Audits are commonly associated with financial records. Images of receipts in shoe boxes and files piled high in storage units come to mind, as do interrogations under spotlights in drab government office cubicles and perhaps scary ?I-take-my-job-way-too-seriously? IRS auditors similar to Thurman here:
But audits, of course, are not always related to financial transactions and associated recordkeeping. In the environmental laboratory industry, audits ensure that the laboratory has quality systems in place, that good practices are followed, and that data generated are accurate. They help determine if the laboratory is capable of meeting contractual requirements pre-award and deter laboratory fraud.
Makes sense to me. Sample data is single-handedly the most important piece of environmental investigations and is the basis of strategic decisions on what to do next.
As consumers, we consult publications like Consumer Reports, or we post shout-outs on Facebook asking for recommendations on the best vehicles, babysitters, heating and plumbing companies…you name it! But in our professional careers, when we are selecting environmental laboratories, we fall short. We often select labs based on price alone and regret it later. According to the EPA, ?Projects awarded to laboratories based solely on price or a written proposal are much more likely to experience serious problems than those for which criteria for laboratory selection includes a thorough audit and reference check.?
So what should you do? How can you avoid the dud labs that are often the cause for costly re-sampling and overextended budgets?
There are multiple online resources available on conducting laboratory audits. EPA?s publication: ?Best Practices for the Detection and Deterrence of Laboratory Fraud? is a great place to start. They have also published a generic checklist that will help you to understand on what audits focus. Online resources provide training, as well. If you don?t have the resources in-house to perform audits, there are firms like Environmental Standards, ECCS, and Laboratory Data Consultants that can perform the audits for you.
If you?ve performed a laboratory audit, tell us about your experience! Were the results of the audit valuable? Was the audit a waste of time?
Written by: Karen Baer