March 12, 2020
What Are A2LA Accredited Labs and What Do They Do?
In August of 2019, the CDC shut down operations at a lab dedicated to the study of Ebola, smallpox, and other deadly diseases after discovering containment leaks.
Alarming as the leaks were, they were hardly unique. Dangerous bioagents and toxins escaped labs across the United States more than 700 times between 2004 and 2010. In 11 of those cases, lab workers contracted infections from the escaped agents.
All of these instances were controlled before mass outbreaks could occur. The potential for small slips to cause huge casualties, however, remains.
A2LA accreditation can help labs prevent disasters before they begin. Keep reading to find out how!
What Is the A2LA?
A2LA is short for the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation.
A2LA is an independent, not-for-profit authority. It offers accreditation programs for laboratories and other testing companies and industries.
The Association abides by the standards set up by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It is a party to two different international agreements:
- International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA)
- International Accreditation Forum (IAF) Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA)
What Is an A2LA Accredited Lab?
Laboratories that work with the A2LA to assess and address risks and quality standards can earn accreditation. Accreditation is essentially a stamp of approval.
Think of it like a college diploma. You know that the bearer of a diploma has been trained by authorities in their field to do a good job. That they graduated tells you they were tested and found worthy.
A2LA accreditation works the same. Independent authorities like the A2LA train and test labs on safety and quality control. They then accredit those labs as proof that they have met or exceeded standards.
Specifically, labs are assessed and certified on:
- Staff capability and skill
- Suitability of testing methods
- Equipment calibration
- Working environment
- Safe handling and transport of samples
- Quality assurance processes and results
Who Uses A2LA Labs?
Anyone concerned with quality may seek out an A2LA lab. Individuals and organizations in the following industries, however, will almost always seek an accredited lab.
- Environmental testing
- Health care
These industries typically cannot afford to take chances. Even small errors can lead to serious consequences for the lives and health of millions. A2LA lab services help ensure they rely on only the best results.
What Are the Benefits of Using an A2LA Lab?
Using an A2LA lab provides several advantages for clients and customers.
Customers who choose an A2LA accredited laboratory enjoy knowing that they are working with certified experts. They feel confident that their projects will be handled correctly and safely at all times.
Companies using accredited labs typically have an advantage when bidding on jobs and contracts. Their clients or the government agencies they wish to work for view A2LA accreditation favorably.
A2LA accredited labs follow the latest and best safety and security procedures. They work cleanly and efficiently. This reduces client risk and liability.
What Are the Benefits of Being an A2LA Lab?
There are many benefits to being an A2LA accredited lab. Most of these benefits derive from the benefits to customers of using such a lab, but not all.
For the reasons described above, many customers prefer to work with A2LA labs. They will typically choose an A2LA lab over an unaccredited lab if given the choice. Many will also pay a premium for accredited lab services.
Accredited labs are at lower risk for health and safety incidents. Their staff is safer than those of unaccredited labs.
As part of the accreditation process, labs streamline their functions and processes. This prevents waste in daily operations. It also reduces errors, which prevents labs from wasting money on retesting samples or redoing erroneous work free of charge.
Wider Customer Base
The A2LA is a signatory to two international quality agreements. A2LA accredited labs are therefore recognized by International customers and governmental bodies. This enables them to take work for which unaccredited labs are ineligible.
Insight Into Systems Solutions
A2LA accreditation labs have the benefit of working with the A2LA to identify systems solutions to key challenges. Systems solutions are notoriously complicated and often difficult for organizations to identify and resolve alone.
Labs can rely on A2LA representatives to help them identify the best processes and lab technology for their needs.
How Long Does A2LA Accreditation Take?
There is no single set time frame in which an organization must complete A2LA accreditation. In part, this is because accreditation looks different for different companies. For example, A2LA offers accreditation for:
- Testing and Calibration labs
- Certification and Inspection agencies
- Direct and clinical testing providers
- Producers of qualifying reference materials
Understandably, each of these categories of organizations will have unique processes, facilities, and systems. Tremendous variation exists within categories, as well.
Smaller labs or those already well-aligned with A2LA accreditation requirements may be able to move through the process quickly. Larger organizations or those with more serious challenges to work through may take longer.
On average, A2LA recommends that applicants plan for the process to take between 3 and 6 months. Similarly, the total cost of accreditation will depend on details unique to each organization.
Make A2LA Accreditation Work for You
It is impossible to overstate the importance of quality and accuracy in labs. A2LA accreditation can be a powerful tool to improve both your results and your market position. If you’re ready to up your game and start preparing for an A2LA accreditation, contact the experts and take the first step toward a more successful future, today!