Maintaining standards in Australian labs
Australian laboratories are subject to major audits every two to four years, with all necessary documentation checked to ensure that laboratories are meeting industry accredited standards. These standards are an integral part of maintaining a laboratory quality system and ensuring product traceability.
Traceability is vital to prove that measurements are accurate and that they meet the required standards. Customers need products with traceability so they can demonstrate that the right product has been used if an accident were to happen.
Traceability is now a common part of accreditation systems and general business expectations. Failing to use an accredited standard could break the traceability chain, costing laboratories time and money.
Therefore, it is more important than ever that laboratories maintain quality standards. The following are some of the key standards for testing and calibration laboratories.
ISO 17025 testing and calibration
This is an international standard which defines the minimum requirement for laboratories to operate competently and to generate valid results. It provides a framework for laboratories to supply calibration standards in a way that is recognised by other laboratories or accreditation agencies.
ISO 17034 general requirements for the competence of reference material producers
This is an international standard (previously known as ISO Guide 34) that specifies the minimum requirement for the competence of reference material producers. It ensures reference material has been produced in a competent way, allowing other laboratories to perform calibrations using the reference material.
ISO 17034 has a stricter requirement than ISO 17025 and is not common internationally, despite being frequently used in Australia and New Zealand.
The key distinction between the two is that ISO 17034 covers the creation of certified reference materials, thus providing certainty around homogeneity and shelf life. ISO 17034 certification also guarantees the product specification will be stable for the length of its shelf life. ISO 17025 does not provide this or allow for the creation of certified reference materials.
ISO 9001 quality management
This is an international standard that applies to a variety of sectors and industries, large and small.
ISO 9001 standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. According to ISO, there are more than one million companies and organisations in over 170 countries certified to ISO 9001.
ISO 14001 environmental management system training
This is an international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system. It provides a framework that an organisation can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements. ISO 14001 can be integrated with other management systems standards, most commonly ISO 9001. Together, they can help a business achieve its organisational goals.
Traceability for the future
Traceability should be top of mind to ensure accuracy of measurements and to minimise errors. Laboratory managers should ask their gas supplier about the traceability of their products, while also looking for accreditation on the product and what standards were met during production.
The supplier should easily be able to prove what standard the gases are made in accordance with, and who the accreditor is.
By using reputable suppliers (ie, accredited ones) who meet high standards, decision-makers in laboratories can rest assured that they are operating to internationally accredited standards.
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