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Laboratory assessors examine and private and public laboratories. They evaluate a lab's operation to ensure compliance with government and environmental regulations, as well as licensure and certification requirements. Their assessments include checking critical equipment and operational characteristics, evaluating demonstrations of testing procedures, and reviewing Quality Control systems within the lab. Laboratory assessors ensure laboratories achieve and maintain the highest levels of scientific and management excellence as a means to protect human and environmental health.
At a glance
Imagine you are sitting at a bench in a commercial water quality testing laboratory, watching carefully as a technician performs a routine test to measure the total suspended solids in a water sample. You are a laboratory assessor for an environmental certification board and you are watching the process to make certain proper procedures are being followed and all instruments and equipment are functioning correctly. This lab performs water quality monitoring for private industries and businesses in the area and has applied for international environmental certification. Before certification can be granted, you must assess the lab to ensure it complies with international standards.
As a laboratory assessor, you perform all kinds of scheduled inspections to monitor labs and ensure they are meeting requirements. You began your assessment two days ago by examining the lab's human resources structure. The manager provided you with an organizational chart, a list of employees, and a description of all the job duties and responsibilities in the laboratory. You also reviewed training records and performance evaluations for all personnel. It is important for you to determine if all laboratory staff and management are sufficiently qualified and properly trained to perform their duties.
Yesterday you reviewed the lab's Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), written instructions telling technicians how to perform each test. You also checked Quality Control and Quality Assurance procedures, as well as calibration and maintenance records for all the lab's equipment.
Now you've moved on to the lab's performance. You've given several technicians samples to test and will watch closely while they perform the analyses, to make sure procedures are followed. You also know the content of these samples, so you can evaluate the technician's accuracy by comparing their results to the actual concentrations.
Once you are finished the inspection, you'll use your notes to prepare an evaluation report detailing areas that meet expectations, as well as areas that need to improve in order to meet certification requirements.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a laboratory assessor:
- Review management and laboratory structures, policies, and manuals.
- Review Standard Operating Procedures for sampling, handling, and performing tests.
- Review staff responsibilities, qualifications, and training.
- Check lab equipment inventories and their calibration records and procedures.
- Review archival procedures for reporting and disposal of environmentally sensitive reagents.
- Provide assistance and information regarding laboratory regulations and accreditation and certification processes.
- Prepare summary reports of assessments, including any deficiencies and suggestions for corrective actions.
- Perform follow-up inspections and evaluate plans for correcting cited deficiencies.
Laboratory assessors work in a variety of locations, including:
In the office:
- Reviewing assessment results and preparing evaluation reports
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and other scientists
- Evaluating applications for laboratory accreditation and certification
- Analyzing and interpreting numerical data
In the field:
- Inspecting and evaluating laboratory facilities
- Observing technicians and analysts performing tests
- Presenting assessment findings to clients and discussing corrective actions
- Attending training courses and skill development seminars
Where to work
There are a number of places laboratory assessors can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Environmental certification organizations
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Self-employed consultant
Education & requirements
If you are a high school student considering a career as a laboratory assessor, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a laboratory assessor is a university undergraduate degree.
If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a laboratory assessor, the following programs are most applicable:
- Environmental Management
- Environmental Science
Most laboratory assessors must be certified by the National Quality Institute as certified auditors. For more information, visit www.ngi.ca