Certification means that an impartial expert evaluates whether the object of certification (product or management system) meets a clearly established standard. If this is indeed the case, it is laid down in an official document: the certificate.
Agencies acting as impartial experts in certification are called certification bodies (CBs). The Council for Accreditation (CA) supervises the certification bodies. The evaluation is done using ground rules laid down in the certification scheme, which have been approved by a committee of experts in which all interested parties are represented. The Dutch version of the certification scheme is leading. A summary of changes in the certification scheme and transitional period for implementation is available on the Dutch website.
A certification body issues a certificate if it has confidence that an organization satisfies the requirements in the standard and can continue to do so. At least once a year there is an audit to see if the organization still meets the standard. If it does not, the certificate may be withdrawn. A certificate is issued for three years, with a complete re-audit in the third year.
The certificate allows an organization to demonstrate that it meets all the requirements in the standard. This makes the certificate a valuable tool for communication, since various other parties have an interest in an organization’s OHS performance, and thereby in the certificate.
One requirement for certification is that the organization’s OHS policy is aimed at minimizing health and safety risks and at continual improvement. The organization must therefore demonstrate that it has an idea of the possibilities for reducing risks and that and includes these possibilities in formulating its OHS objectives. The desire to improve must be apparent from these objectives.