The Importance of Contract Review

Closeup of hands conducting contract review through ISO/IEC 17025:2017.

Considered one of the most significant areas of ISO/IEC 17025, the requirements for review of requests, tenders, and contracts identifies steps to ensure the proper test or calibration is provided to the customer.

Often, the laboratory will receive insufficient information to perform the test or calibration. Then it’s the responsibility of the laboratory to provide a service to meet the needs of the customer and the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025. The following will help ensure the proper service is provided.

Requirements are adequately defined, documented, and understood

Sometimes an artifact, piece of equipment, or sample is sent through a carrier to the laboratory without paperwork or identification and it may be difficult to establish its origin. Laboratory personnel are then tasked with figuring out who is the customer. When this is determined, the laboratory will contact the customer to figure out what they need.

At this point, some sort of definition of work is established and documentation of the conversation is typically done internally. The laboratory will provide the documentation to the customer through email, with the customer acknowledging the conversation. It may be difficult to get all parties to understand the need for calibration and testing, so communication skills may be tested. It is critical that the laboratory and the customer understand the requirements for testing and/or calibration, including test methods requirements that limit or expand a standard method. 

Capability and resources to meet requirements

With a review of the requirements of the test and/or calibration, the laboratory also shall establish the resources it has to perform the process. Personnel resources may be difficult to determine when the request for quote comes to the laboratory, so again communication between the laboratory and the individual provide the quote will be important. Acceptance of the quote may include expedited service but if the laboratory doesn’t have the resources to perform the service within the accepted timeframe, the customer may take their business elsewhere. Critical resources must be established and understood.

Appropriate method selected and capable of meeting requirements

Contact the client in the event that the quote and contract are not the same. When the customer requests a statement of conformity to a specification or standard for the test or calibration (e.g., pass/fail, in tolerance/out of tolerance), the specification or standard and the decision rule shall be clearly defined. Unless inherent in the requested specification or standard, the decision rule selected shall be communicated to and agreed with the customer.

A decision rule is a rule that describes how measurement uncertainty is accounted for when stating conformity with a specified requirement. For more information on decision rules and statements of conformity, see ILAC Guide G8 and ISO/IEC Guide 98.

Record retention

Retention of records of reviews, including any significant changes, is required. ISO/IEC 17025 requires retention of records pertinent discussions with a customer relating to the customer’s requirements or the results of the testing and calibration. A few questions to ask with regard this process that may include the following:

  • Can the records be tracked via a trail of original documentation that defines the work requested?
  • Do the records contain sufficient information to allow the repetition of the test in as close as possible to the same manner as the original test?
  • Do the records include identification of the personnel responsible for performing the tests or calibrations and checking the results?
  • Do the records include forms, contracts, worksheets, workbooks, laboratory notebooks, control charts, internal and external reports and certificates, etc.?
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