Role of the BASEC Assessor

Ensuring the safety, quality and performance of cables produced by its clients means a visit to manufacturers around the globe and an audit by an assessor from BASEC, the British Approvals Service for Cables.

We spoke to BASEC Lead Assessor Steve Mason about a role he says requires a forensic approach, confidence and a determination to get the job done. Steve has worked in the cables industry for 50 years. It is fair to say he has – wire in his blood.

Q) What is the role of the assessor in an organisation like BASEC?

A) Assessors are essentially the field arm of BASEC. We have a team of 18 assessors including one based in the Middle East and another in the Far East. All of us will travel to international regions, already this year I have been to Italy, Romania and Lithuania and in the past year I have been to around 15 countries. Our job is to conduct audits at clients’ premises and our clients are those manufacturers who hold a certification from BASEC.

Assessors will go into a factory and confirm that BASEC regulations and requirements are being met. We assess the whole manufacturing system from looking at the quality of raw materials and why they were chosen, and have they understood their customer’s requirements?
We look at the manufacturing process, is it properly controlled, are the operators trained, is measuring equipment calibrated to international standards and is the product properly tested, packaged and despatched on time?

Q) How long does an audit take?

A) That depends on the size of the company we are visiting. The process is for an initial audit to take place after a manufacturer has applied for BASEC certification. Then, subject to their acceptance as a BASEC client, a surveillance audit will be carried out three or four times a year and then a full re-audit every third year.

An initial audit could involve a team of two assessors for three days going through the whole process. A routine audit can take one to two days by a single assessor.
We will also assess the manufacturers’ own audit system, are there areas to be focused on, have they carried out the appropriate corrective actions where needed? Remember our visits are only a snapshot in time of their operations.

Assessments are arranged in advance but there are unannounced visits too, usually to obtain samples of products.

Q) BASEC carries out tests on cables at its laboratories in Milton Keynes in the UK. How do you obtain those samples?

During a visit we will also select product samples which are bagged and sealed and a list taken. The client will then send them on to our laboratory for testing. It is an exacting process and our clients expect it to be rigorous.

Assessors may also witness testing by the manufacturer. This can be to supplement the testing in the BASEC lab, or to provide an independent witness and ensure tests conform to standard.

Q) What happens if you find something of concern during an audit?

A) If we find for example, non-compliant material we expect them to react and take corrective action. In the worst case where it is a safety issue we expect very positive action immediately.
That is why the role of the assessor is such an important part of giving a manufacturer’s customers confidence in the product they are buying.

Q) What is your relationship with your client, the manufacturer?

A) We are not out to trap or catch out anyone. We are working with manufacturers to ensure the quality of their cables and the responsibility is on them to make products that meet and conform to a standard.

We maintain a professional relationship with them which also involves total confidentiality. Our assessors meet a lot of people and see a lot of manufacturing processes in markets around the world and at all times we are representing BASEC as an independent approvals service with an international reputation.

Q) Technology has changed some of how cables are tested. Is there still a role for human assessors within the industry and what qualities should they possess?

A) We are actually visiting factories and getting information you cannot get other than by going there and seeing. Assessors need to have a forensic approach and be able to concentrate on the task, know what they are looking for and not be diverted. They should also be a good judge of people and be confident in what they are doing. I think it will remain a human activity.

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