), ENEL Servizi S.r.l., and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).
According to the terms of reference as shown in PL5:2016 (§7.13.3), the UAC has the following mandate:
- To represent the interests of end-users of accredited conformity assessment.
- To achieve consensus amongst members of the UAC as to the needs and expectations of end-users of accredited conformity assessment and to communicate this to IAF.
- To assist IAF in determining how well the needs and expectations of end-users of accredited conformity assessment are being fulfilled.
- To become informed and knowledgeable of IAF’s organization, structure, operations, and activities; and, in particular, to be informed of the Executive Committee, the MLA Committee, and the Technical Committee activities in aiming to ensure accredited conformity assessment is fulfilling the expectations of end-users.
- To provide advice and assistance to IAF for the development and implementation of strategies to ensure accredited conformity assessment is fulfilling end-user expectations, and to continually improve the value and effectiveness of accredited conformity assessment.
- To monitor the response of IAF to the UAC’s recommendations.
- To meet at least once a year or as often as necessary. Decisions and actions between meetings may occur by email.
This mandate for the UAC provides an opportunity for end users to provide constructive feedback to IAF.
During the meeting in New Delhi, it became quite clear to all members that despite coming from different sectors, as users of accreditation we are all confronted with similar issues (though in a different context). Issues like Accreditation Body (AB) inconsistencies (e.g. accreditation cycle), AB Assessors’ Competence, Peer Assessment data sharing and new technologies are the most common issues in the accreditation process. The committee decided to further define common topics on which we can all work together, and provide concrete feedback to IAF for further improvement and harmonization.
The work that is ongoing under the IAF Task Force (TF) on Conformity Assessment Schemes, was also discussed during the meeting. This topic is quite important for the UAC members because currently the criteria under which an AB evaluates the suitability of a Sector Specific Scheme to be under accreditation varies. This variation could create further unfair competition among the schemes, which might serve the same interest but might have undergone a different assessment process. Thus, it is important that common assessment criteria for all schemes shall be established and adopted by IAF. UAC members support the subsequent creation of an IAF document for the assessment/evaluation of the Conformity Assessment Schemes.
Additionally, UAC members confirmed their continuous support of the IAF Strategic Plan in the following ways:
Strategic Direction 02: To improve the peer evaluation process, including ensuring the availability of competent peer evaluator resources at the international and regional level.
- Strategic Action #2-5: To involve stakeholders in peer evaluation activities and/or make peer evaluation conclusions available to stakeholders upon request.
Strategic Direction 03: To promote wider acceptance of accreditation, including accredited conformity assessment results, and the IAF MLA by major stakeholders e.g. regulators and end users.
- Strategic Action #3-1: To expand collaborative relationships with technical, stakeholder and partner organizations to promote the value of accreditation and the MLA.
- Strategic Action #3-2: To increase the evidence base to demonstrate the value of accreditation and the MLA.
- Strategic Action #3-3: To establish a mechanism to capture information regarding Regulatory and Public Authority and other user recognition of accreditation and the MLA, to use as references and case studies.
- Strategic Action #3-4: To utilize existing sources and create new networks to use as communications channels to promote accreditation and the MLA.
- Strategic Action #3-5: To identify the underlying reasons for non-recognition, so that suitable actions can be taken to address them.
Strategic Direction 04: To improve consistency of accreditation practices among ABs.
- Strategic Action #4-2: To obtain feedback from customers regarding potential inconsistencies between ABs for consideration by the IAF Technical Committee for improving harmonization, and by the MLA Committee at peer evaluations.
The UAC is also currently working to define a plan to raise greater awareness of the activities of IAF and UAC, to increase the participation of other industry sectors and stakeholders that use accredited third party certification in their activities. UAC seeks further cooperation with the IAF AB members, as the latter have a close link with the industry representatives in the economies where they operate.
UAC Members and Guests