The international standards for accrediting laboratory’s technical competence has evolved over the past 30 over years, started from ISO Guide 25: 1982 to ISO Guide 25:1990, to ISO 17025:1999, to ISO 17025:2005 and now to the final draft international standard FDIS 17025:2017, which is due to be published before the end of this year to replace the 2005 version. We do not anticipate much changes to the contents other than any editorial amendments.
The new draft standard aims to align its structure and contents with other recently revised ISO standards, and the ISO 9001:2015 in particular. It is reinforcing a process-based model and focuses on outcomes rather than prescriptive requirements such as eliminating familiar terms like quality manual, quality manager, etc. and giving less description on other documentation. It attempts to introduce more flexibility for laboratory operation.
Although many requirements remain unchanged but appear in different places of the document, it has added some new concepts such as:
– focusing on risk-based thinking and acting,
– decision rule for measurement uncertainty to be accountable for when stating
conformity with a specification,
– sampling as another laboratory activity apart from testing, and calibration, and,
– sampling uncertainty to be a significant contributing factor for the evaluation of
The purpose of introducing sampling as another activity is understandable, as we know that the reliability of test results is hanged on how representative the sample drawn from the field is. The saying “The test result is no better than the sample that it is based upon” is very true indeed.
If an accredited laboratory’s routine activity is also involved in the field sampling before carrying out laboratory analysis on the sample(s) drawn, the laboratory must show evidence of a robust sampling plan to start with, and to evaluate the associated sampling uncertainty.
It is reckoned however that in the process of carrying out analysis, the laboratory has to carry out sub-sampling of the sample received and this is to be part of the SOP which must devote a section on how to sub-sample it. If the sample received is not homogeneous, a consideration of sampling uncertainty is to be taken into account.
Although FDIS states that when evaluating the measurement uncertainty (MU), all components which are of significance in the given situation shall be identified and taken into account using appropriate methods of analysis, its Clause 7.6.3 Note 2 further states that “for a particular method where the measurement uncertainty of the results has been established and verified, there is no need to evaluate measurement uncertainty for each result if it can demonstrate that the identified critical influencing factors are under control”.
To me, it means that all identified critical uncertainty influencing factors must be continually monitored. This will have a pressured work load for the laboratory concerned to keep track with many contributing components over time if the GUM method is used to evaluate its MU.
The main advantage of the top down MU evaluation approach based on holistic method performance using the daily routine quality control data, such as intermediate precision and bias estimation is also appreciated as stated in Clause 7.6.3. Its Note 3 refers to the ISO 21748 which uses accuracy, precision and trueness as the budgets for evaluation of MU, as an information reference.
Secondly, this clause in the FDIS suggests that once you have established an uncertainty of a result by the test method, you can estimate the MU of all test results in a predefined range through the use of relative uncertainty calculation.