Behind the scenes of our rigorous UKAS accreditation process
Taking over the quality assurance (QA) role and liaising with the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) was a daunting task as I had some pretty big shoes to fill.
The post was previously held by the late Malcolm Duncan, who created and maintained our quality management system (QMS) for 23 years, so I wanted to ensure that we continued his good work and regained accreditation.
It was also quite an emotional step as Malcolm was a much-loved colleague who provided excellent support. There were times when I had to look back on his emails and documents from previous UKAS visits, so in a way he was still guiding me.
It helped that I’d assisted Malcom with the QMS administration for a few years so I already had a good idea of what was expected.
I also had a good working relationship with our QA adviser, Haig Hamilton, who helps ensure our QMS is functional and adheres to BS EN ISO 9001 Quality Management System and BS EN ISO/IEC 17020 Requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection.
To get me up to speed, I took part in a two-day online awareness course with two UKAS instructors. We covered all aspects of ISO/IEC 17020 and I was pleased that most of it was so familiar – Malcolm had clearly been an excellent tutor.
Laying essential groundwork
Our in-person UKAS assessment may have taken place in October, but preparations for it started at the beginning of the year, with the main challenges being reissuing the QA manual and creating a SharePoint site to host the electronic version.
Major personnel changes in Technical Services had meant the manual was out of date, so Haig recommended that we start afresh – this made sense, but was a lot of work!
However, building the online version helped me learn new skills and designing the document storage system gave us a great starting point for issuing the new manual itself.
One thing that was out of my comfort zone was updating the team during our regular meetings – I felt like the new girl but everyone was supportive and agreed that making the QMS digital was a huge improvement that would make it easer to access and update.
As well as updating the manual, other tasks included:
Liaising with the British Standards Institution (BSI) and Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to ensure all our BS 7671 resources were relevant
Storing and recording Amendment 2 certificates and reviewing others
Calibrating all test equipment and updating the register
Recording our Technical Advisers’ (TAs) internal audit assessments.
Enjoying invaluable input
As the work progressed, it was invaluable having Haig as an independent auditor. He’s been our QA adviser since the start of our accreditation journey and patiently answered questions and pointed me in the right direction.
Haig’s deep knowledge of our QMS helped assure us that we were carrying out our inspection service according to ISO/IEC 17020 and that our operating procedures were compliant and maintained to the high standard required.
During our first management review meeting, it was also good to go over the minutes from the previous year and see all the improvements and closed actions that had been made.
Haig visited us a number of times to carry out his audit, with SELECT providing him with a sample of applicant Member assessment paperwork, including all correspondence, and some examples of periodic inspections of existing Members.
His audit of our procedures and process for technical inspections was a great exercise to check that we were performing according to the high standard of ISO/IEC 17020 and helped us prepare for the two-day UKAS surveillance visit itself.
Coming under scrutiny
The first day of our visit was an office-based assessment, with samples of our QMS manual and procedures rigorously reviewed, along with evidence of our continued use of internal audits, current training records and document management.
As well as checking that SELECT had sufficient resources to carry out the inspection service, the UKAS assessors reviewed job descriptions and ensured that our TAs were qualified and underwent continual professional development (CPD) to meet the required standard of BS 7671. This year’s Toolbox Talks were given as an example of such CPD, along with relevant IET webinars and courses.
The second day was the site witnessed assessment, conducted with a randomly chosen TA, during which UKAS accompanied our own Robert McGoogan to a Member technical inspection with a number of electric vehicle (EV) charge point installations.
Robert was given a glowing testament for his competence in the requirements of inspection and testing to the requirements of BS 7671, with the assessors commenting that he was a credit to the association.
Reaping the rewards
After all this hard work, we were delighted when it was announced that our accreditation had been recommended for another year.
As well as giving Members confidence that our inspections are carried out properly, UKAS accreditation helps consumers reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, improves productivity and also sends the right message about maintaining best practice, professionalism and integrity.
We think Malcolm would be proud that we have achieved accreditation yet again, and we’ll now strive to continue the great work that he accomplished over the years.