Quality management and quality standards support to forensic science providers
“Mandatory” quality standards for all forensic science laboratories
There are significant pressures on all laboratories that undertake forensic science work for the Criminal Justice System to implement a quality management system in their respective organisations:
- Police procurement: for some years now police procurement initiatives have demanded that their contracted forensic science providers have the international quality standard ISO 17025 accreditation for all “tests” performed on their behalf.
- The Forensic Science Regulator: has drawn up plans to ensure that the “provision of forensic science services across the criminal justice system is subject to an appropriate regime of scientific quality standards”. His proposals mean that all laboratories offering forensic science services to the Criminal Justice System will have to adopt a quality management system. This requirement will apply to any police laboratory undertaking any type of forensic science work: from screening exhibits to retrieving body fluids and other trace evidence for subsequent analysis.
- European Framework Decision: “Council Framework Decision 2009/905/JHA of 30 November 2009 on Accreditation of forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities” requires ISO 17025 accreditation for “laboratory activities”, for DNA and fingerprints, when “locating and recovering traces on items, as well as developing, analysing and interpreting forensic evidence, with a view to providing expert opinions or exchanging forensic evidence”.
If an organisation has no previous experience of designing, implementing and maintaining such quality standards, especially for a discipline as complex as forensic science, trying to plan for such can be a daunting task. This is where Forensic Access can help and support you.
Quality standards support to police forces
Forensic Access has a significant experience of developing, implementing and maintaining quality management systems in forensic science laboratories, and we now offer this service to the police and other organisations.
We can assist in planning for, establishment and maintenance of quality management systems to comply with ISO 9001 & ISO 17025, including the special requirements of ILAC G19 “Guidelines for Forensic Science Laboratories“.
The Head of our Quality Standards team, Kathy Clarke has successfully taken 3 different forensic organisations through ISO 17025 accreditation.
The Forensic Access quality management services
A number of forces are some way down the path of setting up quality management systems, some are in the very early planning stages and some have not yet started to plan. Hence, our service is tailored to the very specific requirements of each force.
After discussing where a particular force is with their quality management and standards system we will propose an action plan based on the following options:
- if you have no plans in place for the establishment of a quality management system, we can prepare and present a simple document outlining what you would need to do for the types of forensic science activities you undertake (or plan to undertake) in your laboratories;
- an initial survey of your current quality management arrangements and a written report on the steps needed to comply with your required quality standard;
- preparation of all documentation: we can prepare the suite of documentation (or adapt your current documentation) to certification/accreditation standard, including Quality Manuals, quality policies and procedures, forms, methods documentation, standard operating procedures (SOPs), etc.
- setting up of record keeping systems including those for equipment calibration and maintenance monitoring, staff training records, audit and review, customer feedback, continuous improvement and management of non-conformances;
- advice on validation requirements for technical methods;
- staff training in auditing and general quality management activities;
- liaising with certification organisations or UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service – responsible for assessment and accreditation to ISO 17025); managing accreditation visits and follow-up actions;
- performing audits (an important requirement of quality management);
- preparing and running proficiency tests (another very important aspect of maintaining a quality management system).