What Is accreditation?

Accreditation is formal verification by a credible, independent organization such as the International Accreditation Service (IAS) that demonstrates a program or institution meets established quality standards and is technically competent to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks.

Why testing laboratories should be accredited?

Accreditation provides formal, independent verification that a testing laboratory is technically competent to conduct tests within a defined scope.

For example, construction material testing laboratories conduct tests on building products to determine if the products meet minimum performance criteria in construction safety codes. Fire testing is a means to determine the characteristics of building materials such as flame spread, ignition temperature, smoke development and fire resistance. Because lives depend on the accuracy of the test results, it is critical that regulatory agencies and consumers are able to verify the competence of the laboratories performing the tests.

How do you determine if a laboratory is accredited by IAS?

IAS issues accreditation certificates to accredited testing laboratories. These certificates include the company name, address, date of accreditation and the standard used as the basis for accreditation (ISO/IEC Standard 17025:2005, General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories). Also included is the Scope of Accreditation which stipulates the specific area(s) of testing that the laboratory has been accredited. Check the scope of accreditation to determine what tests the lab has been accredited to perform.

The certificates are accessible on the Testing Laboratory page on the IAS web site. If a laboratory accreditation is suspended, this information also is noted on the IAS web site. Information is also available through the search function on the top right of the IAS home page.

What is involved in the process to assess labs for accreditation?

IAS does a thorough assessment of testing laboratories’ staff, equipment, facilities, management systems, policies and testing procedures. As part of each assessment, whether for initial accreditation or periodic reaccreditation, laboratories are required to operate under a documented quality management system (QMS). For example, the on-site assessments by IAS involve review of the laboratory’s QMS to determine if it is being effectively implemented, if the laboratory is following its own documented procedures and if each clause of the international standard has been addressed. In addition, assessors review the laboratory’s facilities and test equipment, interview key personnel and review their qualifications, review internal audit reports, minutes of management review meetings, results of proficiency testing, etc., and that is just the administrative side of things. The essence of accreditation, competence, is determined by IAS technical assessors actually observing demonstration of a sampling of the test disciplines for which the laboratory seeks accreditation. It is only after the technical assessors have witnessed testing and made a recommendation to IAS that the laboratory has the proper equipment and competence to conduct the testing is accreditation granted. IAS also reviews a laboratory’s performance in inter-laboratory comparisons Proficiency Testing. IAS conducts surveillance assessments and on-site reassessments, using the same methodology as explained above at a minimum of once every two years. This ongoing process verifies continued compliance with IAS accreditation requirements. This periodic reassessment process together with regular feedback from regulatory entities ensures the laboratory is maintaining its technical competence.

What is the standard for determining the competence of testing laboratories?

The most trusted and accepted method of determining the competence of laboratories is by requiring the labs to be accredited to ISO/IEC Standard 17025, General requirements for the competence testing and calibration laboratories by recognized accreditation bodies.

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ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards.

ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 163 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.

ISO is a non-governmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. Read more about ISO.

A laboratory that meets IAS Accreditation Criteria for Testing Laboratories AC89 shows compliance with ISO/IEC Standard 17025 and has been found technically competent to conduct the test methods listed in its scope of accreditation. IAS is an International Code Council (ICC) subsidiary.

What is IAS?

The International Accreditation Service (IAS) is a nonprofit, internationally recognized accreditation body and a subsidiary of the International Code Council (ICC). It has provided accreditation services since 1975.

IAS assessors have experience and training as accreditation assessors and are technical experts in fields which they serve.

IAS accredits a wide range of companies and organizations including governmental entities, commercial businesses and professional associations. IAS accreditation provides objective evidence that an organization operates at the highest level of ethical, legal and technical standards. IAS accreditation programs are based on recognized national and international standards to ensure domestic and/or global acceptance of its accreditations.

Who verifies that Accreditation Bodies such as IAS are qualified to accredit testing laboratories?

Internationally recognized accreditation bodies, such as IAS, are required to undergo periodic, on-site evaluations of their operations for compliance with ISO/IEC Standard 17011, Conformity assessment — General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies. This is the preeminent international standard applicable to accreditation bodies. These periodic evaluations are carried out by international teams of experts under the auspices of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC), a regional body of ILAC.

Evaluations are usually one week in duration with evaluation teams scrutinizing records and files of laboratory assessments, checking for effective implementation of a quality management system, reviewing policies and procedures, interviewing the staff and program managers, and always include witnessing of several laboratory assessments conducted by the accreditation body staff and technical experts.

This rigorous system of checks and balances, based on international standards, enables governmental regulatory agencies and industries around the world to have confidence in the testing laboratories and the accreditation bodies that accredit them. IAS has been one of the leading accreditation bodies in the United States and a founding member and Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) signatory of APLAC since 1999 and ILAC since 2000.

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