An independent chemical laboratory can be an invaluable project asset. It can provide unbiased, third-party data, handle work overloads for in-house laboratories, and offer services not found within a company or government agency.
Increased regulatory compliance since the mid-1980s created the need for laboratories to provide more than analytical services. Today, there are many environmental laboratories to choose from, which complicates the process. And, if many laboratories fit the description above, how do you select the laboratory that is right for your needs? Below are some guidelines for streamlining the selection process.
Insist On Quality. This should be your foremost consideration when choosing a laboratory. The laboratory should provide quality data to meet your needs. The core of an environmental laboratory is its quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) program. Ask to see it. Also ask about the laboratory's system for tracking samples and results. Study the laboratory's Mission Statement.
Search For Experience. The best asbestos laboratory in the country may be inadequate to handle the testing from your hazardous waste project. Be sure the laboratory has experienced personnel in your area of interest. Does the laboratory have enough personnel to handle your project needs? Ask for client references.
The Value Of Local Presence. If your project needs involve regulatory compliance, is the laboratory familiar with the agency having jurisdiction over your project? It may be helpful to select a local laboratory if your project involves regional environmental mandates that have no federal counterpart.
What About Certification? There is not a universally accepted certification program now in place for laboratories. Be cautious of a laboratory's use of words like 'approved' and 'recognized'. Determine the requirements to obtain such status.
Visit The Facility. Visiting the laboratory and meeting the people who will test your samples will help your selection process. It will give you the opportunity to audit laboratory practices and to see how your samples will be handled. Ask to review a typical report for clarity and readability. This is especially helpful if nontechnical managers will receive the data. Can you get data in a client-specified electronic format?
Conduct A Performance Evaluation. Before making a final selection, send the laboratory some samples for testing. The samples should be uniform; with known constituents and concentrations in them.
Cost. The cost of an analysis is a function of the laboratory's commitment to quality. The cost for analysis among qualified laboratories should not vary considerably. Significant variations in the cost of an analysis are due to methodology differences. If you find differences in cost between laboratories, ask each laboratory to describe its method to you. Make sure you have specified all aspects of your project needs before selecting the laboratory with the lowest price.
© Lourie Consultants, August, 1995