Question 1: What is the difference between accreditation and certification?
Accreditation = Confirmation and recognition of technical competence
Confirmation by a third party that sets out formally that a conformity assessment body is competent to carry out specific conformity
assessment tasks (see ISO/IEC 17000 5.6).
Certification = Confirmation that prescribed requirements are fulfilled
Procedure by which a third party confirms in writing that products, processes, systems or persons comply with prescribed requirements (see ISO/IEC 17000, 5.5).
Certification is one of the different types of conformity assessment (see question 2).
The difference between the two seemingly similar activities lies in the fact that in the first case - with accreditation - the formal recognition of competence is central. This requires proven technical knowledge and therefore the consultation of a technical expert for the scope to be accredited. In the second case - with certification - it is mainly a question of determining compliance with a standard or normative basis.
Question 2: What are conformity assessment bodies?
A conformity assessment body is a body that performs conformity assessment.
Conformity assessment: Demonstration that specified requirements relating to a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled. The requirements can be defined in legal decrees, standards, and manufacturer's documentation or otherwise.
All conformity assessment bodies have to fulfil the specified requirements for accreditation. These are specified in the ISO/IEC 17000 series of standards and other relevant standards for accreditation.
Today we can distinguish between the following types of conformity assessment (OAccD, Appendix 2):
- Testing and calibration laboratories in accordance with ISO/IEC 17025;
- Medical laboratories in accordance with ISO 15189;
- Producers of reference materials according to ISO Guide 34;
- Proficiency test providers in accordance with ISO/IEC 17043;
- Inspection bodies in accordance with ISO/IEC 17020;
- Certification bodies for products in accordance with ISO/IEC 17065;
- Certification bodies for management systems in accordance with ISO/IEC 17021;
- Certification bodies for persons in accordance with ISO/IEC 17024.
Question 3: Who can become accredited, what are the requirements that must be met for accreditation? Can a foreign organisation or a foreign company become accredited under Swiss accreditation?
In the Ordinance on the Swiss Accreditation System and the Notification of Testing, Conformity Assessment, Registration and Matriculation Bodies (Accreditation and Notification Ordinance, AkkBV; SR 946.512) of the 17th June 1996, Article 4 stipulates:
Paragraph 1: Accreditation is open to:
a. testing and conformity assessment bodies of businesses that are listed in the Swiss trade register and which are located in Switzerland;
b. state-owned conformity assessment bodies in Switzerland.
Paragraph 2: Taking into account Switzerland's global national and foreign economic interests, accreditation is also open to:
a. conformity assessment bodies which are registered abroad and located in Switzerland;
b. foreign conformity assessment bodies.
According to Article 6 of the European Union (EU) Regulation "Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 339/93" national accreditation bodies do not compete with other national accreditation bodies.
The Swiss Accreditation Service (SAS) has no resources to grant accreditation to legal entities abroad. If a Swiss organisation or company operates offices abroad, and the latter operate under the accreditation granted to the parent company in Switzerland, the SAS is required to also assess these offices. Where suitable, the SAS will work with the local national accreditation body. Further details are provided in SAS document 738.
Question 4: How is a body accredited or how is the accreditation process carried out?
The Swiss Accreditation Service (SAS) has described the accreditation process in detail in its guidelines and reference documents. These and other documents such as the "Ordinance on the Swiss Accreditation System and the Notification of Testing, Conformity Assessment, Registration and Matriculation Bodies (Accreditation and Notification Ordinance, AkkBV; SR 946.512)", registration forms and detailed requirements for accreditation bodies are available on this website.
The SAS accreditation process can be summarized as follows:
- Information talk (serves to provide mutual comprehensive information)
- Preliminary talk (serves for the preparation of the assessment and the final definition of the scope of the accreditation)
- As a rule annual surveillance
- Renewal of accreditation at the latest after five years
Question 5: How can I find laboratories accredited in a specific field?
Using our search engine under the menu item "Accredited bodies"/ "Search" you can search for the accredited bodies using different criteria:
- select the appropriate term under "Scope" and/or
- enter a keyword, a standard, a procedure, etc. in the "Search for" field and/or
- select the appropriate "Accreditation type".
- If you are looking for a particular accredited body, the type and number of which you know, you can select the appropriate "Accreditation type" and enter the number in the "Accreditation number" field.
Your search you will return a list of results containing the bodies to which the search criteria apply. For each body, direct access (download) is provided to the records on the detailed scope of accreditation (in each of the available language versions).
Question 6: Have all sectors of conformity assessment in Switzerland been recognised by EU States under the bilateral agreements I?
No, not yet all. The following links lead to the agreement itself respectively to the list of the sectors as well as the conformity assessment bodies notifed by Switzerland and recognised by the EU:
Question 7: We have an accreditation in our country. Is this valid and recognised in Switzerland?
An accreditation may be recognised, if it was issued by an accreditation body which has signed a Multilateral Agreement (MLA) with the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) in the area of certification or with the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) in the remaining areas or which has an analogous MLA with a regional accreditation organisation which is a member of the corresponding aforementioned international organizations. In Europe this is the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA).
Question 8: Is a management system which complies with the relevant requirements of the accreditation standards equivalent to an ISO 9001 management system?
Testing, calibration and medical laboratories as well as inspection bodies:
In 2009 and 2013, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) confirmed explicitly in two jointly published statements that any management system that complies with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 (general testing laboratories) respectively ISO 15189 (medical laboratories) respectively ISO/IEC 17020 (inspection bodies), also meets the basic ISO 9001 requirements (see "Downloads" at the bottom of this page).
Certification bodies for management systems, persons and products:
The most recent editions of the accreditation standards for certification bodies for management systems, persons and products offer the bodies the option of operating a management system which is in strict accordance with ISO 9001 or a simpler management system that meets the minimum requirements listed in the standards. In the first case, the management system must therefore meet all requirements of the ISO 9001. With an accreditation this is confirmed. In the second case, a management system meets the ISO 9001 requirements in a few areas at most, but not in its entirety.
Question 9: How can you find out whether a particular product should be certified?
A product must generally be certified if a national or European law, a regulation or a normative basis explicitly require this.
In this case, in Switzerland, further information can be obtained from the Federal Office in charge of the specific product.
At European level, certification is mandatory for those products that require the CE-mark to be admitted to the market. In this case, the bodies that have been notified in Brussels - the so-called Notified Bodies - are involved. These must usually be accredited.
Question 10: How can the validity of certificates which have been issued by certification authorities in the country or abroad, be controlled?
On each certificate, the following information must be included, which allows the certificate itself and the issuing certification authority to be identified:
- certificate identification number;
- name and address of the certification body which issued the certificate;
- name and address of the organisation, the company, to which the certificate was issued.
- If the certificate was granted under an accreditation, the appropriate accreditation symbol must also appear together with an accreditation number.
With this information, the validity of the certificate can be checked with the relevant certification body. The validity of the accreditation of the scope of certification in question can be checked with the corresponding accreditation body.
Question 11: We have developed our own certification system and want to use it under the accreditation. Is this possible and how can we do it?
In principle, this is possible; however the certification system must be "suitable for accreditation". In order to do this, the Swiss Accreditation Service (SAS) must verify the "suitability for accreditation" of the certification system. Only then can a corresponding request for accreditation for the system be made. This procedure is mandatory for all private-sector certification schemes. Our Technical Certification Manager will be happy to inform you of the detailed procedure.
Certification systems which are published in the form of an international or national standard, a law or administrative regulation shall, as a rule, be considered "suitable for accreditation."
Question 12: We are a consulting company and in order to diversify we also wish to offer training and certifications in the future. Is this possible, in principle?
Training may be offered, provided it is not applicable to/subject to the requirement for subsequent certification and does not affect the certification services in any other unauthorized manner. The accreditation standards for certification (ISO/IEC 17021, 17024, 17065) are decisive in their respective scopes.
A certification body and any part of the same legal entity shall not offer or provide consulting services. Advice this context means all commercial consulting services which go beyond the support of certification customers in the certification process.
Question 13: Which requirements are used to accredit higher education institutions or diplomats in Switzerland?
Accreditation of higher education institutions or personnel in the diplomatic corps is based on entirely different principles and requirements than those of conformity assessment bodies. These accreditation systems have nothing to do with each other. The term accreditation is not a protected term and may be defined differently depending on requirements and area of application.
Question 14: What ist the difference between "accredited" and "non-accredited" certificates?
By issuing a certificate, a certification body confirms that a certified customer meets the requirements of a specified
However, this does not guarantee that the certification body complies with the requirements for the issuance of
certificates. The stakeholders have to be able to trust the statement of the certification body.
A certification body whose competence has been checked and confirmed by a (mostly governmental) monitoring body, such as
the Swiss Accreditation Service SAS, issues accredited certificates. Such accreditation confirms aspects such as reliability, independence, impartiality and professional competence of the certification body with regard to the entire certification process, the certified standard and the industrial sector of the customer.
An accredited certification is therefore an instrument where all players (certificate issuer(s), certified bodies, legislator and other stakeholders) cooperate in order to ensure quality and reliability.