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There are different types of laboratory accreditation for just about every type of laboratory, and the accreditation required of any one lab depends on the experimental methods and materials used in the lab, as well as any occupational hazards. While most types of accreditation are recognized at a national level, there also are some international laboratory accreditation agencies. In general, laboratory accreditation is available for testing facilities, product certification companies and proficiency testing sites. Other areas of accreditation involve calibration, inspection and reference material providers. Accreditation is vital to the success of any laboratory involved in testing, inspecting or producing products that are intended for human use or exposure.
Most accreditation agencies are non-profit, public service providers that require membership. The International Laboratory Accreditation Corporation (ILAC) is involved in developing accreditation systems, harmonizing accreditation efforts worldwide, and the ILAC agreement, which affords global recognition of testing, inspection and calibration data for those organizations bearing ILAC approval. The American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) provides a similar framework on a national scale. National programs can vary greatly from one country to the next in their requirements for a successful inspection and subsequent accreditation. To maintain accreditation status, most agencies will perform routine inspections to ensure continued compliance.
Clinical research laboratories and environmental science laboratories are typically accredited as a means of earning nationwide credibility for their work. Companies involved in testing or inspecting strive for accreditation to increase consumer confidence. It is one thing to have a “certified” product, but if the certifying body isn’t accredited, the stamp of approval is less valuable. Most successful research and testing facilities bear multiple accreditations as a way of further boosting client confidence and establishing trust in the marketplace.
Laboratory accreditation is a must for some common industry-specific programs, such as energy efficiency, animal research and product safety. Most of these programs are trusted and supported by the government because they are accredited by a reputable agency. Other programs are in place for waste water treatment facilities, food testing laboratories and air quality testing.
Getting laboratory accreditation involves the ability to interpret the accrediting agency’s guidelines for compliance. There may be accreditation-related training programs available for assistance. An accredited laboratory is generally regarded as having high standards and high quality. The path to accreditation can provide a basic framework for developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and quality assurance (QA) inspections during the early developmental stages of the business. Special documentation may be required prior to gaining full accreditation.