Proficiency Testing & Interlaboratory Comparisons

The term “Proficiency Testing” refers to any activity undertaken by a laboratory in order to provide objective evidence that they are “proficient” or “competent” to perform measurements.

The term thus applies to all laboratories whether they perform measurements for the purpose of calibrating instruments, or perform measurements for the purpose of testing products. Unfortunately however, the laboratory community in South Africa, have created a virtual split into “Calibration Laboratories” and “Testing Laboratories”. The calibration laboratories being more comfortable or familiar with the term, “Inter-Laboratory Comparisons” (ILCs) and the testing laboratory community being more familiar or comfortable with the term, “Proficiency Testing Schemes” (PTS).

ISO/IEC 17025 requires that Calibration and Testing laboratories continuously prove competence (proficiency) in performing measurements as part of assuring the quality of their results. Furthermore, SANAS regulatory documents R-48 and R-80, require that Accredited Laboratories shall participate in Proficiency Testing Schemes to cover their scopes of accreditation over a period not exceeding 5 years.

The NLA-SA has embarked on a project to make PTS available to the laboratory community which meet all the ISO/IEC 17025 requirements. Whilst it is possible for laboratories to organize, participate in and report on informally organised schemes with participants of their choice, the time and resources required are often underestimated, leading to either an indirect financial burden or compromised results.

The documents that can be downloaded from the menu bar above to provide potential participants with information.