What is accreditation

Accreditation literally means: giving confidence. We want to be able to blindly trust that the quality of products and services is correct. We want to know that the results of blood tests are correct, that meat does not contain too many bacteria, that escalators are safe to use, that electronics engineers are acting professionally. All of this is only possible when certificates and reports substantiate what is being claimed.

Chain of trust

The work of the RvA is focussed on underpinning this trust via expert, impartial and independent supervision:

  • Suppliers can have their products, processes and services assessed objectively by a laboratory, inspection body, certification body or verification body. And that extends to every imaginable field of work: health, environment, construction, energy, food, transport and finance, to name but a few.
  • Does a supplier meet the requirements? If a supplier does it will be issued with a statement of conformity in the form of a certificate or report. Accordingly, assessing bodies are known as conformity-assessment bodies.
  • This statement has the most value when the assessing body is expert, impartial and independent. The RvA therefore checks whether a conformity-assessment body is competent and if the results are positive it becomes an accredited body.

The RvA thus forms the last link in the chain of trust.

chain of trust

Diagram of chain of trust

Accreditation based on standards

We use standards when assessing conformity-assessment bodies:

  • international standards (ISO or ISO/IEC);
  • European standards (EN).

These standards primarily focus on the expertise, impartiality, independence and improvement culture of conformity-assessment bodies. Organisations that meet the standards receive formal accreditation, which means they are permitted to use the accreditation mark. Certificates and reports that are provided with this mark are accepted worldwide in most countries and accreditation therefore promotes international trade.

Scope of the accreditation

The RvA grants accreditation for a specific sphere of work on the basis of a specific, determined method. This is logical because expertise plays a big role. In accreditation this is called the ‘scope’. This defines what is and what is not covered by accreditation. The fact that an organisation is accredited really says something in combination with the scope for which the accreditation has been issued. Just compare it for convenience sake with a driving license: you cannot drive a bus if your driving license is only valid for driving motorcycles.

The method applied by the conformity assessment body can be determined in various ways:

  • In national or international standards such as for instance the ISO, IEC, NEN, ASME and OIML;
  • In legislation and regulations such as the European directives for product safety, national commodities decrees for inspection in the use phase of machines, lifts and pressure equipment, the soil quality regulation etc.;
  • In conformity assessment schemes by which the requirements on the object of conformity assessment are determined, as well as the requirements imposed on the conformity assessment body and the way in which it carries out the activities (the: ‘what, how and who of the conformity assessment’). A scheme can be formulated by a conformity assessment body (CBI) itself, or by an external scheme owner. The versions of the schemes of an external scheme owner who underwent a positive evaluation by the RvA, are included in the list of schemes for which the RvA can grant accreditation (BR010 list);
  • By a method developed by the conformity assessments body itself.

Importance and scope

Trusting the quality of products and services plays a prominent role in our daily lives, whether it concerns a drinking water company that supplies our drinking water, a lift inspector who checks the safety of a lift, a doctor who arranges for our blood to be tested or a local authority that issues planning permission: the question about whether the requirements are being met is relevant in all cases.

Accreditation ensures that our trust in products and services is justified. That is extremely important, especially when it concerns products and services that involve safety, health and environmental risks such as pressure vessels, pleasure craft, asbestos, soil sampling and building products. It is for a good reason that the law stipulates that in some of tese areas these assessments have to be performed by accredited bodies. However, organisations are increasingly choosing to accredit other assessment activities they undertake as well, for example in the field of sustainability and working conditions. Consequently, this continuously extends the scope of our work.

The spheres of work in which the RvA can grant accreditation, are laid down in the RvA-BR010 Policy rule of RvA spheres of work.