Laboratories (testing, calibration)
Laboratories (testing, calibration)
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Mission and organisation of the Laboratories Section
The mission of Cofrac's Laboratories Section is the accreditation of:
- Testing and calibration laboratories;
- Organisers of interlaboratory comparisons;
- Bodies carrying out the verification of regulated measuring instruments.
The Laboratories Section is organised into four competence poles, each of these poles corresponding to major sectors of activity: Biology-Biochemistry, Chemistry-Environment, Mechanical-Thermal, and Physics-Electricity.
Associated with these four poles are five technical accreditation commissions (TAC): Biology–Agri-food, Chemistry-Environment, Mechanical-Thermal, Building-Civil Engineering and Electricity-Radiation-Information Technology.
Accreditation of testing and calibration laboratories
Accreditation certifies the technical competence of testing and calibration laboratories to perform specific tasks.
In terms of testing, accreditation guarantees that the results are obtained according to valid methods and procedures that comply with precise standards. This may concern laboratories performing analyses on chemical agents in water or air, establishing nutritional profiles and seeking contaminants in foodstuffs, measuring electromagnetic fields in situ, mechanical tests on metals, etc.
In terms of calibration, accreditation recognises the aptitude of a laboratory to carry out calibrations and metrological verifications in a defined domain and with specified uncertainties. The Cofrac label on the calibration certificate guarantees the traceability of measurements in the International System of Units (SI).
The Cofrac document, LAB INF 99, presents the principal fields of testing and calibration open to accreditation by the Laboratories Section (list not exhaustive).
Scope of accreditation
The accreditation of laboratories is done according to a well defined perimeter, called scope or technical annex, which is the formal and precise statement of the activities for which the laboratory is accredited.
There are several types of scope of accreditation, which increase in flexibility, suitable for the needs of laboratories:
- Standard, type A1 scope (fixed), for which the laboratory cannot make any modifications to its scope without prior evaluation;
- Standard, type A2 scope (flexible), for which the laboratory, accredited on standardised methods, may, without prior evaluation, implement any successive revisions to these standards (provided that the measurement principle remains the same); in this case, accreditation covers the laboratory's ability to review and confirm the standardised methods;
- Standard, type A3 scope (flexible), for which the laboratory is accredited on a general scope based on the principles of standardised methods; the laboratory is then deemed competent to adopt standardised methods based on technical competencies already demonstrated and may, without prior evaluation, implement any standardised method based on a principle already evaluated;
- Extended, type B scope (flexible), for which the laboratory is deemed competent to adapt and develop methods within the framework of a general defined scope; the laboratory may, without prior evaluation, implement any method that falls within the framework of the general defined scope.
- Regarding accreditation of type A3 and B scopes, a detailed scope is combined with the general defined scope. This detailed scope is the exhaustive list at a given time T for the methods actually implemented (and therefore approved) by the laboratory.
This list continues to be the responsibility of the laboratory and is therefore managed by the laboratory itself.
Evaluations are based on the examination of the organisational and technical provisions put in place by laboratories and on the application of these provisions and the competence and ability to cope with each of the measurement techniques included within the limits of the scope. The evaluation methods are adapted to the degree of freedom given to the laboratory.
The type of scope is not shown as such in the scope. It is in its expression that we will find the idea of flexibility. For more information, cf. document LAB REF 08.
The field of Legal Metrology
Legal metrology is used to guarantee, when in service, accurate and safe measurements for certain measuring instruments used for predefined purposes (transactions and application of laws), by defining the requirements that the instruments must satisfy throughout their life cycle.
Inspections are carried out at several stages (design, production, in service) and require the intervention of designated bodies, notified or approved by the public authorities in accordance with criteria stipulated in the regulations.
Cofrac's Laboratories Section is responsible for the accreditation of primitive and/or periodic verification bodies for certain categories of measuring instrument (e.g.: static and dynamic measurement of liquids other than water, automatic and non-automatic weighing instruments, etc.). The list of legal metrology fields is included in the Cofrac document, LAB INF 99.
The accreditation standard applicable is Cofrac document, LAB ML REF 02, which contains the statutory requirements laid down in the decision of 04 July 2008 (standard based on the standard, NF EN ISO/IEC 17020).