BREAKING – this story will be updated as additional information arrives.

In its official report to Brazilian mining company Vale, the certification body TUV SUD cited compliance with ISO 31000, the international risk management standard, when certifying the dam located at the Córrego do Feijão mine. That dam collapsed, killing over 180 people. Two TUV SUD auditors were arrested and one admitted he falsified the certification report out of fear for losing his job if Vale fired TUV SUD.

It was later reported that Vale had previously filed a prior certification firm who failed the dam, before hiring TUV SUD.

ISO 31000 is the international standard on risk management, and has proven to be one of the most controversial ISO standards. The original draft of the standard was not developed by a formal Technical Committee, per ISO’s rules of procedures, but instead by the closed-door “Technical Management Board,” which is not answerable to any international delegations. It is believed that the standard was largely the work of a single Australian consultant, Kevin Knight, who holds controversial positions on the concepts of risk and risk management.

ISO eventually formed an official TC to manage the standard’s later revision, and that process broke down into heated conflict between two camps within the committee, one led by Switzerland’s Bruno Bruehwiler. The conflicts seemed centered on the radical concept of “positive risk” and whether the ISO 31000 standard would be re-written to allow third-party certification. During those meetings, TC representatives threatened to sue each other for defamation during intense shouting matches, while Kevin Knight — the Chair of the TC — trotted the globe appearing at seminars and trade shows, all but ignoring the conflict in his committee.

The aim to convert ISO 31000 into a standard to be used for certification is being pushed hard by BSI, the world’s largest certification body. BSI holds important positions in the TC responsible for the ISO 31000 standard. A representative of BSI personally hand-picked Knight’s successor, all but ensuring their eventual goals are realized.

ISO has tried to market ISO 31000 as its next flagship, alongside the ISO 9001 standard for quality management systems. The world had received ISO 31000 coolly, however, given its controversial positions that run counter to many entire industries.

ISO 31000 has been criticized having been developed solely to invent a certification scheme overnight, and an attempt by ISO to standardize an intellectual concept that does not lend itself to objective, third-party certifications. Oxebridge has argued that using ISO 31000 in third-party certifications will increase the risk of deadly disasters, something seemingly borne out by the Vale collapse.

The Vale dam collapse, and TUV SUD’s role in it, is still being investigated, including whether any other ISO standards or certifications were involved.

 

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