Laboratory Accreditation – What is it & why is it important

Laboratory Accreditation – What is it & why is it important

The method used to verify that laboratories are conforming to internationally accepted standards, such as ISO/IEC 17025:2017 – General requirements for the competence of testing(link) is referred to as accreditation. Accreditation is provided by organisations such as The United Kingdom Accreditation Service, UKAS. 

The process of accreditation is carried out by a qualified professional or team of professionals who will ensure that a laboratory passes a conformity assessment. The areas inspected in a conformity assessment would include reliability (and suitability) of methods, appropriateness of equipment, the expertise of personnel, and quality control procedures.

Laboratories all over the world go through the accreditation process, which ensures they are able to generate valid results, and that the structures and methods in a lab meet requirements and are properly carried out. With procedures in a lab having to adhere to specific standards, those who consume/use the products (e.g. general public, medical patients or health care providers) developed by laboratories can be assured of their quality. 

What are the differences between accreditation and certification?

The process of an unbiased observer giving their written approval to deem a product, process or service suitable per the conditions of a particular set of requirements is referred to as certification. There are multiple certification bodies in many countries. For example, in France the French Standardization Association (AFNOR, Association Française de Normalisation), and Bureau Veritas Quality International (BVQI) are both examples of certification organisations. Unlike accreditation, certification is a process that only scrutinises quality management systems according to a specific set of standards, whereas accreditation scrutinises the quality management systems and the competency of the personnel involved in the lab. ISO 9001 is an example of a set of requirements that looks to certify quality management systems, and helps ensure that customers get consistent, good-quality products and services.

In some countries, there is only one organisation which is considered a national accreditation organisation. The National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) in Australia, South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), and United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) are all examples of this.  

The Importance of Accreditation

Accreditation is of importance to producers, authoritative organisations, and the general public.

Accreditation creates trust between laboratories and the general public. This is because the public can be better assured of the standards that the products meet. For producers, the significance of accreditation is that it helps reduce the issues that may arise with a product that they have supplied, in turn decreasing recalls. 

Accreditation also helps authoritative organisations adhere to national health, safety, and environmental regulations, and uphold the best interests of the public. Food safety is an example of a public matter in which accreditation helps to put the public’s interest at the forefront on a national, regional, and local level. In medical laboratories, accreditation is useful to help ensure that the quality of management systems is enhanced and patients’ well-being is put first. 

Another use for accreditation is helping labs improve the way they work. This can be achieved thanks to accreditation bodies regularly assessing laboratories. Because a lot of government bodies will only accept test results that are produced by accredited laboratories, those that are not accredited will be left at a disadvantage, with a narrower set of clients available for them to work with. 

Although it can sometimes take a long time to get accredited, the process should always create more time savings than it expends. If an authoritative body conducts an assessment of a lab’s quality management systems and a lab personnel’s expertise, then clients and customers of the lab are less likely to require an audit to ensure that the lab is operated to the standards they require. 

How to Check a Laboratory’s Accreditation

In the U.K., accredited organisations can demonstrate their UKAS accreditation by using the national accreditation symbol. The accreditation logo for a lab is commonly displayed on a laboratory’s website. Laboratories holding an accreditation are expected to outline the extent to which their accreditations are limited and what specific activities their accreditation covers. There are also times when a laboratory will outsource certain tasks to accredited laboratories. In such cases, the lab that is outsourcing work would have to make any client with whom they are working privy to which tasks are being outsourced.

World Accreditation Day

Accreditation holds such an important place in the lab industry that there is a day dedicated to recognising the process. World Accreditation Day on June 9th is used to raise awareness about accreditation and its importance in making it easier for laboratories to supply products on a national and international level. The International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) are the organisations that are responsible for the commencement of World Accreditation Day. 

In conclusion, accreditation acknowledges labs that use systems of standard procedures to ensure products meet a specific standard and protect the safety of end users. As a result, customers and clients can better trust products coming from accredited labs. 

If you’re looking to be supplied with products that will see that your lab passes accreditation, Techmate is the right choice for you. We have a range of products that meet accreditation standards. Contact us if you need help picking the right products out.