Stamp of Approval​

Government Regulators Rely on Accredited Testing, ILAC MRA

BY CHERYL O. MORTON
This August, AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs marks its fifth year as an internationally recognized accreditation body under the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA). This recognition was granted following a peer evaluation in which AIHA-LAP, LLC was deemed compliant with the ISO conformity assessment standard for accreditation bodies (ISO/IEC 17011:2004).
 
By signing the MRA, AIHA-LAP entered into a global partnership attesting to its equivalence to other bodies around the world in how AIHA-LAP accredits laboratories to ISO/IEC 17025:2005, the conformity assessment standard that establishes requirements for assessing the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. Some 89 accreditation bodies representing 74 economies have signed the ILAC MRA. These bodies have committed to the concept that a product should be tested once and accepted globally. THIRD-PARTY TESTING To help meet this goal in the United States, AIHA-LAP and other ILAC MRA signatories in the U.S. have been urging government regulators to accept test results from all laboratories accredited under the ILAC umbrella—even those located in other countries. The message conveyed to government regulators clarifies the benefits of the ILAC MRA, including the following:
  • The MRA provides a credible and technically robust framework on which to further develop and enhance government-to-government bilateral and multilateral international trade agreements.
  • The MRA acts as an internationally recognized “stamp of approval” to demonstrate compliance to certain standards and requirements. Risk is therefore minimized, as decisions are based on reliable test results.
  • Duplication of testing is minimized because test and calibration data included in submissions for product approvals can be evaluated without re-testing. Many government agencies have recognized the importance of credible accreditation programs that are developed against internationally recognized standards.
  • Accreditation and the ILAC MRA help regulators meet certain requirements by providing a globally recognized system to accept accredited test reports.
The timing for greater U.S. government reliance on accredited testing could not be better. Today, few U.S. regulatory agencies accredit testing laboratories or operate their own. In the last 15 years, more and more federal regulatory agencies have relied on accredited test results, and more are starting to rely on third-party testing from laboratories accredited by accreditation bodies under the ILAC MRA. The following are a few recent examples:
 
Department of Energy (DoE). DoE recognizes accredited organizations for ISO 14065 verification bodies and ISO/IEC 17024 personnel certification. DoE also recognizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NIST NVLAP) for accreditation of laboratories that test energy-efficient lighting.
 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA’s National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program recognizes the laboratories accredited by U.S. accreditation bodies, including AIHA-LAP, LLC’s environmental lead program. EPA’s Energy Star Program has requirements in place for data provided by laboratories accredited by ILAC MRA signatories.
AIHA-LAP and other ILAC MRA signatories in the U.S. have been urging government regulators to accept test results from all laboratories accredited under the ILA​C umbrella—even those located in other countries.
Department of Defense (DoD). DoD has an Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program for the testing conducted at environmental restoration sites. Do​D recognizes U.S. accreditation bodies that are ILAC MRA signatories for third-party laboratories.
 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). NRC, which regulates components for nuclear reactors, recognizes certain ILAC MRA signatories in the U.S. for accreditation of calibration laboratories. Having gained confidence in the ILAC process, NRC has now expanded recognition to ILAC MRA signatories around the world, for both testing and calibration. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC has several regulations in place to protect children under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, including those that address lead in paint on children’s products. CPSC relies on the ILAC MRA process to determine which third-party laboratories can test children’s products. Laboratories that participate in AIHA-LAP’s consumer products testing program are accepted by CPSC for testing children’s products.
The Value of Accreditation and Conformity Assessment ILAC, ISO, and several other conformity assessment bodies have launched a new website,
www.publicsectorassurance.org, t​o illustrate the value of accredited laboratories. The site includes case studies from around the world in key policy areas to demonstrate how accreditation (and conformity assessment) is used by central governments, local governments, and regulators to deliver benefits.
 
The site also contains links to independent research that identifies where conformity assessment is, and can be, used for policy areas such as economic development, healthcare, environmental protection, energy, food safety, construction, crime, and security.
 
More information on the ILAC MRA can be found on the ILAC website. A list of the ILAC MRA signatories, including the scope of their recognition and the date of signing, is also available.
By law, children’s products imported to the U.S. must be tested by a third-party, CPSC-accepted laboratory in order to have an objective, unbiased laboratory ensure that the product is properly tested and compliant with federal children’s product safety requirements. CPSC has accepted more than 400 laboratories worldwide to perform testing for a variety of requirements for children’s products. These laboratories are required to be accredited by ILAC MRA signatories. Each CPSC-accepted laboratory is authorized by CPSC to test each children’s product for certain requirements. More information about CPSC third-party testing is available from the agency website. AGREEMENTS WITH OTHER AGENCIES For AIHA-LAP and other U.S. accreditation bodies, the ILAC MRA simply builds upon long-standing relationships with federal and state regulatory agencies to provide specific types of accredited testing. AIHA’s Industrial Hygiene Laboratory Accreditation Program (IHLAP), for example, is still required and accepted by several federal and state regulatory agencies because AIHA-LAP’s programs specify certain industrial hygiene requirements in addition to ISO/IEC 17025:2005. 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.
About AIHA-LAP AIHA-LAP, LLC offers the following accreditation programs: