Testing and the importance of ISO/IEC 17025

As well as being the underlying standard for competent testing and calibration, it embraces the use and assessment of standard and non-standard test methods.

While the requirements of “17025” are well known among accredited facilities, not many in industry are aware of its depth and breadth, and hence they do not necessarily appreciate the benefits of dealing with facilities accredited to this standard.

What does ISO/IEC 17025 cover?

The key areas of interest for users of testing facilities are the requirements for sound management, and the requirements for technical competence. The first set of requirements in ISO/IEC 17025 are very similar to those of the management system standard ISO 9001, but tailored to testing facilities. The latter requirements, those for technical competence, are what sets this standard apart from ISO 9001, and sets apart testing facilities accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 from organisations certified to ISO 9001.

Management requirements of ISO/IEC 17025

A testing facility that meets the management requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 will have in place competent systems to provide a sound management structure. A particular feature is an emphasis on procedures that consider the customer of the testing facility. Examples include: the need for the testing facility to negotiate and review contracts in association with their customers to ensure agreement on the most appropriate service to meet the needs of that customer; to consider and deal with customer complaints; to carry out regular internal audits and management reviews to ensure appropriate corrective action has been taken in response to the findings of such audits, and other indicators; and to define and carry out preventive action procedures to identify proactively areas in which problems may arise.

Technical requirements of ISO/IEC 17025

A testing facility that meets the technical requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 will provide a technically competent testing service. This is achieved by ensuring that only suitably qualified and experienced staff are involved in testing and that appropriate levels of supervision are provided. The testing facility must also have available suitable equipment that has been appropriately calibrated and monitored; an appropriate environment for the type of testing carried out; suitably selected, validated methods that have been verified for use in that testing facility; appropriate technical quality monitors such as quality control and proficiency testing; appropriate procedures for the taking of samples (where relevant) and the handling of samples; and appropriate procedures for recording and reporting results.

Why does this matter to testing in the Pipeline Industry?

The keywords are reliability and risk minimisation. Major industrial and resource projects stand to benefit from the assured reliability of test data that comes from testing facilities accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 – in other words, NATA-accredited testing facilities. This assurance can be maximised by requiring NATA-endorsed test certificates. These can only be issued by testing facilities accredited by NATA for the tests reported on those certificates.

This results in minimisation of adverse consequences for constructors and operators and is therefore part of a comprehensive, plant risk management strategy for major projects.

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