Clear and Credible
How AIHA-LAP Advertising Policies Help Labs—And Their Customers
BY CHERYL O. MORTON
Laboratory Accreditation Programs, LLC (AIHA-LAP, LLC or AIHA-LAP) is committed to maintaining credible and transparent programs that help accredited laboratories provide quality data in which their customers can have confidence. We recognize that a laboratory’s accreditation status is important to developing their client base, but we also want customers seeking analytical testing services to have complete confidence that they are selecting the most appropriate accredited laboratory. To meet both of these goals, AIHA-LAP, LLC encourages laboratories that have invested the time, effort, and resources to obtain accreditation to properly display their AIHA-LAP accreditation symbols when they advertise in a way that is appropriate and that helps customers select the right laboratories to meet their testing needs. A sample accreditation symbol appears in Figure 1.
AIHA members who rely on AIHA-LAP accredited labs should know the following regarding the use of AIHA-LAP accreditation symbols:
- Once a laboratory achieves accreditation, it has the option of entering into a license agreement with AIHA-LAP, LLC that allows the lab to use an AIHA-LAP, LLC accreditation symbol.
- AIHA-LAP, LLC is the owner of its accreditation symbols, which are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Accreditation symbols are program-specific and can only be used for programs and scopes for which a laboratory is accredited. Separate symbols have been created for AIHA-LAP’s programs in industrial hygiene, environmental lead, environmental microbiology, food, and unique scopes.
- An accredited laboratory’s ID number must be used with the accreditation symbol. The ID number is a unique identification number tied to a specific laboratory location and the specific AIHA-LAP program and analyses performed at that laboratory.
SYMBOLS ARE NOT ALWAYS USED Not all AIHA-LAP, LLC accredited labs elect to sign License Agreements with us to advertise. Instead, these laboratories decide to advertise their accreditation through use of their lab ID number or a statement of AIHA-LAP, LLC accreditation (with laboratory ID number). Such a statement should look like the following:
__________Laboratory (ID _______) is accredited by the AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs (AIHA-LAP), LLC in the _______ accreditation program(s) for _______ Fields of Testing as documented by the Scope of Accreditation and Certificate.
AIHA-LAP, LLC accredited laboratories may also use the following statement in their communications discussing the laboratory:
AIHA-LAP, LLC accreditation complies with the ISO/IEC Standard 17025:2005 requirements, but this does not imply ISO certification or registration.
AIHA-LAP, LLC holds its accredited laboratories accountable for the use of statements of accreditation in the same manner as the accredited labs that use accreditation symbols. ILAC REQUIREMENTS TO ENSURE PROPER ADVERTISING Why are we so concerned about advertising? As an accreditation body recognized by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), AIHA-LAP, LLC must have policies in place to meet ILAC requirements about advertising (per ISO/IEC 17011:2004; 8.3, ILAC-P8:12/2012). AIHA-LAP, LLC signed an agreement with ILAC so that we can use an ILAC mark on the accreditation certificates we issue.
This agreement also requires us to ensure that our accredited laboratories fully comply with advertising requirements when claiming accreditation status. We are obligated to ensure that our labs use the accreditation symbols appropriately and not make any statements regarding their accreditation that may be considered misleading.
AIHA-LAP, LLC takes a number of actions to address incorrect references to an accredited laboratory’s accreditation status or misleading uses of accreditation lab ID numbers, statements, or symbols in ads or on test reports. Our staff routinely reviews our accredited labs’ websites, and our site assessors review test reports as part of the site assessment process. We also respond to complaints from customers and other stakeholders about misleading advertising. When examples of misleading advertising are brought to our attention, we contact the laboratory in question to make sure they understand our policy and request that they immediately make the necessary corrections to comply. Our response may also include specific corrective actions, suspension or withdrawal of accreditation, or legal action if necessary. Our expectations regarding the use of accreditation lab IDs, statements, and symbols are included in the Licensing Agreements that laboratories sign and in Policy Module 7 (PDF). MISLEADING ADVERTISING A laboratory that has opted not to undergo the rigorous accreditation process for a specific AIHA-LAP program should not market itself as accredited in that program. We consider this to be misleading customers, and our policies are very clear that accreditation symbols cannot be used in a misleading manner. Examples of misleading use of symbols include the following:
- A lab ID, accreditation statement, or symbol for a specific program displayed in an ad or on a website for services not covered by a laboratory’s accreditation.
- A lab ID, accreditation statement, or symbol in an ad or on a website that lists all of a laboratory’s locations but does not indicate which sites offer which types of accredited services.
- A lab ID, accreditation statement, or symbol on a report that has non-accredited test results without indicating which tests are non-accredited.
- A lab ID, an accreditation statement, or symbol placed on a product package or product package inserts. This is because AIHA-LAP does not accredit products.
- Continued use of lab ID, accreditation statements, or symbols for a suspended scope or programs.
The most common complaints we receive about misleading ads involve the following areas:
Non-accredited services. When a laboratory wishes to promote its services to potential customers for both accredited and non-accredited services, it should be absolutely clear that a particular service is not within a lab’s scope of accreditation. To advertise non-accredited services as if they are AIHA-LAP accredited is misleading.
Multiple sites. Labs with multiple sites that choose to accredit some but not all of their locations must make it clear which of their sites are accredited and which are not. A lab may choose to run ads listing only accredited sites in some ads and indicating non-accredited sites in that ad as well. Labs with multiple sites should run ads listing all of their sites, with the accredited and non-accredited sites separated visually or demarcated with a symbol of some kind.
Products. Under no circumstances can statements of accreditation or accreditation symbols appear on products, product packaging, or product inserts (such as air test kits, monitoring badges, bio-monitors, sensors, or sampling devices) even if those products are used to collect samples that may be sent to AIHA-LAP accredited laboratories. Also, accreditation statements or symbols cannot appear in ads selling such products. AIHA-LAP’s policy on this matter is clearly outlined in Policy Module 7 and is intended to avoid the incorrect perception that AIHA-LAP endorses, approves, or certifies products. AIHA-LAP LOGO AND COMBINED MARK When AIHA-LAP, LLC was formed in 2009, a logo was also created for the program for use on AIHA-LAP certificates, letterhead, and marketing materials. This logo, shown in Figure 2, should not be confused with the accreditation symbols described previously. This logo can only be used by AIHA-LAP, LLC; it cannot be used by accredited laboratories.
Also, the combined mark—the AIHA-LAP logo alongside the ILAC mark—that appears on accreditation certificates can only be used by AIHA-LAP and not by accredited laboratories.
LOOK FOR UPDATED ACCREDITATION SYMBOLS Over the next several months, we will introduce new accreditation symbols and provide even more guidance to labs about advertising. We will seek input from representatives of various accredited labs as these symbols are developed to ensure they meet our labs’ marketing needs as well as the requirements of our advertising policies. If you would like to be a part of this effort, please let us know.
As a full member of ILAC, AIHA-LAP will sign a revised ILAC Agreement as required under the recently revised ILAC R7 policy. This new agreement will allow our accredited laboratories to use the ILAC mark in conjunction with the accreditation symbol. Once this agreement is in effect, we will be engaged in additional efforts to monitor the use of the accreditation mark by AIHA-LAP accredited laboratories, especially in cases where laboratories are using the accreditation symbol along with the ILAC mark.
We are also updating advertising guidance and related FAQs along with generic sample ads showing examples of how to comply with Policy Module 7. These revised documents will be available soon in the “Policies, Documents, and Fees” section of the AIHA-LAP, LLC website and will be sent to our labs’ marketing staff. ENSURING A CREDIBLE PROGRAM Our goal at AIHA-LAP is to ensure that our accreditation programs are reputable, credible, and valuable to all who seek accreditation. Advertising and marketing in ways that obscure whether a laboratory is accredited for a particular service or in a particular location devalue the accreditation program in the eyes of customers—and that’s the last thing that we or the laboratory community want.
We look forward to working with our laboratories and customers to strengthen the value of AIHA-LAP accreditation for all of our accredited labs. If you have any questions about the appropriate use of AIHA-LAP symbols, logos, combined marks or AIHA-LAP Policy Module 7, please contact me at (703) 846-0789 or cmorton@AIHA-LAP.org. CHERYL O. MORTON is managing director of AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs, LLC. She can be reached at (703) 846-0789 or cmorton@AIHA-LAP.org.