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November/December 2010

ASTM in the Lab

Maryann Gorman,  Standardization News' Editor in Chief“Don’t taste the chemicals; don’t sniff the chemicals; don’t look too closely at the chemicals — and wear your safety glasses!”

While I’ve visited a few labs in my time as the editor of this magazine, I hadn’t heard these simple do’s and don’ts for the lab until I opened up the manuscript for this issue’s cover story, “10 Best Practices of Good Laboratories.” They constitute good advice, but as author Robert Zimmerman shows us, they are far from the only best practices in the lab.

Other practices, such as “maintain your proficiency” and “validate methods,” happen to be aided by ASTM International programs. In addition to pursuing its core strength of developing standards, ASTM has, over many decades, developed related programs that are used worldwide by laboratories looking to assure the quality of their services.

  • Proficiency Testing Programs: In the early 1990s, ASTM’s board of directors approved a business plan for the management of PTPs that would aid laboratories performing ASTM test methods in areas as diverse as metals, plastics, textiles and petroleum to see how their own test results compare to those of other laboratories. Results help program participants assess their own lab’s proficiency and meet accreditation requirements as well.
  • Technical and Professional Training: For more than two decades, ASTM International’s TPT program has been sending experts — usually the very people who develop its standards — around the world to help technicians better understand how to perform its test methods. The one- to three-day seminars are conducted on-site at attendees’ facilities and at ASTM headquarters.
  • Quality and statistics standards: While ASTM standards are often the subject of lab testing, some of our standards themselves positively impact the performance of ASTM test methods. For decades, ASTM Committee E11 on Quality and Statistics has been writing standards relevant to many ASTM technical committee areas, including practices for reporting uncertainty and for conducting interlaboratory studies and ruggedness tests, and a guide for identifying statistical procedures, among others.

To read about all 10 best practices and other ASTM programs that may fit into your lab’s operations, see Zimmerman’s feature article. And don’t taste the chemicals.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief