Why system 5 product certification makes the difference

CertAlarm’s president Wouter Blom explains why the CertAlarm rules require a system 5 certification scheme combining factory inspection, quality management review, product testing and ongoing surveillance in one package.

What is system 5 product certification?

To certify products is in principle an independent possibility. Everybody is entitled to declare that a product is meeting some mentioned specification(s). Even the supplier or manufacturer himself may issue such a certificate. Of course such a self-declaration is of little to no market value.

It becomes more respected if a third party company issues a certificate. A third party adds independency to the statement on the certificate. To show that a third party is involved, the product certificate will bear the logo and is signed by the third party.

But how do you know that the third party certification body is really independent? That guarantee can be supplied by another third party checking that the certification body fulfills some minimum requirements in terms of performance and processes. That supervisory level is called accreditation. An accreditation body is also checking whether the claim on the certificate is really correct. So a certificate issued by an accredited certification body ensures independency and that the statement is true. To become an accredited certification body the accreditation body has to draw the conclusion that the certification body is meeting all the requirements described in standard ISO/IEC 17065. If on the product certificate next to the logo of the certification body a logo of an accreditation body is fixed, then the certification body is accredited.

But that’s still not enough to be sure that the product involved is meeting the requirements listed on the certificate. Why not? Because there is a possibility that the accredited certification body received a so-called “golden sample” and that the product involved looks like the certified product, but is in fact of a lower quality. To solve that problem, there are – according to ISO/IEC 17067 – different certification systems requiring different levels of continued compliance of the product. The lowest level is system 1. With this certification, the certification body tells us: “I once saw a product meeting the requirements listed on the certificate”. Such a certificate implies the risk as indicated in the paragraph above. The highest level of product certification is system 5. In system 5 the products are assessed for ongoing conformity and the certification body has the following obligations:

a) Testing or inspection of samples from the open market;
b) Testing or inspection of samples from the factory;
c) Assessment of the production;
d) Management system audits combined with random tests or inspections.

Due to these obligations the certification body is continuously involved in checking the declared compliance of the product. The chance to have a non-compliant product on the market is now not zero, but tremendously reduced by the certification body acting as a quality watcher. The levels between system 1 and system 5 (2, 3 and 4) require different combinations of the four methods of surveillance described above. The reliability of the product certificate is increasing step by step depending on the chosen system.

CertAlarm has chosen for system 5 because the market of Fire Safety & Security products requires that. On every CertAlarm product certificate you will find that system 5 has been applied together with three logos: the CertAlarm logo as owner of the CertAlarm Scheme, the logo of the certification body which issued the certificate, and a logo of its accreditation body. This labels CertAlarm the most rigorous EU-wide scheme in the market, ensuring increased certainty for manufacturers, installers and end users.