As part of the requirement to maintain their accreditation status, testing and calibration laboratories must regularly participate in proficiency testing (PT) or inter-laboratory comparisons (ILC), to ensure the validity of the test methods, competency of technical staff and accuracy of the equipment being used to perform the specified tests or calibrations. The participation in PT or ILC schemes is often expensive with the PT provider/ILC laboratory often requesting for payment prior to delivery of services. In addition the statistical analysis involved in assessing the accuracy of the result is quite cumbersome and takes a long time, particularly if there are hundreds of laboratories participating in the scheme, as is the case with international PT providers.
Therefore, it was deemed critical that a National Proficiency Testing Scheme be developed in Pakistan to initially cater for the demand of national testing laboratories in the fields of microbiology and chemical testing. Hence TRTA II fielded an International Expert, Subadra Jayasinghe, to provide the necessary technical advice for the establishment of a PT scheme in Pakistan.
Following exhaustive survey of the laboratories in Pakistan, it was agreed that the Environment Analytical Laboratory (EAL) housed at the National Physical Standards Laboratory (NPSL) has the most expertise in PT and hence would be the best laboratory to perform the duties of a PT provider in Pakistan. The facilities available at the EAL were observed to be adequate and with some improvement in the area of PT sample preparation and data analysis, would serve the purpose of a functional PT provider. The chemical analysis laboratory and the proposed layout was found to be satisfactory. The area allocated at present for media preparation could be converted to the PT sample preparation area. The laboratory, however, initially needs to demonstrate competence in measurement of properties and hence needs to obtain ISO 17025 accreditation for the parameters for which PT will be planned and that exposure visits to staff to gain hands on training on planning and organizing PT programmes and data analysis is required. A gap analysis was also conducted by the Ms. Jayasinghe, and, based on ISO 17043 requirements, a road map spanning 12 months was worked out for EAL to achieve ISO 17043 accreditation.