If the inspection body subcontracts some tests to a laboratory, but for unforeseen circumstances this laboratory is obliged to subcontract a part of these required tests to another laboratory, is it the responsibility of the inspection body to investigate the competence of the subcontractor of his subcontractor or not (1)? When informing the client about the inspection body’s intention to subcontract the testing part of the inspection, is it mandatory only to mention the first subcontractor or also the subcontractor of the first subcontractor (2)? And does it require the client’s permission for both subcontractors or only for the first one? (3)?

STANDARD: ISO/IEC 17020  ·  CLAUSE: 6.3.2  ·  TOPIC: Subcontracting  


1. ISO/IEC 17020 makes reference to ISO/IEC 17000 for definition of terms. ISO/IEC 17000 makes reference to ISO 9000 for related terminology. ISO CASCO standards, see e.g. ISO/IEC 17065 clause, refers to “outsourcing” and “subcontracting” as synonyms. The definition of outsource in ISO 9000 is “make an arrangement where an external organization performs part of an organization’s function or process”. Thus, an activity subcontracted by a subcontractor is still an outsourced activity from the perspective of the IB. Consequently, the subcontractor’s subcontractor should be considered as a subcontractor of the IB itself. This is to say that it is the responsibility of the inspection body to secure the competency of the subcontractor at all levels. The situation therefore needs to be covered by the contract between the inspection body and the subcontractor. The answer to the question is therefore “yes”.

2. Following the trail of the answer to question 1, the answer is “yes” also to this question.

3. ISO/IEC 17020 does not require the IB to seek permission from the client for the use of subcontractors. The requirement is only to inform the client.