Laboratory accreditation provides formal recognition to competent laboratories, thus providing a ready means for customers to identify and select reliable testing, measurement and calibration services. To maintain this recognition, laboratories are re-evaluated regularly by the accreditation body to ensure their continued compliance with requirements, and to check that their standard of operation is being maintained. The laboratory is also required to participate in relevant proficiency testing programs between reassessments, as a further demonstration of technical competence. Accredited laboratories usually issue test or calibration reports bearing the accreditation body’s symbol or endorsement, as an indication of their accreditation. Clients are encouraged to check with the laboratory as to what specific tests or measurements they are accredited for, and for what ranges or uncertainties. This information is specified in the laboratory’s scope of accreditation, issued by the accreditation body. The description in the scope of accreditation also has advantages for the customers of laboratories in enabling them to find the appropriate laboratory or testing service.
Accreditation is an effective marketing tool for testing, calibration and measurement organisations, and a passport to submit tenders to contractors that require independently verified laboratories.
Laboratory accreditation is highly regarded both nationally and internationally as a reliable indicator of technical competence. Many industries, such as the construction materials industry, routinely specify laboratory accreditation for suppliers of testing services.
Unlike certification to ISO9001, laboratory accreditation uses criteria and procedures specifically developed to determine technical competence, thus assuring customers that the test, calibration or measurement data supplied by the laboratory or inspection service are accurate and reliable.
Many accreditation bodies also publish a directory of their accredited laboratories, which includes the laboratories’ contact details plus information on their testing capabilities. This is another means of promoting a laboratory’s accredited services to potential clients.
Finally, through a system of international agreements (see later in this brochure) accredited laboratories receive a form of international recognition, which allows their data to be more readily accepted in overseas markets. This recognition helps to reduce costs for manufacturers and exporters that have their products or materials tested in accredited laboratories, by reducing or eliminating the need for retesting in another country.
Laboratory accreditation benefits laboratories by allowing them to determine whether they are performing their work correctly and to appropriate standards, and provides them with a benchmark for maintaining that competence. Many such laboratories operate in isolation to their peers, and rarely, if ever, receive any independent technical evaluation as a measure of their performance. A regular assessment by an accreditation body checks all aspects of a facility’s operations related to consistently producing accurate and dependable data. Areas for improvement are identified and discussed, and a detailed report provided at the end of each visit. Where necessary, follow-up action is monitored by the accreditation body so the facility is confident that it has taken the appropriate corrective action.
In addition to commercial testing and calibration services, manufacturing organisations may use laboratory accreditation to ensure the testing of their products by their own in-house laboratories is being done correctly.
The practical benefits of these technical and management quality improvements are seen on a daily basis in the laboratory. Faster identification and resolution of issues regarding methods, personnel or equipment, improved customer satisfaction, meeting quality requirements of specialized customers, and overall increased laboratory business are all the result of implementing an effective quality system.
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