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Accreditation of Inspection Agencies

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I recently received a query, off list, regarding accreditation.  The
question and discussion follow:

At 09:31 AM 3/23/98 -0800, you wrote:
>Responding to your recent post on the seaoc service, I'd like to know
>more about the Accreditation of Inspection Agencies.  I, too, have had
>"frustrating" experiences with testing agencies.


The 2nd largest accreditation body in the US and the 4th largest globally,
the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), is now
offering this accreditation.
I approached ICBOES and they developed a preliminary study which included a
good working plan, but staff was turned down at the Board level for the
implementation of this program.  The Board members were afraid of the
assumption of individual Inspectors being accredited when ICBOES accredits
the agency the Inspector works for since ICBO(although a separate
corporation from ICBOES) currently issues Special Inspector Certification
examinations.
The actual accreditation process is quite involved.  The development of a
Quality Manual is the key issue and A2LA is quite specific on those
requirements.  They send evaluators to your offices and into the field to
examine the Inspectors on site.  They review the reporting procedures, the
recording procedures, the disciplinary procedures, they conduct external
audits and review the policy for internal auditing and monitor all of these
programs within the Quality Manual on scheduled periodic visits and reserve
the right to perform unscheduled audits. They review our Inspectors'
qualifications and examine our procedure for monitoring and tracking the
status of their licenses and continuing education. They review the Agency
Library and inspection equipment ensuring that we are maintaining current
editions and calibrations as apropos.

This is a huge task and took the better part of a year to establish,
requiring specially qualified key personnel, including a Staff Engineer.
The goal was to be able to offer a better solution to the Engineering
Community, one that conforms with the ideals contained within the ISO 9000
concept of Conformity Assurance.  A system of checks and balances.

They issue accreditation for the areas requested so we are accredited for
all the construction disciplines we inspect.  We are accredited to the A2LA
"Standard for Accreditation of Inspection Agencies in Construction" and
maintain additional accreditation to ASTM E329-95C, "Standard Specification
for Agencies Engaged in the Testing and/or Inspection of Materials Used in
Construction".  The A2LA standard is far more specific and stringent of the
2 and uses the ASTM standard as a basis.

You'll note that the ASTM standard also makes provisions for Test Labs to
be accredited BOTH as Test Labs and as Inspection Agencies.  This is
entirely possible providing the Quality Manual describes the procedures and
methods used to avoid potential conflicts of interest.  There should be
conformity within the Inspection Community AND the Testing Community.  Test
Lab accreditation is available from several sources including the City of
Los Angeles and ICBOES, but although the Test Labs do perform inspections,
inspection is not part of their existing accreditation and requires
additional accreditation procedures.  This has been a little known fact for
many years, the fact that the Test Labs are NOT accredited to perform
inspections but really just do inspections as a sideline for their Test Lab
business.  Quite honestly, they may be doing a fine job, but if that's the
case, and I believe it is, they should seek and obtain accreditation,
establishing all the checks and balances inherent within an approved system.

Since this has come to light within the past 2 years, I have been
personally subjected to some pretty extreme diatribes and even threats.
Nobody wants to make the extra effort voluntarily, unless there is a
reason.  The Engineering Community sets the standards.  More and more of
the Engineers in Southern California have become aware and are beginning to
specify "the names of the individuals or firms that will be performing
Special Inspections" (UBC 106) with the additional caveat "or another
approved Inspection Agency accredited to ASTM E329-95C".

April 8 in Santa Barbara at the Fess Parker Doubletree, the TriCounty
Chapter of SEAOSC has asked me to discuss these issues.  Perhaps you can
join us.



R. Sandy Pringle       STRUCTURAL INSPECTION CONSULTANTS Inc. 
sandyp(--nospam--at)sic-inc.com 	 (800)598-1970    Fax(310)376-5294 
http://www.sic-inc.com	 Hermosa Beach & Redondo Beach, CA

Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their 
simplification. -Martin H. Fischer