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UK Accreditation Requirements for Hair Testing Raises the Bar

In the UK, the government has appointed the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to independently assess laboratories to ISO 17025, to demonstrate the technical competency of the laboratory.

Hair testing laboratories that have successfully met the requirements should display the UKAS Testing accreditation mark with their laboratory number. As an example, Lextox is an ISO 17025 UKAS accredited testing laboratory (No. 7516).

However, compliance with an additional quality standard is now demanded from UK based laboratories.   

Increased Quality Assurance Standards for UK Testing Labs with Lab 51

In 2021, UKAS implemented further quality assurance standards, LAB 51 UKAS Accreditation of Laboratories Performing Analysis of Toxicology Samples. This is mandatory for UK hair drug and alcohol testing laboratories to maintain accreditation to ISO 17025.

LAB 51 provides greater confidence in areas such as;

  • The selection, verification, and validation of the testing methods
  • Ensuring on-going validity of the results
  • The application of the analytical method
  • Calibration ranges and associated cut-off levels

It is important to note that LAB 51 has only been issued by UKAS, and only UK laboratories that undertake toxicology testing, including hair drug and alcohol testing must meet this standard. There is no current overseas equivalent to the Lab 51 accreditation.   

Lextox is proud to have been one of the first hair testing laboratories to have confirmation of Lab 51 compliance. The Lab 51 technical assessment involved an in-depth evaluation of the procedures within our Laboratory and Reporting Scientists teams. Compliance to Lab 51 further demonstrates our laboratory’s technical competence to undertake the analysis and provide accurate and reliable results.

How do I know if a hair testing lab is compliant?

When instructing a hair drug and alcohol testing laboratory, look for the UKAS Testing symbol with the laboratory number underneath. This mark will give you confidence that the analysis has been undertaken in the UK and is compliant to the regulatory requirements of a UK government appointed assessment body.

Other accreditations such as ISO 9001 and ISO 27001, whilst issued by UKAS, relate to the management systems of the company, and are not specific to the laboratory testing.

Historically, some preferred to subcontract hair analysis outside of the UK, however since its introduction in 2021, it is unlikely that these laboratories will have been independently assessed by a UK government appointed body and as such do not meet the additional quality assurance standards of Lab 51.

On that basis, using a ‘reseller’ who subcontracts analysis outside of the UK while may seem convenient, could mean that you are inadvertently using a service that does not meet the same quality standards that current UK laboratories conform to. In this instance the safest action is to ask.

If in doubt, ask the testing laboratory about their accreditation status or alternatively, you can check on the UKAS website

Our accreditation is limited to those activities described on our UKAS schedule of accreditation found here.

Published 22/05/23 – All information correct at time of publication