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NIST Seeks Comments for Improving Lab Accreditation to Promote U.S. Competitiveness

To help promote U.S. competitiveness in domestic and global markets, the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking comments from the conformity assessment community, industry, exporters and all others concerned with trade on ways to achieve greater compatibility, coordination, and expanded mutual recognition of competent laboratory accreditations at the national and international level.

The comments on current problems and suggestions for improving laboratory accreditation will be included in the proceedings of the "Open Forum on Laboratory Accreditation" that was held at NIST, Oct. 13, 1995. The forum was co-sponsored by NIST, ACIL (formerly the American Council of Independent Laboratories) and the American National Standards Institute.

"There is widespread agreement that the current approach to laboratory accreditation results in unnecessary burdens," says Belinda Collins, director of the NIST Office of Standards Services. "The duplication of effort is expensive in time and money and seriously degrades U.S. competitiveness in domestic and global markets."

At the open forum, representatives from private-sector laboratories, federal and state agencies, accreditors, manufacturers, and the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference presented their views on a wide variety of issues, including the costs of multiple accreditations; conflicting requirements imposed by users of accreditation; special programs tailored to narrow customer or supplier bases; non-uniformity of requirements and lack of reciprocity; international trade implications; and other pertinent factors that impact the compatibility of laboratory accreditation schemes.

The principal speakers were Charles W. Hyer, the Marley Organization, who gave a history of efforts to build a system of laboratory accreditation in the United States, dating back to a conference held at the National Bureau of Standards in the early 1960s; William Henderson of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service who spoke to international issues; and Charles Ludolph, director, Office of European Union and Regional Affairs, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, who described the needs to satisfy foreign government concerns about the competence of laboratory accreditation bodies when negotiating mutual recognition agreements. - more - According to ANSI President Sergio Mazza, "We need to respond to three overriding concerns. One is the need for credible accreditations and tests that will build consumer and regulator confidence in laboratories, products and services. Two is the need to build that credibility on a global basis. Three is to do so at the lowest possible cost, by avoiding unnecessary duplication and conflict. Our challenge is to build a consensus of how to best achieve this."

Comments on the status of laboratory accreditation in the United States should be sent to the NIST Office of Standards Services, Room 106, Building 417, NIST, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-0001, (301) 975-4000, fax: (301) 963-2871. Remarks must be received by Nov. 24, 1995, to be included in the proceedings from the "Open Forum on Laboratory Accreditation," Oct. 13, 1995.

As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.

Released November 6, 1995, Updated November 27, 2017