» Water, water everywhere, but is it safe to drink?
09 March, 2015
That variation of the 'Rime of Ancient Mariner' is a question that is often answered by water analysis companies such as STL. Part of the Severn Trent group of companies, STL employs over 500 people across eight sites throughout England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland. It offers leading solutions in water, land and waste analysis by providing scientific services in chemistry, microbiology and ecotoxicology. These services mainly consist of analysis, monitoring and sampling for all aspects of the water cycle, including potable water, wastewater, effluents and groundwater.
Carla Hall, Marketing Manager at STL said. “In a modern society there is an assumption that unless otherwise specified water that comes out of the tap is drinkable. It is STL’s role to test this water, to ensure it meets the recognised drinking water quality standards. STL are totally committed to the provision of quality data to our customers, using UKAS accreditation to validate our methods appropriately.”
STL’s four main testing laboratories are UKAS accredited to ISO 17025 (general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories). STL also hold certification to ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental management systems. STL are also accredited for the MCERTS performance standard for the chemical analysis of soils, which primarily relates to the contaminated land and landfill assessment services that it offers.
Rachel Henton is STL’s Managing Director, and is ideally placed to judge the impact that being accredited has on the business. “Accreditation is key to our business, because it provides our customers with assurance of the quality of service we offer. Customers choose STL as an accredited body because it gives them confidence that analysis is being carried out in a consistent and reproducible manner, that has been effectively vetted by an impartial and expert third party. Being UKAS accredited provides demonstrable evidence of our commitment to delivering a reliable, consistent and quality service for our customers.”
STL has a wide and varied customer base, consisting of both private companies and public organisations. These include water companies, private water suppliers, waste management companies, environmental consultants, facilities managers and local authorities amongst others. For many of these companies, accreditation by UKAS is one of the key criteria in the tendering process. Rachel Henton said. “Holding UKAS accreditation is a pre-requisite to many of the contracts we service, so it is vital that we maintain these to the highest possible standards.”
Beyond compliance criteria, having its services accredited offers several other benefits to STL’s customers, as Rachel explains. “UKAS accreditation provides many benefits to our customers, including full traceability of data. It ensures that results are defensible and provides confidence that the methods used will give the correct result for the sample matrix. Accreditation also provides our customers with the assurance that their analysis is being carried out in a consistent and reproducable manner.” For STL’s customers, accredited services also play a vital part in their risk management. Rachel said. “The use of accredited bodies to carry out independent evaluations helps our customers demonstrate due diligence and environmental compliance.”
Sound Business Sense
Like all other testing facilities, STL’s laboratories are also businesses. Achieving accreditation can actually be used to make those businesses run better, by increasing efficiency and reducing waste, duplication and losses. Rachel said. “We regularly review all our methods against our accreditation requirements, self-regulating our performance. Going through the accreditation process itself imposes a discipline on our processes and causes us to re-examine what we are doing, and the way we are doing it. It ensures that we keep pace with technical developments and are applying the best in modern industry practices.”
Assessment for accreditation can also lead to a harmonisation of systems for multi-sited companies, such as STL, as Carla Hall explains. “Achieving UKAS accreditation has provided STL with a number of other benefits. Chief amongst these are the introduction of consistency and rationalisation of procedures across sites, as well as an improvement in documentation of procedures. This in turn allows training to be carried out more easily and enables the continual improvement of all our processes and procedures across each one of our sites.“
A series of Multi-Lateral Agreements organised by UKAS means that STL’s access to potential markets which require accreditation is able to extend beyond UK borders. Carla concludes. “Because UKAS is an internationally recognised accreditation, it also allows STL to market its services outside of the UK and provide the same quality reassurances to overseas customers.”