When a company introduces a management system and it wants to have its conformity certified or to verify the conformity of a product, it must undergo an audit conducted by an independent external body. The same applies for individuals wanting to have their knowledge and skills certified.
These audits are carried out by certification bodies. The individuals responsible for carrying out audits are called “auditors”. First certification is usually achieved through an initial audit. Depending on the type of certification in question (management systems, people or products, processes and services), the initial audit is followed by supervisory audits conducted at regular intervals (usually yearly) during the certification validity period. If certification needs to be continued beyond its period of validity, it must be renewed by a renewal audit before it expires.
In some sectors, the law or a contract may require certification bodies to be accredited for the work they do.
Accreditation means formal recognition of a body's technical and organizational competence to provide a specific service, defined in the scope of the accreditation. In Switzerland, nationally and internationally recognized accreditations for certification bodies are exclusively granted by the Swiss Accreditation Service SAS.
Bases of certification
The conformity assessment carried out in connection with certification (of a management system, a person or a product, process or service) is always carried out based on predefined requirement criteria. These criteria may exist in the form of a standard, a law, an order or another technical specification. The criteria promulgated by organizations, companies or private individuals are called “certification programs under private law”, and those promulgated by standardization bodies or authorities are called “regulatory certification programs” (or “under public law”).
Source: Swiss Accreditation Service SAS, last modified: June 29, 2016