ISO/IEC 17043:2010 Proficiency Testing
ISO/IEC 17043:2010 Conformity assessment – General requirements for proficiency testing is a general standard for all types of proficiency testing projects, and they can be used as a basis for specific technical requirements for particular fields of application. This standard applies to ISO 17025 accredited laboratories, and therefore you should be familiar with it.
According to ISO/IEC 17043:2010, proficiency testing is the use of interlaboratory comparisons for the determination of laboratory performance. In other words, a proficiency test is a method used to demonstrate competency and validate a laboratory’s measurement process by comparing your results to the results of a reference laboratory and other participant laboratories. Proficiency testing addresses these 7 requirements:
- The performance of laboratories for tests or measurement and monitoring a labs’ performance
- Identifying problems in labs and initiation actions for improvement. For example, inadequate tests or measurement procedures, effectiveness of staff training and supervision or calibration of equipment.
- The establishment of effectiveness and comparability of tests or measurement methods
- The provision of additional confidence to customers
- Identification of interlaboratory dissimilarities
- Education of participating laboratories based on the outcomes of these comparisons
- Validation of uncertainty claims
How does Proficiency Testing Work?
Proficiency testing is the act of interlaboratory comparisons. Their job is to determine the laboratories performance based upon the 7 requirements listed above. To begin a coordinating body will send a test item to a reference laboratory for testing. Next, the coordinating body will send the item to participating labs for additional testing. These labs will test the item, send the results back to the coordinating body and then forward the test item to the next participating lab. Once each participating lab has tested the item, the artifact is returned to the coordinating body.
Why is Proficiency Testing Important
Proficiency testing is now more important than ever as ISO/IEC 17025:2017 now requires it, as addressed in 7.7.2. In ISO/IEC 17025:2005, proficiency testing was only recommended, so if you are adopting the new standard you need to have a proficiency testing program in place.
To become accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 you must:
- meet the requirements beyond the ISO/IEC 17025 standard,
- understand how to find a proficiency testing provider,
- understand your proficiency testing results,
- submit your results to your accreditation body,
- know what actions to take if your organization fails a proficiency test.
Not only is ISO 17043:2010 a requirement of ISO/IEC 17025, it has been endorsed by ILAC and accreditation body policies.
Confidence in laboratory performance is not only necessary for labs and customers but also for interested parties including regulators, accreditation bodies and other organizations that specify requirements for laboratories. ISO/IEC 17011 requires accreditation bodies to take account of laboratories’ participation and performance in proficiency testing. Currently, there is a growing need for proficiency testing especially for inspection and product certification. ISO/IEC 17043 provides a consistent basis for all interested parties to determine the competence of the laboratory that provide proficiency testing.