WEF Discussion Forums
Laboratory Management and Technical Issues
lab equipment annual service
I am trying to find out exactly what lab equipment that the EPA requires a annual service on. I think the balance requires annual service/calilbration but would like to know what else I should be concerned with. We have a spectrophotometer, pH meter, DO meter, Hach digital reactor, autoclave, moisture analyzer, drying oven, incubators, etc. Can someone please tell me (or even better, direct me to the EPA site that will tell me) what equipment must be serviced yearly.
I'm not aware of any EPA requirement for periodic, independent (third-party) maintenance or calibration. There are calibration check requirements for just about everything, but you are allowed to do them yourself; for example, checking balances with NIST-traceable weights.
The question of whether or not to have maintenance contracts on instruments is a hot topic here in Oregon, one in which I find myself a minority of one. We have them on just about everything. And we have a company come in once a year to do all the balances and specs. Ovens, baths, etc. we fix ourselves and check temperatures with NIST-traceable thermometers.
Because Oregon is what's called a secondary market, very few manufacturers have technical service people based in the state. They usually have to come from Seattle or somewhere in California. Without a maintenance contract, you're way back in the que right from the start. Then there's the travel and per diem costs to bring somebody in from out of state.
Of course, you could argue that if an instrument is well-made, you wouldn't need a contract. We do a TON of stormwater related work throughout the winter season, and I prefer to be proactive and not get caught with a dead instrument and have to farm work to a contract lab.
Actually, I'm curious as to what the consensus is amongst municipal labs: yes or no on maintenance contracts???
Chuck Lytle, Portland Oregon
I agree with Chuck that there is no blanket EPA requirement. EPA's requirement, and what should be that of any regulator (IMHO), is "If it works and you can provide evidence in the way of QC data, don't mess with it." I'm not quoting there because, to the best of my knowledge, there is no written guidance. Some states have scheduled-calibration/maintenance requirements, but when it comes to balances, I'm guessing it's your calibration service company representative who told you annual service is required.
I you are in, or are considering joining, the NELAC/INELA accreditation program, you had best check their requirements.
Forgot to log in on the one above.
I work in the lab for the parish pollution control plants. We have someone come clean and calibrate our balances once a year. Ovens, incubators, meters, etc. we calibrate ourselves. So far we have not had any problems.
Along these same lines we are thinking about using digital thermometers are wondering if anyone uses them and have had any luck with them, we know they can be certified using Hg thermometers, just wondering??
We use some digital thermometers but their calibration needs to be checked four times per year (per our auditor) vs one time per year for a glass thermometer. That is a pain. I am slowly switching to non-mercury glass.
On a recent WEF conference call, Ken Osborne, late of East Bay MUD, told us that he oversaw the installation of wifi thermometers that automatically send data to a cpu network. The software had all the alert capabilities you'd expect, etc.
Has anybody else installed such a system? Sounds very leading edge, but the initial cost may be worth it in ongoing labor savings.