Just what is accreditation ?
To understand the role and responsibilities of each stakeholder, a definition of accreditation is required. Accrediting means certifying the competences of an inspection body, whatever the field in which it is involved.
In defining accreditation, it is important to remember that in our day-to-day lives all products or services that we consume are subject to inspections. These inspections are conducted by bodies which, when accredited, are themselves inspected. Their competences are then certified by an accreditation system with reference to the norms, standards, or regulations in force.
Accreditation: a second inspection level
The definition and role of accreditation can be conceived as a means of providing reassurance about the inspections carried out. For example, this may involve assessing the impartiality and technical competence of the body that inspects the quality of the air that we breathe. In concrete terms, the accreditation issued by Cofrac to test, analysis, calibration and biomedical laboratories, and to certification and inspection bodies, serves to consolidate confidence and trust between the stakeholders: the inspection body, consumers or service providers, customers and partners, public authorities, etc.
An overall voluntary approach
In around half of cases, recourse to accreditation is a voluntary initiative. In other words, an inspection body may decide to invest in a process with Cofrac in line with its strategic imperatives. Not all inspection bodies are required to be accredited. However, in recent years this approach has been gaining ground in the regulatory field. The public authorities sometimes demand accreditation as a prerequisite for a future approval.
Accreditation: a strong commitment
In France, only Cofrac is certified to issue accreditations. As an accrediting body, we inspect and certify the independence, impartiality and competence of bodies for a fixed period: 4 years for the first application, then 5 years. This process is punctuated by follow-up assessments, to verify and inspect compliance with the requirements. The cost of the accreditation process depends on the scope applied for, which determines the size of our team of assessors and the duration of our mission.