Control agencies, with their impartiality, independence and confidentiality, perform a vital public service: that of ensuring public safety at the same time as promoting trust.

Functions of Control Agencies

As government administrations are responsible for statutory inspection it goes without saying that they are also responsible for ensuring the suitability and good working practices of those individuals and organisations working in this field. Any failure to take such a responsibility seriously could risk the safety of individuals, property and/or the environment.

It is important that the technical capacity of control agencies is accredited by a single technical arbitrator (in Spain, this is the National Accreditation Body, ENAC) so that the same technical criteria are applied across the board.

 The Spanish National Accreditation Body (ENAC)

For Authorised Control Agencies (ACA) to fulfill their function appropriately, ENAC must implement a series of international quality-assessment standards, such as the ISO 17000 series. The most important of these standards is ISO 17020, which is used to evaluate inspection agencies.

Engineer inspecting machinery in factory --- Image by © Image Source/Corbis

ENAC’s key role is to set the technical performance criteria for the ACAs, and these criteria cannot differ from one ACA to another. Any lack of standardisation results in a lack of public trust.

For this reason, ENAC should have protocols in place for evaluating control agencies’ operating procedures, with clear and transparent criteria about the minimum requirements that each control agency should meet. The ultimate aim should be for the same technical criteria required  of public facilities and products to be applied consistency to all.

To achieve this goal, inspection models should exist for each type of inspection. These models should include the level of training required by inspection personnel, which measurements should be taken and/or tests performed in the facilities, and any minimum requirements that need to be met.

Details of previous inspection models can be found in standards such as those published by AENOR’s Technical Standardisation Committee CTN-192, but most importantly they should be agreed in advance between ENAC and the government administration.

Putting such models in place would give control agencies prior knowledge of the minimum standards to which to operate and the assurance that if they meet them, the activity will be safe, there will be no deviations or non-conformities, and they will therefore save time and money. On this basis, control agencies will be able to improve their efficiency by applying better, more tailored technology and drawing on the expertise of trained and experienced personnel.

Profile of a Control Body

  • Inspectors must have a minimum level of training, as established by the government administration
  • Inspectors must be equipped with all necessary equipment, in good working order
  • Control agencies should keep detailed technical records of all items inspected, drawing up templates to collect the common minimum information required
  • For each item inspected, the company must have customer delivery models as a final inspection document
  • Control agencies must be able to demonstrate their ability to manage their inspection workloads as well as sufficient economic solvency and adequate insurance policies