The Question?

Is overseas ILAC accreditation to ISO 17020 same as NATA accreditation to ISO 17025?

The Answer,

The answer is complex.  The two accreditation standards are not technically identical, so at first glance the answer appears to be ‘No’.  But both 17020 and 17025 aim to establish confidence in the competence of a facility to perform and produce reliable outcomes.  The two standards share a common ancestor and are technically very similar, covering almost the same technical elements.  Some of these elements are also addressed in the requirements detailed in the NDT technical standards.  Whether NDT involves more testing or inspection will depend upon the job, and so accreditation bodies vary in their approach to the appropriate framework for accreditation of non-destructive testing.  Some accreditation bodies apply ISO 17025, some ISO 17020, and others allow either standard to be applied.    Accreditation bodies that are party to international recognition arrangements (through ILAC or APLAC) will follow similar processes of regular peer assessment of their accredited facilities, as required by ISO/IEC 17011, regardless of the accreditation standard that is applied.  So an accredited facility will be operating to a credible level of performance, assessed by a peer against the detailed requirements of the technical standards described in the Scope of Accreditation.  The two accreditation standards can therefore be regarded as functionally equivalent when applied to non-destructive testing.   In Australia, NATA provides accreditation for NDT facilities in accordance with ISO 17025. 

While a company requesting non-destructive services may prefer to specify a particular accreditation standard if they feel this is warranted on the basis of the technical differences between the standards, perhaps it more important to consider the detail of the scope of accreditation.  Differences in the detail technical requirements outlined in the scopes of accreditation may cause variations in performance between facilities.  Differences in technical requirements may affect the accuracy or sensitivity of the testing.  Users of reports from overseas providers, even where these are accredited, should check carefully to ensure that they are getting technically equivalent services.


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