AIHA LAP’s Response to COVID-19

Most occupational health and safety experts know the importance of reliable data from accredited testing laboratories. During the COVID-19 pandemic, OHS professionals may require clinical testing or SARS-CoV-2 testing of surfaces and air. Those experts relying on laboratories accredited by AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs should remain confident in the quality of our laboratories’ analysis. Below is information about how AIHA LAP has responded to COVID-19.

Cancellation of on-site assessments. AIHA LAP’s priority is the health and well-being of its staff, site assessors, and laboratory staff. In early April, AIHA LAP cancelled most on-site assessments and is now performing primarily remote assessments. All of our site assessors and staff have been trained on newly released remote assessment procedures that can involve the use of web-based video technology (for example, FaceTime, Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx) and document sharing software. Our assessors also meet once a month to exchange ideas on remote assessment techniques and best practices. 
Readiness for assessment. Remote assessments are not performed automatically. AIHA LAP laboratories are screened to determine their readiness for remote assessments. Laboratories that are not prepared will have their assessments postponed.  Confidence in assessments. Since remote assessments are new to AIHA LAP, all site assessor reports from remote assessments are undergoing review by members of our Technical Advisory Panel. We are also scheduling surveillances for all remote assessments so that we as an accreditation body can have even more confidence in the remote assessments conducted for each accredited laboratory.  Same technical rigor. Our goals are to have all AIHA LAP laboratories accredited to the 2017 version of ISO/IEC 17025, General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories, by the end of the year and, more importantly, to ensure that AIHA LAP’s remote assessments are conducted with the same technical rigor as our on-site assessments.
CHERYL O. MORTON is managing director of AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs, LLC. Send feedback to The Synergist.

Risk-based approach to resuming on-site assessments. As states and regions begin to reopen, AIHA LAP will resume some on-site assessments using a risk-based approach. Through a web-based survey, we will collect exposure-related information from both the assigned site assessor and the laboratory. Decisions regarding whether we can proceed with an on-site assessment in whole or in part will be made on a case-by-case basis.  RT-PCR analysis added to EMLAP scope. To make it clear to customers that certain AIHA LAP laboratories can analyze SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses, AIHA LAP has added analysis of viruses using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to the Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Accreditation Program’s Molecular Scope Category. Some EMLAP labs that analyze viruses on surfaces and in air and are already accredited within the Molecular Scope Category will soon add viruses to their scopes. Email Drake McGregor or call (703) 846-0739 for more information on how to gain accreditation for analysis of viruses under the EMLAP Molecular Scope Category or for help in finding a qualified microbiology lab that can conduct RT-PCR analyses for viruses. COVID-19 webpage. Finally, AIHA LAP has published a COVID-19 page on our website where you can find a Frequently Asked Questions document (PDF) and a video on remote assessments that can be accessed by our laboratories and other stakeholders. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and convey any updated information or our contingency plans for assessments on this page.  Please feel free to email me or call (703) 846-0789 should you have any questions or need more information about remote assessments or any of AIHA LAP’s actions related to COVID-19. 

In early April, AIHA LAP cancelled most on-site assessments and is now performing primarily remote assessments.