Testing vs Certification?

What is the difference between testing and Certification? Does it mean the same thing? Does it matter anyway? By the end of this 2 minute read, you should know the difference and why it is important. 

18th November 2020

What is Testing?

At some point in the development of any product, it will get tested. This ensures that what the engineers have developed actually functions correctly. 

Products are tested to establish their quality, performance or reliability before they are put on sale. Testing can also be done after launch to check that nothing has changed and that the product continues to perform as it should do. In the UK there is a legal requirement to do this under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 Regulation 7

Many manufacturers, including those of ladders and scaffold towers, also have their products independently tested. Through independent testing, they can show to their customers the product conforms to standards – EN 131 for ladders, EN 1004 for mobile towers and BS 1139-6 for prefabricated tower scaffolds. This gives confidence to the supply chain, and ultimately the end user, that they are buying a good quality product. 

But what if something changes after the test report is completed?

What if the materials used in the product change. Or the labels are redesigned to save cost and some information removed?

Whilst a single product test conducted by someone like Test & Research Centre (T&R) can show that the product is compliant, it only shows that the sample provided was compliant on the day it was tested. And this is where Certification comes in.

What is Certification?

Where testing takes a sample product through its paces, Certification (with a big “C”) extends the same scrutiny to the production process. Not only is the product tested against the standard, the production process is also audited. 

The purpose of the production audit is to look at how the production is controlled. It looks at the management of the production, including:

  • Goods In control
  • In-process controls, for example, production to drawings and management of jigs and fixtures
  • First off QA
  • Warehouse and stock controls

Checking the production controls together with the product means that the product made in the future is of equal or better quality to the one initially tested. 

To make sure nothing changes, the factory and the product is subject to regular risk based surveillance audits. Again, this is all about making sure that nothing has changed. 

But sometimes products do evolve during their life cycle. And if the product does change, or the production process, the manufacturer must inform the Certification Body (e.g. T&R). The Certification Body can then decide what needs to happen for the Certification to be maintained. 

So how do you tell the difference?

There is an easy way to play spot the difference here. If a product has been Certified, the Certification Body will grant a licence to use a Certification Mark. This Mark can then be applied by the manufacturer to the product. This shows to distributors, regulators and end users that the product conforms to the relevant standard. 

If you are unsure if a product is Certified, look for a Certification Mark on the product or ask for a copy of the Certificate. You should be able to validate the Certificate’s authenticity from the Certification Bodies website or by contacting them. 

It does pay to check – unfortunately false or fraudulent Certificates are all too common (we wrote about that in more detail in an earlier blog). 

So which is better?

It’s a difficult question and one we get all the time.

Each has its own pros and cons. Testing is cheaper and quicker than Certification. But Certification gives the supply chain greater confidence in the product. 

There is no simple answer to this – but industry good practice in lots of sectors would lean towards Certification.  Products with Marks are easier to spot and verify. Regulators like Trading Standards can quickly verify products of concern and move on. For export/import, again it’s easier for authorities to spot compliant products.

Therefore, some see a greater value in having Certification – you can read more about it in this article.

How can The Test & Research Centre help?

Using our knowledge and experience of the ladder and scaffold tower industry, we help producers and importers with product testing and Certification. If you’re buying these products, for the ultimate reassurance look for the T&RGETMARK and ask to see a Certificate of Conformity. 

If you are a manufacturer, supplier or importer looking at product testing and Certification, contact us for a friendly chat about how we can help.