[Updated April 7; originally published Feb 7, 2017.]

Oxebridge has called for a 10-year moratorium on the requirement of ISO quality certifications as a condition of bidding on any US Federal government contract, in a white paper submitted to Congressional Representatives currently sitting on the US House Committee on Space, Science and Technology.

The Oxebridge argument maintains that within the United States, both the standards development process and certification accreditation scheme are overseen by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In February of 2012, ANSI CEO Joe Bhatia testified before the SST Committee and ensured the Congress and American people that all was well under his watch. Oxebridge is prepared to argue otherwise, showing how ANSI was at the wheel during the Takata airbag scandal, Deepwater Horizon disaster, Space Shuttle Columbia explosion and even the Boeing Dreamliner battery fires. In all cases, companies at the heart of these disasters were certified to one or more ISO schemes, such as ISO 9001, under accreditations issued by ANSI’s accreditation body, ANAB,  using standards developed under ANSI accredited committees.

Oxebridge argues that the auditors involved had unprecedented access to design records, manufacturing procedures, inspection and test reports, as well as full access to employees at every level of the certified organizations, from line operators to senior management. Yet not a single registrar auditors has ever been asked a single question during any investigation in any of these disasters.

ANSI accredited “technical advisory groups” are also at the heart of the latest round of ISO standards updates, such as that of ISO 9001:2015, which many have criticized for being needlessly complicated, in order to sell supporting consulting services offered by the leadership of these committees. ANSI has refused to investigate these claims, instead demanding that arcane procedures be exhausted first, and then that “filing fees” be submitted to launch any investigations.

Oxebridge has communicated directly with Mr. Bhatia on these issues, including one regarding potentially illegal fundraising that occurred under ANSI oversight, but Mr. Bhatia has either ignored the issues or delegated them to lower level functionaries.

The ISO certification industry is estimated to be a $1.5 billion annual market  in the US alone, with that number likely ready to double — at least — during the next few years, due to the updating of the ISO 9001, AS9100 and IATF 16949 standards. Certifications, training and consulting always experience massive increases when a new revision of such standards is released.

Understanding that the main driver of ISO certifications in the US is government mandate — whereby a Federal contract will require ISO 9001 or similar certification as a minimum requirement for companies wanting to bid on the contracts — Oxebridge is targeting this as the means of forcing ANSI to correct its structural problems. In the white paper, Oxebridge requests to testify at a special hearing of the SST Committee, where it will call for a 10-year moratorium on such certifications, with a 5-year “gut check” to gauge progress. The moratorium will stay in effect, and may be extended, if ANSI cannot “get its house in order.” Failing that, Oxebridge recommends handing ANSI’s accreditation responsibilities over to the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST).

“ISO registration auditors represent an army of boots-on-the-ground witnesses who have dramatic access to the companies involved, and they must be included in investigations when these disasters strike,” Oxebridge VP Christopher Paris said. “ANSI must also be included in these investigations, and its failings examined. ISO certifications should not be granted to companies capable of the disasters we see such as Takata and Deepwater Horizon, and ANSI should not be protected from scrutiny.”

Oxebridge is also pressuring NIST to request the filing of a formal complaint against ISO with the World Trade Organization, on the basis that the expanded role of ISO’s Technical Management Board in developing content of ISO standards such as ISO 9001 violates both ISO and WTO directives on the development of voluntary consensus standards. The TMB developed content in the standards through its “Annex SL” mandate which violated rules that require content be developed by representative international delegations, not non-elected ISO staffers.



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Why we report on these topics

Since 2000, Oxebridge has worked to improve ISO and related certification schemes by identifying problems and then proposing solutions. We report on issues affecting standards users because so few other news outlets do. Our belief is that in order to fix the problems in these schemes, we must first understand the nature and breadth of those problems. Our reporting aims to do just that. Elsewhere on the Oxebridge site you will find White Papers and other articles proposing ideas to correct these problems.


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