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Chapter: 8 Introduction to quality assurance of measurements
    Section: 8.5 Monitoring and auditing

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Updated: 28 October 2011
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8.5 Monitoring and auditing

A key aspect of quality assurance is the adoption of procedures to check whether the quality system is operating as intended. These procedures generally fall into two categories, described here as "monitoring" and "auditing" although other terms may be used. Monitoring entails experimental checks to determine whether the laboratory or other facility is actually producing data within specification. Auditing entails inspection and review of the quality system to see whether it is being operated as planned and documented. It should also assess whether modifications are needed. With either monitoring or auditing the procedure may be undertaken internally, which is essential, and also externally to the organisation. Ideally, internal monitoring and auditing should both be complemented by independent, external assessments. Also internal auditing is an essential requirement of all external auditing schemes.

Internal monitoring activities are widely referred to as quality control (QC). Within the measurement field, the two most common types of external monitoring are proficiency testing (PT) and external quality assurance (EQA). These are essentially different terminology for the same activity, with the term EQA being more common in the area of clinical measurements. It is important with both internal and external monitoring to review the results and devise appropriate changes in technique when problems are identified and a requirement for this should be included in the documented quality system.

A wide variety of external auditing schemes are available to measurement laboratories but most fall into two main groups, accreditation and certification. It is important to understand the distinction between the two. Accreditation of measurement laboratories is a technical assessment which reviews not only the documented quality system but also the technical capability to deliver the measurement services falling within the scope of the accreditation. As such, accreditation uses assessors who are expert in the applications under review and, increasingly, requires satisfactory performance data from external monitoring schemes. Certification schemes are more general, looking primarily to see whether an organisation is correctly implementing the quality system which it believes to be appropriate to its needs. Hence, assessors require knowledge of quality assurance issues but not a relevant technical expertise. Most clients of measurement laboratories are likely to require evidence of accreditation rather than certification.


M.Sargent

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