Here at IntaForensics, we provide quality as a service, including support and guidance for companies looking to obtain ISO accreditation and certification. Working as part of the Forensic Access Group, we operate under an established and integrated management system which meets the requirements of a wide range of international quality standards.
We are often asked about the range of quality and consultancy services that our experts can offer and recently we sat down with Kay Murfin, Head of Quality Management for the Group. She answered our most frequently asked questions surrounding our Lima Forensic Case Management Solution, quality consultancy and certification.
What is accreditation?
“Accreditation is formal assessment and recognition by an independent authority of the competence to perform specific tasks or services in accordance with a particular standard or regulation. It is specific with respect to the activities that are covered under the relevant standard, which is called the Scope of Accreditation.”
“For accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 within the UK, the regulatory authority is UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service). The organisation seeking accreditation undergoes a rigorous assessment process to achieve recognition and then once accredited, UKAS will carry out formal regular surveillance visits to ensure ongoing compliance.”
How would accreditation benefit me?
“Accreditation provides confidence to customers over the quality and integrity of services covered within the scope of the accreditation.”
“Implementation of a Quality Management System (QMS) to meet the requirements of ISO 17025 means that in-house working practices are validated and delivered in a standardised manner ensuring consistency, objectivity, impartiality, and traceability throughout. This leads to high quality of service, overall efficiency gains, accuracy of measurements, innovation, and continuous improvements.”
What’s the difference between accreditation and certification?
“Accreditation is formal recognition by an independent authority of the competence to perform activities as detailed on the schedule of accreditation, whereas certification is a written assurance by an accredited third party that processes or systems conform to specific requirements.”
“Additionally, the accreditation process involves a 4-year assessment program with annual surveillance visits, whereas certification generally lasts for 3 years and involves annual certification audits that are carried out by accredited certification bodies (accredited by UKAS).”
What is a Quality Management System (QMS)?
“A quality management system (QMS) consists of documented processes and procedures, detailing activities and responsibilities required to ensure an organisation’s operations meet customer and regulatory requirements. The QMS must be maintained and developed to evidence continual improvement in its effectiveness.”
“Essentially the QMS defines how a company operates and how all services are delivered to the customer.”
Controlled documentation provides the structure of the QMS with policies and procedures evidencing standard methods and processes and forms and records ensuring consistency in how staff are recording important information.”
What is a schedule of accreditation?
“The technical activities covered by accreditation are detailed in a schedule of accreditation which is published and maintained on the UKAS website. The wording on the schedule will describe exactly what activities are covered by accreditation.”
“These accredited activities must be supported by robust validation of methods, maintenance and ongoing calibration of equipment, and comprehensive training and competency assessments of the individuals conducting those methods.”
“It is not enough to simply complete a training course; you must be able to evidence that you’re maintaining your competence. My technical expertise in forensics lies in the chemical enhancement of marks and impressions. I have certificates to show that I completed training and possessed the required knowledge, but I haven’t worked in a fingerprint lab for nearly 15 years now, would you say that I’m still competent? Absolutely not! Refresher training required and then evidence of satisfactory completion of competency assessments before I can be let loose in the lab again, and then re-assessment of competence on a regular basis.”
Where does the Lima Forensic Case Management fit into this?
“There are many requirements of ISO 17025 that address how casework needs to be managed in relation to protocols like exhibit continuity, case records and contemporaneous note taking; it is important that information is stored safely and securely and this is where Lima Forensic Case Management comes into its own. Lima provides a comprehensive case management solution which stores case records under unique reference numbers, supports exhibit continuity records, asset registers and traceability of equipment and software tools, training and competency records and a whole lot more, plus the system is entirely auditable which ensures the integrity of the information.”
Can you tell us about your consultancy services?
“A key part of my role is to support and assist my consultancy clients with their own accreditation and certification journeys. Any organisation aiming to achieve accreditation to ISO 17025 or certification to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 etc. will be faced with an intense process of establishing a quality management system and addressing technical, legal, and environmental requirements. Parts of these standards do need a degree of interpretation to relate the clauses to an organisation’s operations and this is where I can help.”
“I have worked in quality for almost 15 years and have developed quality management systems within a number of organisations for various quality standards. I have been present at and have managed many assessment visits and external audits and have presented my concepts to audiences in forensic science and other industries. I can provide advice and guidance on embedding quality within day-to-day operations and help organisations to benefit from their quality endeavours. Quality standards improve the way companies operate, offer confidence and assurance to customers that they are receiving good services and valid results, and facilitate continual improvement in all aspects of business.”
Whether you are starting out on your pathway to accreditation or certification, looking to extend your current scope, applying for another standard or simply need advice and support to address existing systems, get in touch with our team via firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 02477 717 780.