Qualification & Verification Testing

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Fall Arrest/ Protection Products – Qualification & Verification Testing

ISO 17025 specifies requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. It includes management requirements (e.g., document and record control, customer service, internal audit and review, improvement actions) and technical requirements (e.g., personnel, test and calibration methods, equipment, traceability of measurements, specimen handling, reporting).

Laboratories are accredited to this standard—within a defined scope of competence—by an independent accreditation body. Most developed countries have a national accreditation body; the U.S. has eight. Such bodies are required to maintain compliance with ISO 17011, among other requirements (refer to www.ilac.org for more information).

Laboratories seeking accreditation against ISO 17025 must define their scope of testing and/or calibration and demonstrate their competence to the accreditation body. This takes the form of an initial document review, followed by an initial assessment visit and subsequent regular site visits by the accreditation body. During these visits, the lab must demonstrate all aspects of its activities and prove its competence.

First, manufacturers should decide whether to use an accredited third-party labs, establish their own lab and seek accreditation to ISO 17025 or employ witnessed testing at their own labs. This decision will usually be based on the number and volume of products that need to be tested, initially (qualification testing) and subsequently (verification testing).

Labs seeking accreditation should:

  • Buy a copy of ISO 17025 and review its requirements against the management system and technical facilities that exist in the lab.
  • Address the shortcomings (employ expert advice if unsure).
  • Decide the scope of accreditation. What tests need to be accredited?
  • Review available accreditation bodies and obtain quotes for accreditation against your specified scope.
  • Request a preassessment/practice assessment by the chosen accreditation body (to highlight shortcomings);
  • When ready, apply for accreditation.

Do not underestimate the stringency of an assessment. If a performance criterion, method, equipment or measurement is not adequately defined within a product standard, the lab will be expected to have any omissions and ambiguities covered and documented. Pay particular attention to measurement traceability, measurement uncertainty and proficiency testing/interlaboratory comparisons.

Like most national standards, ISO standards are reviewed at 5-year intervals. To maintain accreditation, labs need to consider whether changes to their practices and procedures are necessary, in the light of the next revision of ISO 17025, and, much more likely because of new and revised Z359 product standards.

Z359.7 specifies requirements covering the accreditation of the testing laboratory, the test equipment, the number of specimens to be tested and the duties of manufacturers. A product must comply with the standard before the Z359 mark is applied. However, it is a serious shortcoming that current Z359 product standards do not require that such testing be performed following the requirements specified within Z359.7. These requirements are contained only within Z359.7 itself.

Each Z359 standard specifies that all applicable requirements of the standard shall be met before the product bears the Z359 mark. However, Z359.7 requires that test reports exist for all such testing and that, on request, such reports shall be provided with applicable product information. Therefore, professionals could request such reports.

Paul Clarke, CEng, MIMechE, established INSPEC International  Ltd., a PPE test laboratory and certification body in 1981. He is managing director of the company, with overall responsibility for the activities of its testing and certification locations. He also has served on many technical standards committees in the field of PPE, including as chair of British, European and ISO commit- tees. Clarke has been a professional mechanical engineer for 40 years,  an ISO 17025 laboratory assessor for 20 years and an ISO 9001 assessor  for 10 years.

 
 

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