The hard work of developing Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean is just starting to pay off.

That’s the view of quality expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a meeting of National Accreditation Focal Points (NAFP) officials from eight CARICOM countries in Barbados this week. The workshop is an initiative under the 10th EDF-TBT Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ), the German Metrology Institute (PTB) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL). It ends on Friday, February 17.

Mr. Paladino is one of the trainers at the workshop, which is led by Mrs. Claudette Brown – Accreditation consultant and trainer.

Mr. Paladino noted that the global market was moving ahead in areas requiring product tested by labs accredited by an accreditation body that is a signatory to international accreditation agreements. Failure to meet the international requirements could result in a close out for products of the Caribbean, he noted.

“Developed markets set the rules and they’ve embraced the international accreditation system. If the Caribbean can’t meet these rules, our businesses and exporters are not going to be able to do business in these markets. Also, if the region is unable to provide recognized accreditation and conformity assessment services, then businesses and manufacturers will have to look outside the region to be able to have their products tested.

“Typically, businesses would have to go to the US, Canada or Europe and the cost of testing in these countries is probably 10 or 20 times the cost of doing it here, if we had the capabilities. That’s pretty significant for these manufacturers,” he remarked.

The expert, who is a former President of the InterAmerican Accreditation Cooperation, the internationally recognised association of accreditation bodies in the Americas and other organisations interested in conformity assessment, said this was why the work of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) of the region was so important to mitigating some of the international risks.

“All the hard work is finally starting to pay off. There was a slow start getting people on board, knowledgeable and trained, but today we have an accreditation body that is already recognised internationally. We are also seeing a number of labs, both in the medical and testing area, come forward and attain accreditation. So, we are taking small steps, but the question is, are we moving fast enough,” he said.

Governments, he pointed out, must be made to understand why these processes are so important to national and regional development. Standards development organisation must adopt or adapt international standards as national standards to support businesses and export.

Mrs Brown’s indicated that participants would be reviewing the requirements of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard.  She pointed out that this standard was applicable to all laboratories and can be used by the NAFPs to assist these labs in the development of their management systems for quality, administrative and technical operations.  She pointed out that the workshop would also be covering other supporting information, including the benefits of accreditation, the accreditation process and assessor attributes.   The participants were encouraged to participate fully in the activities of the week in order to maximize the benefits.

CROSQ’s Technical Officer – Accreditation, Mr. Stephen Farquharson explained that the role of the NAFP was to assist Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) with their quest for international accreditation to meet the needs of businesses. He told the officials from Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis and Suriname that the week-long training would give them the basics needed to provide the necessary assistance to CABs, and especially laboratories.

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If the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) is to press ahead to aid the development of quality goods and services across the region that trade and compete internationally, regional governments and businesses need to play their part.

That was the view of accreditation expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a symposium to mark World Accreditation Day in Guyana this week.

Mr. Paladino, addressing an audience that included Minister of Business, Mr. Dominic Gaskin, regional leaders in quality infrastructure development, as well as regulators and private sector business leaders, acknowledged the role that the two major accreditations in Guyana; one in Jamaica and one in Grenada utilising CROSQ’s Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme, had played in pushing quality to the forefront of discussion. 

He also highlighted the Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB) another programme created by CROSQ to assist the development of the region’s conformity assessment bodies, namely the inspection, testing and certification entities within both the private and public sector. 

Additionally, said the international accreditation expert, the National Standards Bodies of Belize, Suriname and Jamaica, had all been certified to the ISO 9001 quality management system, with the assistance of CROSQ, but all this work was only the start of what was needed in the region.

“The CARICOM and CARIFORUM Regions have much more to do to be able to ensure that all quality and quality-related services are available within the regions. There are many more standards to adopt or adapt and many more conformity assessment bodies to accredit. There is a need for the development of capabilities within the NABs for product, services and personnel certification bodies and inspection bodies. 

“It is also necessary to obtain international recognition of the National Accreditation Bodies for certification and inspection bodies. Each one is a formidable task, but I have confidence that the organizations are up for the task,” said the accreditation consultant.

“All this work and the achievements will go to waste if there is no uptake by government or business. That is the policies and programmes developed must be embraced and put to use. Regional standards that are harmonized internationally must be adopted at the national level. National regulations must start to reference the use of these standards and address qualification of organizations to the international standards.

“The time is now to show such commitments. Without your commitment it will become extremely difficult for Caribbean organizations to be competitive in international and regional markets,” he added, congratulating the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) on the tremendous work it had done in the country thus far.

Head of Conformity Assessment at the Bureau, Mrs. Candelle Walcott-Bostwick noted the high demand in the country for quality management services and accreditation services, since the recent accreditations of the Guyana Rice Development Board’s Central Laboratory and the Eureka Medical Laboratories Inc. in Georgetown, with the assistance of the bureau, CROSQ and funding partners.

Likewise, Technical Officer for Accreditation with CROSQ, Mr. Stephen Farquharson, made a call for labs wanting to move to accreditation status to contact the local focal point at the GNBS to access the services CROSQ could provide to begin the process.

He noted that CCA Scheme and the CANCAB mechanism were both created under the European Union’s 10th European Development Fund Technical Barriers to Trade Programme, and additional funding partners like the Caribbean Development Bank, the UK Department for International Development, as well as the Centres for Disease Control under various programmes, had enabled the assistance to be provided to the labs and bureaux that had received certification or accreditation. This assistance, he noted, was available to others seeking it. 

Furthermore, like Mr. Paladino, he underscored the importance of the focus on quality to breaking barriers and opening new markets for products and services for the countries of CARICOM and CARIFORUM, and protecting the general welfare, health and safety of consumers and the environment. 

The CROSQ officer noted that the organisation was in the process of cooperating and collaborating on a common regional quality policy and strategy of development that was needed in the region and for which close public and private sector linkages with the bureaux of standards would be needed.

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The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) was on hand recently to celebrate with Eureka Medical Laboratories (EML), as the laboratory rang in its 21st year of operation by becoming the first such medical company to receive the ISO 15189 Accredited status, in Guyana.

In the ceremony held just a week ago in the South American country, CEO of EML, Mr. Andrew Boyle told the gathering of dignitaries that included Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, and staff, that it had been a long but worthwhile journey.

The accreditation road was costly, rough and long but today we have reaped the benefits of our hard work. What a lovely and profound feeling of satisfaction that was! It is now that the work has commenced,” said the EML head.

Technical assistance was provided by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), through the technical implementation by the German National Metrology Institute’s (PTB) Regional Quality Infrastructure (RQI) 4 Project.

CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar, whose regional organisation lent technical assistance to the lab to reach the accreditation, told the audience: “Tonight’s launch and celebration of the Eureka Medical Laboratories’ accreditation to the ISO 15189 standard for quality and competence in medical laboratories, bears testament to the development assistance and cooperative mechanisms of the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme as we are recognising the accreditation of a second laboratory in Guyana within a mere nine months; the other laboratory being a testing laboratory – the Guyana Rice Development Board Central Laboratory.”

The CCA Scheme brings professional expertise to labs looking to get accredited, utilising personnel from the region’s quality infrastructure institutions. In the case of EML, the guidance was provided by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards, whose laboratory certification programme to the GYS 170 standard, provided a stepping stone to accreditation.

Additional technical assistance to EML through CROSQ came from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) programme.

Congratulating EML on the achievement, Mr. Omar further remarked: “CROSQ is delighted to extend sincere congratulations to the Eureka Medical Laboratories for this remarkable achievement of being the very first medical laboratory in Guyana to be accredited to the ISO 15189 standard. This accreditation also represents the first medical laboratory to be accredited by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) outside of Jamaica and the first medical laboratory to achieve accreditation through the CCA Scheme.”

CEO of JANAAC, Mrs. Sharonmae Shirley underscored the importance of this step to Guyana, as well as the Caribbean.

“This is important not only for trade but it is also important for tourism. It is important for health. The medical tourism industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. The EML has now enhanced Guyana’s reach into this lucrative market.”

Minister Norton commenting on the company’s successful five-year journey to accreditation, noted that this was evidence of the quality medical service available in the country.

“For too often we take it for granted that all we need to supply is service and we forget about the quality. Eureka has proven it wrong.  ... While I applaud you for the achievement that you have made, I urge you not to become complacent, but to continually improve on and expand your laboratory service,” the minister urged.

Representative of PTB, Mrs. Anett Matbadal congratulated the lab on the success, as well as the GNBS in the role it played in assisting the process.

"I am glad Eureka Medical Laboratories has achieved this and I want to acknowledge the great help that GNBS was providing, because I still remember when CROSQ together with PTB was starting to develop the CCA Scheme in the region with two national bodies in Jamaica and Trinidad, and 15 National Accreditation Focal Points in the region ... We hope this accreditation will serve you well and open markets for you and in the name of PTB I wish you all the best for the future," said Matbadal.

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The Caribbean is now much more equipped to ensure safety from pesticides in fruits and vegetables with the accreditation of the University of the West Indies’ Jamaica-based Pesticide Research Laboratory (PRL) less than a week ago.

The laboratory was accredited in the area of Food Testing by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC), thanks to the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CARTFund) Project funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), and administered by the Caribbean Development Bank. The project was implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

PRL can now provide pesticide residue analysis on fruits and vegetables with this accreditation and be assured that the test results will be internationally acceptable. It is the first laboratory to have received this accreditation, specifically for pesticides, in the region.

Remarks from CROSQ’s CEO Mr. Deryck Omar were delivered by head of the University’s Pesticide Research Laboratory, Professor Tara Dasgupta. In the remarks, Mr. Omar noted that CROSQ and others had extended technical support to the laboratory in securing the certification, which was the second such accreditation performed through the regional organisation’s Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme. The CROSQ-CCA Scheme provides conformity assessment bodies with regional opportunities to access affordable and reliable available development assistance in pursuit of accreditation.

“Jamaica and the Caribbean at large are well known for its vast array of fresh fruits and vegetable which provide immense nutritional value. More of these fruits and vegetables are being processed along the value chain as the region seeks to increase its capacity in creating value added products,” the CEO stressed.

He further extended thanks to technical consultant Ms. Maxine Campbell for her assistance to the laboratory, as well as the Bureau of Standards Jamaica for its support, and the CDB and DFID for the financial backing. Thanks were also expressed to Professor Dasgupta, Dr. Raymond Reid and the team at PRL for their commitment to seeing the process through to successful completion.

 

The accreditation ceremony was officiated by Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, who noted, “A strengthened NQI [National Quality Infrastructure] means that the products and services developed in Jamaica and tests conducted by our laboratories are trusted internationally. It means realizing the full benefits of the National Export Strategy.”

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The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB)’s Central Laboratory has made history by becoming the first laboratory in Guyana to become accredited to the International Standards Organisation’s ISO/IEC 17025 standard. The ISO standard is used by laboratories in developing their management system for quality, administrative and technical operations. Laboratory customers, regulatory authorities and accreditation bodies may also use it in confirming or recognizing the competence of laboratories.

By earning this standard, the GRBD has achieved several significant milestones including becoming the first laboratory in the region to have:

  •  attained accreditation through the CARTFund, the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund financed by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)
  • been assisted towards achieving accreditation by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) functioning as the National Accreditation Focal Point (NAFP)
  • become accredited outside of Jamaica utilising the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC)
  • earned accreditation through the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme created by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), a partner in the CARTFund Project, noted that the accreditation was a particularly gratifying step, and a very important achievement for the Project.

“A major constraint to trade and market access, even where tariffs have been eliminated, is the ability to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary standards and quality requirements”, said Edward Greene, Division Chief, Technical Cooperation Division of the Caribbean Development Bank.   “The Accreditation of the GRDB Central Laboratory means that the rice sector in Guyana now has access to accredited testing services. This is a significant milestone in the development of the value chain of the Rice subsector in Guyana”.

CROSQ’s CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar shared the view that this was an excellent example of countries supporting each other using specialised expertise and resources.

“This accreditation demonstrates functional regional integration as together each achieves more.  It is a positive development to see how the expertise of JANAAC was brought to bear in supporting Guyana in this process. The CCA Scheme has several advantages as conformity assessment bodies receive coaching, training and development assistance towards achieving accreditation. We find this approach to be economical and practical,” said Mr. Omar.

Permanent Secretary in Guyana’s Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. George Jervis further described the achievement of the accreditation as auspicious, because GRDB is the country’s lead agency in agriculture.

“Prior to this certification, the Guyana Rice Development Board was tasked with sending samples for testing to the USA, which roughly took two weeks for results. Today, we no longer have to take this route. Being ISO/IEC certified is a useful tool which will add credibility by demonstrating that rice coming out of Guyana meets the expectations of our buyers”, he said, reading a prepared speech from the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Noel Holder.

The accreditation process began under the project in 2014 and was accelerated with receipt of a grant of US$522,401 from the CARTFund.

The objective of the CARTFund project is to strengthen the capabilities of testing laboratories in CARIFORUM Member States to provide reliable, competent, internationally recognised and affordable testing services to exporters. CROSQ and the CDB are the implementing partners for the Project.

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As the newest standards bureau in the region, The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ) is now well on the way to enhancing its offering of accreditation and measurement standardisation services with the signing of two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) recently.

Minister of Financial Services, Hon. C. V. Hope Strachan, under whose portfolio the BBSQ resides, signed the documents on April 30, 2015, to establish the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme, and to recognise the Bureau of Standards Jamaica’s (BSJ) Mass Metrology Laboratory as the Caribbean Reference Laboratory (CaRL) for Mass Metrology.

Accreditation, which is a third-party attestation, refers to the demonstration of competence in certification, inspection and testing, by a conformity assessment body. The CCA Scheme brings together such bodies for the purpose of mutual cooperation and collaboration toward facilitating trade in the Caribbean region and internationally. CROSQ coordinates the support services for these facilities.

Metrology, on the other hand, is the science of measurement; and the CaRL Scheme is aimed at providing economical and sustainable traceability in specific quantities by National Metrology Institutes (NMI) within the region. A CaRL is a metrology laboratory within a NMI or Designated Institute in the CARICOM region, recognised by CROSQ as a regional reference lab for a specific measurement quantity or magnitude within a defined scope.

The signing of the two documents have begun the process of moving the national standards body, BBSQ in The Bahamas, from its early conceptual phase into being the premier institution in the country for quality infrastructure services.

With the CCA Scheme in place, the BBSQ will be better able to access economical and readily available accreditation services through the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) and the Trinidad and Tobago Laboratory Accreditation Service (TTLABS); be able to facilitate the development of regional quality infrastructure as well as facilitate regional and international trade; provide avenues for manufacturers to expand their markets, as well as give them local access to internationally recognised conformity assessment services, among other benefits.

Being a signatory to the CaRL MOU for Mass Metrology will mean that the BBSQ will have access to calibrations at reduced cost from the Bureau of Standards Jamaica for its national reference mass standards. This will translate into a reduced cost for maintaining the traceability of mass measurements in The Bahamas. Additionally, the BBSQ will be able to access technical assistance from the BSJ mass metrology experts, which will prove especially important as the BBSQ now develops its capability in this area.

Director of the BBSQ, Dr. Ferguson-Bufford was particularly heartened by the signing of the CaRL MOU between the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, and the Government of The Bahamas. She noted that the role of the CaRL was to provide measurement traceability to the Caribbean region by serving as the ‘entry point’ of the highest measurement capability within the region characterised by having an international recognised quality management system, the smallest measurement uncertainty and highest technical capability in the region.

The completion of the CCA MOU will happen when the CROSQ Council meets in Barbados this week, from May 6 – 8, to set that scheme in motion and empower the Bahamian bureau as far as accreditation services are concerned.

“We have been working for quite some time to get the Bureau of Standards in The Bahamas up and running effectively and the signing of these MOUs demonstrate a commitment to making our country one of the regional leaders of quality infrastructure. We have been sensitizing Bahamians on the importance and benefits of standards, and also promoting and implementing quality services into everything that we do. Now, the Bureau has more power to begin to offer the services that our private and public sectors need to make them more competitive on regional and international markets.

“I would like to thank Minister Strachan for committing to the process all the way, as well as to the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) for lending the technical assistance to get us to this point, and their continued commitment to ensure that we are fully operational.  As the ‘new kid on the block’ as far as regional QI is concerned, we know a lot is expected and we will strive, harder than ever, to live up to those expectations,” said Dr. Ferguson-Bufford.

This move towards further development of the BBSQ has been made possible through funding by the European Union through the 10th European Development Fund Economic Partnership Agreement Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme, focusing on Technical Barriers to Trade.

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