My first time working with an ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) accredited program proved to be an ongoing learning experience. I have worked with certification programs before that had the approval of the U.S. Department of Labor, so I understood that following a set of policies and procedures strengthen the professional value of a certification program. However, every accreditation process is different, and can be intricately involved – but necessary for the program’s success.
One of the first steps I took when starting this position, and one I highly recommend, was taking the 2-day online ANAB course “Understanding the Requirements and Concepts of ISO/IEC 17024:2012.” There are 10 major sections within the standard that must be followed to obtain and maintain accreditation. The course went through each section, explaining the purpose and context, and provided working examples of each one in practice. At the end of the course, you are required to take and pass a quiz in order to receive a Certificate of Completion.
During the course, it was explained that all programs must be reviewed for annual “surveillance” to enforce compliance. This entails a team selected by ANAB to carefully review your processes and any changes that may have taken place over the past year. Every five years, the program must go through the full approval process again, called “reaccreditation.” This past year, the Energy Management Association (EMA) experienced a regular surveillance year, and the AABC Commissioning Group (ACG) had a much more involved process for full reaccreditation.
I was more involved with ACG approval, but did assist a little in the EMA review. Both applications required tons of documentation, and were due on the same date.
The first step was to assist in gathering all of the supporting documents that needed to be reviewed/submitted as a part of the long application. There were approximately 50 items that were required in the form of check lists, resumes, organizational charts, marketing samples, budgets, and more.
We also were required to conduct an internal audit of our program. This involved making sure that based upon our procedure manual and our certification manual that we were tracking how the program was being maintained, and if we were following our approved procedures.
Once we collected all documents and completed all of the requirements, we digitally uploaded the application with all attachments. ANAB then scheduled a team to sit down with us and review our application piece by piece. This was a two-day process that you will want to be fully prepared to answer any question under the sun. ANAB found 5 items that we were not in compliance with the standards and requested that we make corrections before approving our application. Only after correcting each non-conformity did our application receive an approval.
I think the big takeaway I found in going through the process was the importance of fully understanding our own procedures and certification manuals. You must be able to clearly communicate your process to the ANAB reviewers, and they WILL ask those questions! Secondly, understanding the importance of maintaining all of our ANAB logs and documentation is a must. ANAB is huge on documentation, and it can be a little overwhelming how many ANAB documents must be updated after a simple edit to your certification policy manual.
Moving forward, I made some changes to how the files are being stored to make it easier to see what is the most up-to-date approved version of each file. Having a year under my belt working for these organizations, I know I will be better prepared and involved for the next ANAB review.