Standardization and conformity assessment are two sides of the same coin. The goal of industry and business is to sell products and services successfully on the market. For this purpose, they must demonstrate that these products and services comply with the relevant regulations and the requirements of the marketplace.
The most efficient way to show compliance is to use voluntary standards that are in line with relevant regulations and recognized by the individual national regulators. In this context, the ISO/IEC Directives stipulate the so-called “neutrality principle”. This principle insists that specifications in normative documents should be written so that conformity can be assessed by any interested party, whether by a manufacturer or supplier (first party); user or purchaser (second party); or by an independent body (third party, which includes the IEC CA Systems).
For this reason, normative documents that contain specifications for products and services are not permitted to contain provisions for conformity assessment activities other than testing regimes. To avoid any conflict of interest, the IEC Statutes and Rules of Procedure have established a separation of powers by entrusting the Standardization Management Board (SMB) to manage IEC Standards development and the CAB to manage IEC Conformity Assessment.
CAB discussed this topic based on a recent incident whereby an ISO/IEC Standard at the FDIS stage needed to be stopped because it severely infringed on the “neutrality principle”. Having to stop a standard at such a late stage is very regrettable due to the time and effort that is being lost.
For this reason, problematic standards need to be detected and corrected as early as possible. IEC TCs should avoid spending resources in specifying CA requirements as in the end the standard can fail approval or may need to be modified when IEC editors become aware of a conflict with the Directives.
A new process negotiated between CAB, SMB, ISO/TMB and ISO/CASCO secretariats caught this standard before its publication. As a next step technical officers, chairs, secretaries and convenors need to receive adequate training and access to automated keyword search tools to “catch” standards that do not comply with the Directives.
CAB is currently coordinating an effort in this respect.
Standards lead to quality, while conformity assessment leads to proven quality.
The distinction is important because national regulators require demonstration of conformity to standards. IEC is the only international standards development organization (SDO) to deliver globally standardized conformity assessment services. This creates value in many countries and facilitates world trade.
CAB Working Group 18 “new CA services radar” was put in place during the IEC General Meeting in Vladivostok. The IEC CA radar is a tool to identify future needs for international conformity assessment services and to track the market’s readiness to adopt such services.
WG 18 is tasked with establishing a list of sectors/applications that will need global CA services now or in the future. The group was also asked to prioritize the list and evaluate the types of services that might be required. In this way, IEC can anticipate new services and bring them online in a timely and sustainable manner and thus create value.
To collect information, the group put in place a procedure to pro-actively collect feedback from the IEC CA Systems. However, this feedback procedure was deemed too complex and sophisticated for CA Systems to provide actionable information and CAB asked WG 18 to review and simplify it. The revised bidirectional feedback process was approved by CAB at this meeting.
In the IEC Statutes and Rules of Procedures (SRoP) Council, through the Council Board, delegates the responsibility for all IEC CA activities to CAB. CAB, in collaboration with a Council Board subgroup, is now reviewing the governance of the IEC CA activities.
Questions have been raised about the level of knowledge of conformity assessment in general and the IEC Conformity Assessment Systems at the higher governance levels that oversee CAB.
Proposals will be made to reinforce the SRoP in this respect.
Peer assessment is essential for mutual recognition within the IEC Conformity Assessment Systems and schemes. It is integral to the rules of all IEC CA Systems and outlined in the IEC CA policy document IEC CAB P01 as defined by ISO/IEC 17040. While accreditation may be used as a factor in streamlining CA Systems assessment it is never mandatory.
However, at the early stages of its development, IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating for Use in Renewable Energy Applications had been granted an exception to this rule. This was because at this early stage there were not sufficient peers available to conduct peer assessment adequately. Now that the System has matured, CAB has requested IECRE to review its governance documents and modify them as necessary to remove the mandatory requirement for national accreditation.
The IEC Ambassador to the EU for Cybersecurity, Mr Wolfgang Niedziella provided an update of EU cyber security activities and the development of a cyber security certification scheme under the European Cybersecurity Act. There was also discussion on the need to transform the IEC 62443 series of standards into horizontal standards, indicating that this would limit the development of multiple sector cyber security standards and thus simplify the cyber security landscape and allow for practical cyber security CA solutions.
Elections for CAB positions was held during the IEC Council Meeting. New members elected into their first term of CAB were; Mr Thorsten Arnhold (Germany), Mr Hiroshi Takahashi (Japan), Mr Stephen Keeling (Australia), Mr Thijs VanZanten (Netherlands), Mr Torbjorn Hoffstad (Norway), Mr Georgie Feodoridi (Russia). Mr Marty Cole (Canada) was re-elected to his second term. Mr Shawn Paulsen (Canada) was also re-elected to his second term as Vice-President IEC and Chair or the CAB.
This year’s IEC Thomas A. Edison Award winner for conformity assessment was Mr Mark Coppler, former Chair of IEC TC 31. Mark has championed the formalization of an official relationship between IEC TC 31 and IECEx with much personal effort. This approach was accepted by IEC SMB in 2017.
The successful service delivery of the approved IECEx Certification Bodies (ExCB) and approved IECEx Test Laboratories (ExTL) is heavily reliant upon common interpretations of the standards published by IEC/TC 31. This interpretation work must be undertaken by the responsible Working Group (WG) or Maintenance Team (MT) of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 31 and its subcommittees (SCs). Mark served as the communication link between the conformity assessment side and the standards development side of the IEC. His contribution allowed ExCBs and ExTLs to deliver higher quality services, which resulted in a higher level of safety of tested products and supplied services.