CANADA – The Northern Analytical Lab Services (NALS) at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) has achieved a major milestone, as it has now met international standards for testing labs.
NALS has received accreditation from the Standards Council Canada to the International Organization for Standards, ISO/IEC 17025, for testing and calibration laboratories. This accreditation signifies the lab can produce and provide reliable water, soil and air test results for both UNBC researchers and external stakeholders.
The accreditation process, which usually takes a year, was launched in November 2019 by NALS Quality Assurance Officer, Ann Duong. However, the COVID pandemic and shutdowns across Canada and the United States, significantly delayed the process.
They received word on the certification in late July, save for some pending additional formalities that needed to be finalized prior to issuance of the official certificate.
The Northern Development Initiative Trust, an independent economic development corporation furnished the lab Canadian $30,000 (US$ 23920.01) to launch the accreditation process.
The Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia (WorkSafeBC) was a major contributor towards this milestone, owing to a research partnership between the organizations, centered around work place air quality.
NALS applied to WorkSafeBC’s research fund and received $144,123.36 (US$ 114887.22) to work on a chromium speciation project together with world-famous industrial hygienists Dr. Martin Harper from Zefon Inc. in the U.S. and Steven Verpaele from the Nickel Institute in Belgium.
The NALS is the only lab in Canada that is partnering with WorkSafeBC at that level and is the only research and development facility that has an industrial hygiene program in the region.
Prior to NALS accreditation approval from Standards Council Canada, Kazemian said some clients had to go outside of Canada for particulate testing. Now, NALS is certified to do it.
“Our aim is not to compete with any commercial lab, but as a full-service equipment lab, we are trying to help provide services that are not accessible to communities in the northern B.C. region.” Kazemian said.
Among them is certification in industrial hygiene where NALS scientists can evaluate a workplace for environmental hazards to ensure employees are not working in a dangerous environment.
For the last five years, NALS has slowly built up highly qualified personnel of current and former students who work in the lab. Duong is among them as she is doing her master’s research in the lab.