Throughout the world, many countries rely on a process called Laboratory Accreditation as a means of determining technical competence. Laboratory accreditation uses criteria and procedures specifically developed to determine technical competence. Special technical assessors conduct a thorough evaluation of all factors in a laboratory that affect the production of test or calibration data. The criteria are based on the internationally accepted standards ISO/IEC 17025 for industrial (testing & calibration labs) laboratories which are used for evaluating laboratories throughout the world. Laboratory accreditation bodies use this standard specifically to assess factors relevant to a laboratory’s ability to produce precise, accurate test and calibration data, including the:
- Technical competence of staff
- Validity and appropriateness of test methods
- Traceability of measurements and calibrations to national standards
- Suitability, calibration and maintenance of test equipment
- Testing environment
- Sampling, handling and transportation of test items.
- Quality assurance of test and calibration data
Laboratory accreditation also covers the quality systems elements addressed in ISO 9001 certification. To ensure continued compliance, accredited laboratories are regularly re-examined to check that they are maintaining their standards of technical expertise. These laboratories may also be required to participate in regular proficiency testing programs as an on-going demonstration of their competence.
Laboratory accreditation thus provides a means of evaluating the competence of laboratories to perform specific types of testing, measurement and calibration. It also allows a laboratory to determine whether it is performing its work correctly and to appropriate standards. Manufacturing organization may also use laboratory accreditation to ensure the testing of their products by their own in-house laboratories.
Very importantly, laboratory accreditation provides formal recognition to competent laboratories, thus providing a ready means for customers to find reliable testing and calibration services able to meet their needs.
Laboratory Accreditation means that a Laboratory is technically competent.