We often get asked by our customers whether we offer service and maintenance alongside our engineering inspection services. We decided to put together this blog in order to explain what the reasons are for United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) 'Type A' bodies not providing maintenance services, why we believe that this is important, what the benefits are and how it could affect your business.
A UKAS 'Type A' accreditation is probably one of the most important signs to prove that the prospective inspection supplier you’re looking at, or currently working with, is truly dedicated to providing full independence in their inspections and provide you with inspection reports that are truly free of any 'fear or favour'.
UKAS 'Type A' accreditation determines the independence of the inspection service that your supplier will provide. It will also demonstrate their dedication to meeting the highest level of service standards with the ability to deliver inspection & testing services, uninfluenced by commercial interests and/or operational influences.
HSE guidance states that the person carrying out lifting equipment inspections should not be the same person carrying out maintenance work on your equipment, as their impartiality could be compromised. Therefore, they need to be “sufficiently independent and impartial to ensure that examinations are made without fear or favour.” (HSE)
What does a UKAS accreditation mean?
The easiest way to determine a company’s independence is by asking for their scope of UKAS accreditation and schedule. UKAS is the national accreditation body responsible for determining the technical competence and integrity of organisations and their compliance with ISO17020.
UKAS assesses and accredits the competence of inspection bodies to carry out specified fields and types of inspections. This will ensure that the required standards are maintained.
Assessment of the competence of an inspection body is carried out using document review, visits to the inspection body’s central administrative office/other relevant locations and on-site assessment of inspections. The purpose of the assessment is to determine whether an inspection body complies with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17020:2012 and applicable Requirements and Guidance (RG) documents. UKAS uses technical assessors with the relevant knowledge and experience to assess the competence of the inspection body to perform the inspections for which accreditation is sought.
Following accreditation, UKAS will check for continued compliance with UKAS requirements by carrying out surveillance visits to inspection bodies, initially six monthly after accreditation and then annually, with a full reassessment in the fourth year.
What are the different UKAS accreditations for inspection companies?
UKAS classifies inspection companies into three different categories – Type A, Type B and Type C.
The most independent level of accreditation - Type A - is only awarded to inspection bodies who hold no maintenance or servicing responsibilities. It can never be awarded to an organisation that has an in-house inspection department (even if it offers inspection services to other third parties).
Most importantly, Type A accreditation is given only to companies that solely provide testing, inspection and certification services. It is impossible for a Type A accredited organisation to also offer you maintenance services.
Type B accreditation covers companies that have separate and identifiable entities of inspection and maintenance within their organisation. They can then only provide inspections to their parent company.
Companies that hold the Type C accreditation would, again, have identifiable maintenance and inspection entities, but may not be within a separate part of the organisation. Type C Inspection Companies can also supply inspection services to parties other than the parent organisation.
While, it’s acceptable to employ the same company to carry out both the maintenance and inspections of your plant and equipment, the minimum requirement they need to meet, to align to a Type C Inspection Body, is to have two different people completing your inspection and maintenance services that report to two different parts of their organisation.
Depending on the applicable regulations and/or contractual requirements there may be limitations on the scope that UKAS Type B and Type C bodies can deliver to you.
The only way to have absolute certainty that any defects or observations found will be reported on without 'fear or favour', or any conflict of interest, is to employ a UKAS Type A Independent Inspection Body. This will ensure any deficiencies in the maintenance/repair regimes employed will be noted and reported upon adequately and independently.
Accreditations to look out for
The best way to formally assess a potential inspection supplier is to examine the accreditations and certifications they hold. This will demonstrate that they are able to carry out engineering inspections according to statutory and any contractual requirements.
Below is a list of some of the most relevant accreditations applicable to an engineering inspection supplier.
Additional, equally essential UKAS accreditations to look out for
UKAS is the national accreditation body as appointed by the Accreditation Regulations 2009 (SI No 3155/2009) and the EU Regulation (EC) 765/2008. The organisation’s well-established, transparent and repeatable assessment procedures make their accreditations one of the most respected qualifications to have when it comes to engineering inspections. The most important accreditations for a supplier to hold from UKAS include:
- Type A Inspection Body (ISO/IEC 17020:2012) for Pressure Equipment, Welding Procedures and Welder Approvals, Lifting Equipment, Local Exhaust Ventilation Equipment, Power Presses
- Testing Laboratory (ISO/IEC 17025:2005) for Mechanical, Metallurgical and Non-Destructive Testing of metals; and
- Quality Management System Certification Body (ISO/IEC17021:2011) for audit and certification of quality management systems to ISO 9001.
You have an obligation to choose an inspection supplier that meets the necessary requirements to be deemed competent in their field. Not only this, but you also need to ensure that all Engineer Surveyors coming on your site are adequately qualified and capable to perform the inspection and testing service you’ve hired them to do.
Ensure you’re choosing the right engineering supplier with our free guide ‘Essential questions to ask your engineering inspection supplier'.