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February 05, 2013
GAO says lab accreditation process needs reexamination

OSHA’s process for accrediting Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) is lengthy and needs improvement. That’s the conclusion of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). It reviewed OSHA’s process for recognizing laboratories that test safety equipment and devices.

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According to the GAO, “This lengthy process has potentially negative economic consequences for laboratories and requires OSHA staff to divert their time from other oversight activities.”

Two factors were cited. The first is an imbalance between staffing levels and scope of responsibilities. OSHA’s system requires four staff members to balance many responsibilities.

The second problem noted is unclear application requirements. OSHA’s requirements for the content and detail to be provided in accreditation applications differ from international standards for accrediting safety labs. Lack of clarity in guidance creates confusion among applicants and extends the amount of time to prepare and review applications.

The GAO also provided key strategies for improving timeliness. They are:

  • Align program design with mission and resources.
  • Provide clear guidance and timely communication to stakeholders.
  • Develop performance measures and use data to identify inefficiencies.
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