Proficiency testing is a valuable component of the accreditation programs offered by ASCLD/LAB. A solid proficiency testing program allows a forensic laboratory to satisfy accreditation requirements and confirm competent performance; compare performance with other forensic laboratories; identify improvement areas and have increased confidence in the laboratory’s work product.
The ASCLD/LAB Proficiency Testing and Review Program is an essential component of a laboratory’s quality assurance program and ASCLD/LAB accreditation programs have proficiency testing requirements at three distinct levels: “Discipline”, “Category of Testing” and “Analyst”. Below are some key factors of the program:
- For external proficiency tests being used to satisfy associated accreditation requirements, the laboratory must submit the test result to the test provider on or before the due date and authorize each test provider to release the test results directly to ASCLD/LAB. Each test provider has its own mechanism for this authorization.
- Accredited laboratories must notify the test provider in writing (with a copy to the ASCLD/LAB Proficiency Program Manager) in a timely manner about any concerns related to an external proficiency test from an approved test provider.
- Accredited laboratories are encouraged to provide proactive communications when potentially outlying results are discovered. These proactive communications, need to provide the detail needed to assist in the review of the results including an explanation of the results of interest, any actions planned or taken, if applicable and whether or not the test result had any impact on casework.
- ASCLD/LAB accredited laboratories may not be the only test participants in the proficiency tests marketed by test providers. Test providers are able to provide tests to any customer meeting their purchasing requirements and the resulting test report will contain results of any customer who submitted results before the due date. Reports received by ASCLD/LAB may contain only the results of ASCLD/LAB accredited labs who authorized release of their results. When compared to the general distribution summary report received by test provider customers, the ASCLD/LAB reports contain the identity of the participating ASCLD/LAB accredited laboratory and can contain a fewer number of test participants resulting in different statistics or consensus values associated with the responses. The manufacturer’s specifications and results of the participating accredited laboratories will be considered in determining acceptable levels of performance.
- The test response form, at times, may not capture information related to a result. Test participants are encouraged to explain responses in the comments sections on the forms. Often after reviewing the laboratory’s comments or a response to questions regarding their results, the results are understood and the review of these results is closed. If an inconsistency does exist, the Proficiency Review Committee (PRC) will recommend a class I, II, or III to the inconsistency. The Proficiency Review Program document contains more information on determining the Level of Apparent Inconsistency.
At any time during the laboratory’s accreditation cycle, ASCLD/LAB can request objective evidence in order to determine if the proficiency test results have been reviewed and actions, if any needed, have been taken.
If any questions arise, please contact Proficiency Program Manager Patti Williams.