SUMMARY: Most Labs (including ours) are accredited by AIHA or A2LA but, what does this actually mean, and how important is it? And, what is the National Compressed Air Certification Program?” The answers will surprise you.
LABORATORY ACCREDITATION – NOT WHAT YOU THINK
To most people, Laboratory Accreditation means that the lab has been thoroughly checked out by an independent organization to be sure that whatever it does, is done correctly. One thinks in terms of on-site audits and performance check standards. The site visit and QA program is important, unfortunately, at this writing, no certification program for sampling and analysis of compressors exists in the US that lives up to what you and I expect from the “Accredited Laboratory” label. Once either organization solves the problem of sampling, and obtaining gaseous standards, this will change. The most important part of the problem is that there are very few experts in the US.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the American Association Laboratory Accreditation are accrediting organizations. Although the AIHA labs receive quarterly performance samples, they are only tested on things like lead, asbestos, or airborne solvents. (Like the other air quality labs, our accreditation is for airborne solvents. Our AIHA lab number is 102116). Unfortunately, neither AIHA nor A2LA have a proficiency testing protocol specifically for correct sampling and analysis of compressor air; without proficiency tests, there is no way to test the lab’s skills.
You might ask “What about the National Compressed Air Certification Program?” No such federal, state or consensus trade program exists. It is simply a clever marketing contrivance of a business called Texas Research Institute (TRI).
Some states have developed an air monitoring policy. In 1999 Florida adopted a landmark law which requires that all operations supplying compressed air to the public must have their air analyzed to meet CGA Grade E purity. The analysis is required to be done quarterly, and it must be done by a laboratory accredited by either A2LA or AIHA. Suppliers that ignore this new law are subject to legal penalties. When we discussed this with the Florida department of health services they could only quote the law and its intent, not its efficacy.
The conclusion is that accreditation is important because it is an effective marketing tool for laboratories. As you search among the labs (there are currently 5) we advise you to focus your attention on the details of the lab’s sampling and analysis program rather than on the misleading title of “accredited”. To help you with your query, we offer several bulletins that give you enough background to make proper comparisons. See also Sampling for Oil Mist + Particulate and Sampling for Gases and hydrocarbons.
Contact our local service center if you are unable to resolve a contamination issue. Contact us if you need the name of a technical specialist located in your area.