ISO 17025

ISO 17025 NABL is the equivalent of ISO 9000 for calibration and testing laboratories. It applies to any organization that wants to assure its customers of precision, accuracy and repeatability of results. This includes in-house laboratories for which assurance of results is at a premium.

The growth in use of quality systems generally has increased the need to ensure that laboratories that form part of larger organizations or offer other services can operate to a quality system that is seen as compliant with ISO 9000 as well as with ISO 17025. Testing and calibration labs that comply with this standard will also operate in accordance with ISO 9000. Certification to ISO 9000 alone does not demonstrate the competence of the lab to produce technically valid data and results, whereas certification to ISO 17025 does provide that evidence.

ISO/IEC 17025 is a recently introduced standard from the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission. “ISO17025”, as it has become known, replaces a number of older standards and guides including ISO/IEC Guide 25, EN45001 and ANSI/NCSL-Z540.

It is a global standard for the technical competence of calibration and testing laboratories. In addition to establishing quality system, documentation and personnel requirements, it directs calibration labs to:
• analyze the uncertainty of each measurement
• incorporate the uncertainty into the test procedure and/or test limits
• provide the uncertainties with the calibration certificate and results
Reporting the uncertainty qualifies the accuracy of the measurement and aids understanding when results from different labs are compared. The ratio of specification-to-calibration uncertainty is one way that equipment users gauge their confidence in a product’s performance.

ISO17025 is the single most important metro-logy standard for test and measurement products. Nearly all national standards bodies and accreditation agencies around the world have adopted it. A growing number of companies require it and some industries have even incorporated it into sector-specific.

Benefits of ISO 17025?
As with any well-constructed standard, ISO 17025 is not to be considered as an unnecessary imposition on your time and efforts. It is designed to be help you improve, and then maintain, your quality and standards. By following the procedures and methods specified, everyone can be assured of the accuracy and integrity of your laboratory. However, you will have to continually monitor your quality processes to ensure that they continue to meet the guidelines of this standard. This is a good thing for everyone, remember: rigorous quality processes equate to fewer failures and errors.
• Provides additional information about the quality of each measurement made during the calibration / testing process.
• Enables assessment of relative quality and capability of different calibration / testing laboratories.
• Enables easy comparison of measurement expertise from different calibration suppliers.
• Enables easy comparison of suppliers in different countries.
• Eliminates the need for supplier auditing – calibration suppliers independently verified through the accreditation process.

It is also important to remember that as more calibration laboratories become accredited; correlation between these accredited laboratories’ measurements will improve, thereby improving the general quality of the measurement process everywhere.

How to achieve ISO 17025?
risGiso offers a well-defined and globally proven implementation methodology for OHSAS 18001-2007 certification.
• Gap Analysis
• Awareness Training
• Documentation Design and finalization
• Implementation
• Internal Auditor Training and conduct of internal audit
• Management Review Meeting
• Review of Implementation
• Pre-assessment audit
• Stage 1 – certification audit
• Stage 2 – certification audit
• Award of ISO / IEC 17025 NABL Accreditation
• Continual improvement of the system through value added consulting and training services

What are the requirements of ISO 17025?
ISO/IEC 17025 is a specification for calibration and testing laboratories, applicable to any type of organization regardless of size, location or the range of services they provide. The majority of information is contained in 2 of its sections:
• Management requirements (Section 4)
• Technical requirements (Section 5)
Management requirements pertain to the operation and effectiveness of the quality management system within the laboratory. The requirements are similar to ISO 9001. This clause is divided into fifteen chapters, described below.

Management Requirements:
• An organizational structure, as well as responsibilities and tasks of both management and staff should be defined.
• The organizational structure should be such that departments having conflicting interests do not adversely influence the laboratory’s work quality. Examples include commercial marketing or financing departments.
• A quality assurance manager should be appointed.
• All personnel should be free from any commercial or financial pressure that could adversely impact the quality of calibration and test results.

Management System:
This chapter describes how to ensure that a management system is implemented, maintained, and continually improved.
Key points:
• There should be policies, standard procedures and work instructions to ensure the quality of test results.
• There should be a quality manual with policy statements that are issued and communicated by top-level management.
• The effectiveness of the management system should be continually improved

Document Control:
Individual paragraphs in this chapter describe how to ensure that all documents related to the management system are uniquely identified and created, approved, issued, and changed following documented procedures.
Key points:
• All official documents should be authorized and controlled.
• Documents should be regularly reviewed and updated if necessary. The review frequency depends on the document itself. Typical review cycles are between one and three years.
• Changes to documents should follow the same review process as for the development of initial documents.

Review of Requests, Tenders, and Contracts:
This chapter describes how to ensure that requirements of requests, tenders and contracts are well defined, reviewed, understood, and documented.
Key points:
• The laboratory supervisor’s review should ensure that the laboratory has the technical capability and resources to meet the requirements.
• Changes in a contract should follow the same process as the initial contract.

Subcontracting of Tests and Calibrations:
This chapter describes how to ensure that tests and calibrations subcontracted to third parties are performed according to the same quality standards as if they were done in the subcontracting laboratory.
Key points:
• The competence of the subcontracted party should be ensured, through a documented quality system, such as ISO/IEC 17025.
• The subcontracting laboratory is responsible to the customer for the subcontractor’s work, except in the case where the customer or the regulatory body specifies which subcontractor should be used.

Purchasing Services and Supplies:
This chapter describes how to ensure that services and supplies delivered by third parties do not adversely impact the quality and effectiveness of laboratory operations.
Key points:
• Suppliers should be selected and formally evaluated to ensure that services and supplies are of adequate quality.
• Records of the selection and evaluation process should be maintained.
• The quality of incoming material should be verified against predefined specifications.

Service to the Customer:
This chapter describes how to ensure that the laboratory continually meets customer requirements.
Key points:
• The laboratory should communicate with customers to clarify requests and get customer input.
• The laboratory should have a formal program to collect feedback from customers on an ongoing basis.
• The laboratory should allow customers to audit the laboratory.

Complaints:
This chapter describes how to ensure that any customer complaints are documented, evaluated, and adequately followed up.
Key points:
• There should be a policy and procedure for the resolution of complaints received from customers.
• Records of complaints and all steps taken when resolving the complaint should be maintained. This includes documentation of investigations and corrective actions.

Complaints:
Tests, calibrations, and other laboratory operations should conform to previously defined specifications such as laboratory specifications or client-defined specifications. This chapter describes how to ensure that nonconforming test and calibration results are adequately followed up, and that corrections are initiated.
Key points:
• There should be a policy and process that come into effect when results do not conform to procedures.
• Corrective actions should be taken immediately to avoid recurrence.
• The significance of nonconforming work should be evaluated, for example, the possible impact on other testing or calibration work. If necessary, customers should be notified.

Continuous Improvement:
This chapter describes how to ensure that the effectiveness of the management system is continually improved.
Key points:
• Suggestions for improvements should be taken from audit reports, analysis of data, customer complaints and suggestions, corrective and preventive actions, and management reviews.
• Suggestions should be collected over time and reviewed by management for suitable actions.

Corrective Action:
This chapter describes how to ensure that the root cause of nonconforming work or deviations from laboratory and management procedures are identified and that adequate corrective actions are selected, implemented, documented, and monitored.
Key points:
• Corrective actions can be triggered through nonconforming tests or other work, customer complaints, internal or external audits, management reviews, and observations by staff.
• Corrective actions should be selected and implemented to eliminate the specific problem and prevent recurrence of the same problem.
• As the first step in the process, the root cause of the nonconformity should be identified.
• The effectiveness of the corrective action should be monitored and evaluated.

Preventive Action:
Preventive actions should be initiated when potential sources of nonconformities have been identified. Nonconformities may be technical or related to the management system. The objective is to reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of such potential nonconformities.
Key points:
• There should be a procedure to identify potential sources of nonconformities and define preventive actions to prevent occurrence of these nonconformities.
• The effectiveness of the preventive action should be monitored and evaluated.

Control of Records:
This chapter describes how to ensure that all records in a laboratory are uniquely identified, readily available when needed, and protected against unauthorized access for viewing or changing.
Key points:
• There should be procedures for identification, collection, indexing, storage, retrieval, and disposal of records
• Records should be stored such that their security, confidentiality, quality and integrity are ensured throughout the required retention time
• For technical records such as test reports of analytical measurements, original observations should be retained, along with processing parameters that will allow tracking final results back to the original observations.
• Record format can be hard copies or electronic media. There should be procedures to protect and back-up electronic records and to prevent unauthorized access.
• Records can be corrected if there are mistakes. The original record should be crossed out, but still visible.
• When electronic record systems are used, the same principle applies. The laboratory should ensure that original records are not overwritten by the system and that corrections are recorded together with the original records. Using a system that prevents overwriting original records and stores changes in an electronic audit trail that can be viewed and printed is highly recommended.

Internal Audits:
Internal audits should verify that the laboratory complies with ISO/IEC 17025 and with internal technical and quality procedures. Internal audits are also an excellent preparation for external assessments and can help to continually improve the quality system.
Key points:
• The laboratory should have a procedure and a schedule for internal audits. Internal audits can either cover the whole laboratory and all elements of the quality system at one specific period of time or can be divided into several subsections.
• The schedule should be such that each element of the quality system and each section of the laboratory are audited yearly.
• The audit program should be managed by the quality manager.
• Audit findings related to the quality of test and calibration results should be reported to customers.
• Audit follow-up activities should include corrective and preventive action plans(CAPA). The effectiveness of the plans should be monitored.

Management Reviews:
Requirements in this chapter describe how to ensure the continued suitability and effectiveness of the quality system, policies, and testing and calibration procedures.
Key points:
• There should be a schedule and procedure for periodic management reviews. Recommended review frequency is once a year.
• The management review should include a discussion about the outcome of recent internal audits and external assessments, corrective and preventive actions, results of proficiency testing, customer complaints and feedback, and any recommendations for improvements.
• Management should decide on follow-up activities. These activities should be monitored for effectiveness.

Technical Requirements:
Technical requirements address the competence of staff, sampling and testing methodology, equipment, and the quality and reporting of test and calibration results. This clause is divided into ten chapters.

General:
The technical requirements clause starts with a general chapter. This chapter’s purpose is to make readers aware that the correctness and reliability of test and calibration results are determined by a variety of factors
Key points:
• The different factors impacting the quality of results should be documented. They include, for example, sampling, equipment, test methods, and environmental conditions.
• The extent to which impacting factors can contribute to the measurement uncertainty should be taken into account when developing test and calibration methods..

Personnel probably have the highest impact on the quality of test and calibration results. This chapter describes how to ensure that all laboratory personnel who can impact test and calibration results are adequately qualified.
Key points:
• Only competent personnel should perform testing and calibrations. This includes part- time as well as full-time employees, as well as all management levels
• Competence can come from education, experience, or training.
• Management should define and maintain tasks, job descriptions, and required skills for each job.
• Based on required skills and available qualifications, a training program should be developed and implemented for each employee.
• The effectiveness of the training should be evaluated. If the training is related to a specific test method, the trainee can demonstrate adequate qualification through successfully running a quality control or proficiency test sample. A statement from the trainee such as ‘I have read through the test procedure’ is not enough.
• Management should authorize personnel to perform specific tasks, for example, to operate specific types of instruments, to issue test reports, to interpret specific test results, and to train or supervise other personnel.
• The date of this authorization should be recorded. The associated tasks should not be performed before the authorization date.

Accommodation and Environmental Conditions:
This chapter has been included to ensure that the calibration and test area environment will not adversely affect the measurement accuracy. It includes five sections with information that is mostly common sense. One clause recommends having effective separation between neighboring areas when the activities therein are incompatible. An example would be to separate laboratories that analyze extremely low traces of a solvent from those which consume large quantities of the same solvent for liquid-liquid extraction.
Key points:
• Environmental conditions should not adversely affect the required quality of tests. This means, for example, that equipment should operate within the manufacturer’s specifications for humidity and temperature.
• The laboratory should monitor, control, and record environmental conditions. Special attention should be paid to biologic sterility, dust, electromagnetic disturbances, radiation, humidity, electrical supply, temperature, sound, and vibration. Tests should be stopped when the environmental conditions are outside specified ranges.
• Areas with incompatible activities should be separated.
• Access to test and calibration areas should be limited to authorized people. This can be achieved through pass cards..

Test and Calibration Methods and Method Validation:
Accurate test and calibration results can only be obtained with appropriate methods that are validated for the intended use. This chapter deals with the selection and validation of laboratory-developed and standard methods and measurement uncertainty and control of data.
Key points for accurate test and calibration results:
• Methods and procedures should be used within their scope. This means the scope should be clearly defined.
• The laboratory should have up-to-date instructions on the use of methods and equipment.
• If standard methods are available for a specific sample test, the most recent edition should be used.
• If standard methods are available for a specific sample test, the most recent edition should be used.
• Deviations from standard methods or from otherwise agreed-upon methods should be reported to the customer and their agreement obtained.
• When using standard methods, the laboratory should verify its competence to successfully run the standard method. This can be achieved through repeating one or two critical validation experiments, and/or through running method specific quality control and/or proficiency test samples.
• Standard methods should also be validated if they are partly or fully out of the scope of the test requirement.
• Methods as published in literature or developed by the laboratory can be used, but should be fully validated. Clients should be informed and agree to the selected method.
• Introduction of laboratory-developed methods should proceed according to a plan.
• The following parameters should be considered for validating in-house developed methods: limit of detection, limit of quantitation, accuracy, selectivity, linearity, repeatability and/or reproducibility, robustness, and linearity.
• Exact validation experiments should be relevant to samples and required information.
• Sometimes, standard and in-house validated methods need to be adjusted or changed to ensure continuing performance. For example, the pH of a HPLC mobile phase may have to be changed to achieve the required separation of chromatographic peaks. In this case, the influence of such changes should be documented, and if appropriate, a new validation should be carried out.
• Validation includes specification of the requirements and scope, determination of the characteristics of the methods, appropriate testing to prove that the requirements can be fulfilled by using the method, and a statement on validity.
Key points for measurement uncertainty:
• The laboratory should have a procedure to estimate the uncertainty of measurement for calibrations and testing.
• For uncertainty estimation the laboratory should identify all the components of uncertainty.
• Sources contributing to the uncertainty can include the reference materials used, the methods and equipment used for sampling and testing, environmental conditions and personnel.
Key points for control of data:
• Calculations used for data evaluation should be checked. This is best done during software and computer system validation. As an example, spreadsheet formulas defined by a specific user should be verified with an independent device such as a handheld calculator. Data transfer accuracy should be checked. Accuracy of data transfer between computers can be automatically checked with MD5 hash sums.
• Computer software used for instrument control, data acquisition, processing, reporting, data transfer, archiving, and retrieval developed by or for a specific user should be validated. The suitability of the complete computer system for the intended use should also be validated.
• Any modification or configuration of a commercial computer system should be validated. Examples include defining report layouts, setting up IP addresses of network devices, and selecting parameters from a drop-down menu.
• Electronic data should be protected to ensure integrity and confidentiality of electronic records. For example, computers and electronic media should be maintained under environmental and operating conditions to ensure integrity of data.

Equipment:
Equipment that is performing well and properly maintained is a prerequisite for the ongoing accuracy of test and calibration results. This chapter deals with the capacity and quality of equipment. The whole idea is to make sure that the instrument is suitable for performing selected tests/calibrations and is well characterized, calibrated, and maintained.
Key points:
• Equipment should conform to specifications relevant to the tests. This means that equipment specifications should first be defined so that when conforming to defined specifications the equipment is suitable to perform the tests.
• Equipment and its software should be identified and documented.
• Equipment should be calibrated and/or checked to establish that it meets the laboratory’s specification requirements.
• Records of equipment and its software should be maintained and updated if necessary. This includes version numbers of firmware and software. It also includes calibration and test protocols.
• Calibration status should be indicated on the instrument along with the last and the next calibration dates.

Measurement Traceability:
Traceability of equipment to the same standard is a prerequisite for comparability of test and calibration results. Ideally all measurements should be traceable to International System of Units (SI). While this is typically possible for physical measurements such as length (m) and weight (kg), this is more difficult in chemical measurements.
Key points for traceability of calibrations:
• Calibration of equipment should be traceable to the SI units.
• Traceability of laboratory standards to SI may be achieved through an unbroken link of calibration comparisons between the laboratory standard, secondary standard, and primary or national standard.
• If traceability to SI units is not possible, the laboratory should use other appropriate traceability standards. These include the use of certified reference material and the use of consensus standards or methods.

Sampling:
This chapter has been added to describe how to ensure that statistically relevant representative samples are taken and that all information on the sample and the sampling procedure is recorded and documented.
Key points for sampling:
• Sampling should follow a documented sampling plan and sampling procedure.
• The sampling plan should be based on statistical methods.
• The sampling procedure should describe the selection and withdrawal of representative samples.
• The sampling location and procedure, the person who took the sample and any other relevant information about the sampling process should be recorded.

Handling Test and Calibration Items:
This chapter describes how to ensure that sample integrity is maintained during transport, storage, and retention and that sample are disposed of safely. Key points for handling test and calibration items are:
Key points:
• Test and calibration items should be uniquely identified.
• Sample transportation, receipt, handling, protection, storage, retention, and/or disposal should follow documented procedures.
• The procedures should prevent sample deterioration and cross-contamination during storage and transport.

Assuring the Quality of Test and Calibration Results:
This chapter describes how to ensure the quality of results on an ongoing basis through, for example, regular analysis of quality control samples or participation of proficiency-testing programs.
Key points:
• The validity of test results should be monitored on an ongoing basis.
• The type and frequency of tests should be planned, justified, documented, and reviewed.
• Quality control checks can include the regular use of certified reference materials, replicating tests or calibrations using the same or different methods, and retesting or recalibration of retained items.

Reporting of Results:
This chapter describes how test/calibration results should be reported. This is important for an easy comparison of tests performed in different laboratories. The chapter has some general requirements on test reports such as clarity and accuracy, but it also has very detailed requirements on the contents..
Test reports and calibration certificates should include:
• The name and address of the laboratory.
• Unique identification of the test report or calibration certificate (such as the serial number).
• The name and address of the client.
• Identification of the method.
• A description and identification of the item(s) tested or calibrated.
• Reference to the sampling plan and procedures used by the laboratory.
• The test or calibration results with the units of measurement.
• The name(s), function(s) and signature(s) or equivalent identification of person(s) authorizing the test report or calibration certificate.
• A statement on estimated uncertainty of measurement (for test reports ‘where applicable’).
• When opinions and interpretations are included, documentation of the basis for the opinions and interpretations.
• Opinions and interpretations clearly marked as such on the test report or calibration certificate

Integrate ISO/IEC 17025 with other MSS!
ISO/IEC 17025 is designed to be compatible with other management systems standards and specifications, such as ISO 9001, ISO 22000, OHSAS 18001, ISO 27001, ISO 14001 and other ISO management standards. They can be integrated seamlessly through Integrated Management system approach. They share many principles so choosing an integrated management system can offer excellent value for money and an easier approach to implement, manage and improve multiple standards simultaneously.

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