Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program
The 2013 Minnesota legislative session amended the Minnesota Statutes 144.98 governing the accreditation of environmental laboratories. The amendments established a selection committee to determine qualifications of independent assessors and assessment organizations and review the applications from interested parties. The selection committee completed its preparation of the application materials in July, 2013.
Minnesota Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (MNELAP) is now accepting applications from individual assessors and assessment organizations interested in performing assessments for compliance with our state laws and rules, including the 2003 NELAC Standard and the 2009 TNI Standard.
The first round of applications are due by 2:30 p.m. (Central) on August 23, 2013.
Applications are due by 2:30 p.m. (Central) on August 23, 2013.
The Minnesota Statutes amendments include provisions for approval of employees of state or federal agencies with established agreements for mutual assistance or recognition with MDH. Therefore, state and federal employees should not use this application process.
After review of the applications, the selection committee will report their recommendations to MNELAP. MNELAP will post a list of qualified assessors and assessment organizations on its webpage and send notifications to applicants. Approvals for assessors and assessment organizations may extend from the date of notification/posting through December 31, 2014. Please note that meeting the qualifications and requirements does not guarantee acceptance as an assessor.
All approved assessors and assessment organizations must adhere to the responsibilities listed in the MDH Data Practices and Security Checklist. This checklist must be provided to all personnel involved with MNELAP assessments and must be acknowledged and signed by the individual assessor or a designee from the assessor organization. This checklist must also be acknowledged and signed by MNELAP.
On January 22, 2013, the budget for the State of Minnesota was proposed by Governor Mark Dayton. The budget proposal includes a significant change for the Minnesota Department of Health’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program. Specifically, the Governor proposed a reduction in accreditation fees to support third party assessments of environmental laboratories. Further, the proposal requires formation of a Selection Committee to set the operational procedures, application process, review of qualifications and recommendations to the Commissioner of Health for qualified assessors and assessing bodies. The statute requires the commissioner to publish the assessor application requirements and procedures on the accreditation program website.
The Selection Committee includes seven (7) members designated as follows:
(1) One member from a municipal laboratory accredited by the commissioner: Jen Thoreson, City of St. Peter
(2) One member from an industrial treatment laboratory accredited by the commissioner: Sharon Dahl, Flint Hills Resources
(3) One member from a commercial laboratory located in this state and accredited by the commissioner: Melanie Ollila, Pace Analytical Services
(4) One member from a commercial laboratory located outside the state and accredited by the commissioner: Judy Morgan, Environmental Sciences Corporation
(5) One member from a non-governmental client of environmental laboratories: Terri Olson, Barr Engineering
(6) One member from a professional organization with a demonstrated interest in environmental laboratory data and accreditation: Jerry Parr, The NELAC Institute
(7) One employee of the laboratory accreditation program administered by the department: Susan Wyatt, MNELAP
Committee appointments begin on January 1 and end on December 31st of the same year. The terms for the members above will expire on 12/31/2014.
Laboratories are encouraged to fill out an Assessment Appraisal Form after their assessment is completed. This feedback is valuable to our program for continuous quality improvement efforts.
- Who do I contact if I have questions about MNELAP’s assessors and/or the assessor application process?
Answer: Susan Wyatt, Program Manager
Minnesota Department of Health, MNELAP
601 Robert Street North
PO Box 64899
St. Paul, MN 55164-0899
- If I perform assessments as an individual (independent contractor) and also perform assessments as a subcontractor for an assessment organization, which forms should be completed?
Answer: All assessors, whether performing assessments as individuals or with an organization, must submit an Environmental Laboratory Assessor Application. If an organization wishes to apply, the organization must complete an Assessment Organization Application. The organization application requires the applicant to identify proposed assessors and ensure the individual assessors have completed the Environmental Laboratory Assessor Application. The information for the individual assessor must be specific to the assessor rather than to an organization (e.g. phone, email, mailing address).
- Do I need to register as a business in Minnesota to apply as an assessor?
Answer: Applicants should review page 2 of the Department of Revenue Application for Business Registration (ABR) to determine if a Minnesota Tax ID and registration is required. Questions may be forwarded to the Department of Revenue and this information can be found on page 2 of this booklet.
Department of Revenue: 651-282-5225
Department of Revenue - Minnesota Application for Business Registration Instruction Booklet (PDF 11 pages)
- Will my assessor answer questions about my assessment or accreditation?
Answer: Assessors may only conduct the onsite assessment activities for your laboratory. Contracted assessors or organizations are not authorized to answer questions regarding your accreditation, application fees, the application process or interpretations of the standard. Assessors will be communicating their assessment observations during a closing meeting. Laboratories are encouraged to resolve any disputed items at the time of the assessment or to contact MNELAP if clarification is required. MNELAP will be reviewing all draft assessment reports prior to release to the laboratory.
- How will the cost rate for MDH assessors be determined, if an MDH assessor is needed?
Answer: The law requires the commissioner to collect fees equivalent to the cost of performing the assessment activities. The major activities and cost factors include: pre-assessment review of documentation; establishing the onsite assessment dates, times and schedule; time spent in travel to and from the onsite assessment site; interviewing laboratory staff while onsite at the laboratory facility; preparing the assessment report and reviewing laboratory responses to findings. Travel costs associated with the assessment include meals, lodging, and transportation costs, such as airfare, mileage, tolls, car rental, public transportation and parking.
- Will MDH assessors be listed on the approved list and can the lab select a specific MDH assessor from that list? Can we use assessors/employees from MN state agencies or other states?
Answer: No. The list of assessors published on the webpage and available to laboratories will include the list determined ‘qualified’ by the selection committee and referred to the MNELAP for approval. Alternate assessors (MNELAP staff and employees of state or federal agencies with reciprocal agreements) will not be available to laboratories and will not be listed on the webpage. If an alternate assessor is needed, the assessment arrangements will be determined by MNELAP.
- How will we control copies of lab controlled documents that the assessors are privy to? ELDO read only view only?
Answer: MNELAP will grant access to the ELDO system for all approved assessors with confirmed laboratory assignments. Assessors and assessment organizations must sign the MDH Data Practices and Security Agreement as part of their application for approval. The agreement requires appropriate handling of documents and information and restricts access to data on a need-to-know basis.
- Can anyone be an assessor?
Answer: No. The qualifications of the individual assessors are essentially the same as those for MDH employees hired as assessors. Real or perceived conflicts of interest will be considered for evaluation of assessor applications. Labs cannot assess their own facility or other facilities under the same ownership due to conflict of interest provisions.
The application forms describe the requirements and process for approval of individual assessors and assessment organizations. Please note that meeting the qualifications and requirements does not guarantee acceptance as an assessor.
- Can an MDH employee quit and become an assessor?
Answer: Any person may apply to be an approved assessor. Only applications from non-governmental personnel will be considered for the approved list. If an MDH employee severs employment with the state, the former employee may choose to apply for consideration as an approved assessor. The application would be subject to the same evaluation criteria as all other applicants.
- If, during the course of the assessment, our selected assessor cannot complete the assessment activities or we determine the assessor is not competent to perform the assessment for our scope of work (i.e. terminating our contract prior to the end of the assessment) do we need to inform MNELAP of the change?
Answer: Yes. Upon entering the contract, the assessor will notify MNELAP of the assignment. This allows MNELAP staff to monitor access to the laboratory files in ELDO as well as provide guidance to the assessor and the lab in completing a timely assessment process. One of the first actions an assessor must perform is providing the notification of any conflicts of interest and adding the confirmation of delivery to the laboratory files. This action must occur with MNELAP intervention. If the laboratory or the assessor terminates the contract after the selection of the assessment team and notification of conflicts of interest, MNELAP will note the change and may provide instruction to the laboratory in selecting a new assessor. If the situation warrants, MNELAP may determine sufficient cause to remove the assessor from the approved list. The potential reasons for removal are listed in M.S. 144.98, subd. 12.
- Why is MNELAP headed in the direction of independent assessors? Why now? And who else is doing this type of contracting or approval of assessors?
Answer: MNELAP has investigated multiple ways to reduce the overall costs of accreditation while maintaining a program conforming to federal laws and the national standards used by the majority of states. The implementation of the online application system significantly reduced the administrative costs for the program. With this change, the assessment costs may now be reduced because MNELAP will not expend resources for duplicating assessments at laboratories already assessed by other organizations. Smaller laboratories may reduce costs of the assessment by forming cooperative agreements to share travel costs for the assessment team. Several states already use a similar contracting process and federal agencies are required to do so through Executive Order.
- What do I do if my laboratory is already due for an assessment and the approved list of assessor is not yet available from MNELAP? Will this impact my certificate and do I need to notify my clients?
Answer: MNELAP realizes the time needed to complete the approval process for the initial assessors may exceed a laboratory’s 24 month assessment schedule. MNELAP notified the NELAP Accreditation Council members (states holding reciprocal agreements with MNELAP) and received acceptance for the delayed implementation. The delay will add approximately three months to the assessment cycle. Laboratories with overdue assessments or assessments nearing the 24 month timeline should prepare to be assessed in October - November 2013.
If your laboratory receives questions from clients who are employed by accreditation programs in reciprocal states, you may forward the requestor to MNELAP to address concerns.
- Can MNELAP post costs associated with each approved assessor? Can MNELAP rate the assessors and post the information on a webpage?
Answer: No. MNELAP will not have information regarding costs of the assessments and cannot post cost information without impacting a fair contracting process. Likewise, MNELAP cannot rate individual assessors or organizations. If a laboratory believes costs are excessive or that an assessor or organization should be removed from the list for any of the causes stated in the statutes, the laboratory should relay their concerns to MNELAP.
Updated Thursday, 14-Nov-2013 15:32:16 CST