Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 228

1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 What is Quality?


1.2 Quality Management
1.3 Quality Assurance
1.4 Quality Control
1.5 Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)
Since this manual is aimed at improving the performance of a laboratory, the activities
involved focus on the term "quality". The quality of the product, in the present case analytical
results, should obviously be acceptable. To establish whether the product fulfils the quality
requirements these have to be defined first. Only after that it can be decided if the product is
satisfactory or if and what corrective actions need to be taken.

1.1 What is Quality?


The term "quality" has a relative meaning. This is expressed by the ISO definition: "The
totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy
stated or implied needs". In simpler words, one can say that a product has good quality when
it "complies with the requirements specified by the client". When projected on analytical
work, quality can be defined as "delivery of reliable information within an agreed span of
time under agreed conditions, at agreed costs, and with necessary aftercare". The "agreed
conditions" should include a specification as to the precision and accuracy of the data which
is directly related to "fitness of use" and which may differ for different applications. Yet, in
many cases the reliability of data is not questioned and the request for specifications omitted.
Many laboratories work according to established methods and procedures which are not
readily changed and have inherent default specifications. Moreover, not all future uses of the
data and reports can be foreseen so that specifications about required precision and accuracy
cannot even be given. Consequently, this aspect of quality is usually left to the discretion of
the laboratory. However, all too often the embarrassing situation exists that a laboratory
cannot evaluate and account for its quality simply because the necessary documentation is
lacking.
In the ensuing discussions numerous activities aimed at maintaining the production of quality
are dealt with. In principle, three levels of organization of these activities can be
distinguished. From the top down these levels are:
1. Quality Management (QM)
2. Quality Assurance (QA)
3. Quality Control (QC)

1.2 Quality Management


Quality Management is the assembly and management of all activities aimed at the production
of quality by organizations of various kinds. In the present case this implies the introduction

and proper running of a "Quality System" in laboratories. A statement of objectives and policy
to produce quality should be made for the organization or department concerned (by the
institute's directorate). This statement also identifies the internal organization and
responsibilities for the effective operation of the Quality System.
Quality Management can be considered a somewhat wider interpretation of the concept of
"Good Laboratory Practice" (GLP). Therefore, inevitably the basics of the present Guidelines
largely coincide with those of GLP. These are discussed below in Section 1.5.
Note. An even wider concept of quality management is presently coming into vogue: "Total
Quality Management" (TQM). This concept includes additional aspects such as leadership
style, ethics of the work, social aspects, relation to society, etc. For an introduction to TQM
the reader is referred to Parkany (1995).

1.3 Quality Assurance


Proper Quality Management implies consequent implementation of the next level: Quality
Assurance. The ISO definition reads: "the assembly of all planned and systematic actions
necessary to provide adequate confidence that a product, process, or service will satisfy given
quality requirements." The result of these actions aimed at the production of quality, should
ideally be checked by someone independent of the work: the Quality Assurance Officer. If no
QA officer is available, then usually the Head of Laboratory performs this job as part of his
quality management task. In case of special projects, customers may require special quality
assurance measures or a Quality Plan.

1.4 Quality Control


A major part of the quality assurance is the Quality Control defined by ISO as "the
operational techniques and activities that are used to satisfy quality requirements. " An
important part of the quality control is the Quality Assessment: the system of activities to
verify if the quality control activities are effective, in other words: an evaluation of the
products themselves.
Quality control is primarily aimed at the prevention of errors. Yet, despite all efforts, it
remains inevitable that errors are be made. Therefore, the control system should have checks
to detect them. When errors or mistakes are suspected or discovered it is essential that the
"Five Ws" are trailed:
- what error was made?
- where was it made?
- when was it made?
- who made it?
- why was it made?
Only when all these questions are answered, proper action can be taken to correct the error
and prevent the same mistake being repeated.
The techniques and activities involved in Quality Control can be divided into four levels of
operation:

1. First-line control: Instrument performance check.


2. Second-line control: Check of calibration or standardization.
3. Third-line control: Batch control (control sample, identity check).
4. Fourth-line control: Overall check (external checks: reference samples, interlaboratory
exchange programmes).
Because the first two control levels both apply to the correct functioning of the instruments
they are often taken together and then only three levels are distinguished. This designation is
used throughout the present Guidelines:
1. First-line control: Instrument check / calibration.
2. Second-line control: Batch control
3. Third-line control: External check
It will be clear that producing quality in the laboratory is a major enterprise requiring a
continuous human effort and input of money. The rule-of-fist is that 10-20% of the total costs
of analysis should be spent on quality control. Therefore, for quality work at least four
conditions should be fulfilled:
- means are available (adequate personnel and facilities)
- efficient use of time and means (costs aspect)
- expertise is available (answering questions; aftercare)
- upholding and improving level of output (continuity)
In quality work, management aspects and technical aspects are inherently cobbled together
and for a clear insight and proper functioning of the laboratory these aspects have to be
broken down into their components. This is done in the ensuing chapters of this manual.

1.5 Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)


Quality Management in the present context can be considered a modem version of the hitherto
much used concept "Good Laboratory Practice" (GLP) with a somewhat wider interpretation.
The OECD Document defines GLP as follows: "Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) is
concerned with the organizational process and the conditions under which laboratory studies
are planned, performed, monitored, recorded, and reported."
Thus, GLP prescribes a laboratory to work according to a system of procedures and protocols.
This implies the organization of the activities and the conditions under which these take place
are controlled, reported and filed. GLP is a policy for all aspects of the laboratory which
influence the quality of the analytical work. When properly applied, GLP should then:
- allow better laboratory management (including quality management)
- improve efficiency (thus reducing costs)
- minimize errors
- allow quality control (including tracking of errors and their cause)
- stimulate and motivate all personnel

- improve safety
- improve communication possibilities, both internally and externally.
The result of GLP is that the performance of a laboratory is improved and its working
effectively controlled. An important aspect is also that the standards of quality are
documented and can be demonstrated to authorities and clients. This results in an improved
reputation for the laboratory (and for the institute as a whole). In short, the message is:
- say what you do
- do what you say
- do it better
- be able to show what you have done
The basic rule is that all relevant plans, activities, conditions and situations are recorded and
that these records are safely filed and can be produced or retrieved when necessary. These
aspects differ strongly in character and need to be attended to individually.
As an assembly, the involved documents constitute a so-called Quality Manual. This
comprises then all relevant information on:
- Organization and Personnel
- Facilities
- Equipment and Working materials
- Analytical or testing systems
- Quality control
- Reporting and filing of results.
Since institutions having a laboratory are of divergent natures, there is no standard format and
each has to make its own Quality Manual. The present Guidelines contain examples of forms,
protocols, procedures and artificial situations. They need at least to be adapted and many new
ones will have to be made according to the specific needs, but all have to fulfil the basic
requirement of usefulness and verifiability.
As already indicated, the guidelines for Quality Management given here are mainly based on
the principles of Good Laboratory Practice as they are laid down in various relevant
documents such as ISO and ISO/IEC guides, ISO 9000 series, OECD and CEN (EN 45000
series) documents, national standards (e.g. NEN standards)*, as well as a number of text
books. The consulted documents are listed in the Literature. Use is also made of documents
developed by institutes which have obtained accreditation or are working towards this. This
concerns mainly so-called Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Protocols. Sometimes
these documents are hard to acquire as they are classified information for reasons of
competitiveness. The institutes and persons which cooperated in the development of these
Guidelines are listed in the Acknowledgements.
* ISO: International Standardization Organization; IEC: International Electrical Commission;
OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; CEN: European
Committee for Standardization, EN: European Standard; NEN: Dutch Standard.

2 STANDARD OPERATING
PROCEDURES
2.1 Definition
2.2 Initiating a SOP
2.3 Preparation of SOPs
2.4 Administration, Distribution, Implementation
2.5 Laboratory notebook
2.6 Relativization as encouragement
SOPs

2.1 Definition
An important aspect of a quality system is to work according to unambiguous Standard
Operating Procedures (SOPs). In fact the whole process from sampling to the filing of the
analytical result should be described by a continuous series of SOPs. A SOP for a laboratory
can be defined as follows:
"A Standard Operating Procedure is a document which describes the regularly recurring
operations relevant to the quality of the investigation. The purpose of a SOP is to carry out
the operations correctly and always in the same manner. A SOP should be available at the
place where the work is done".
A SOP is a compulsory instruction. If deviations from this instruction are allowed, the
conditions for these should be documented including who can give permission for this and
what exactly the complete procedure will be. The original should rest at a secure place while
working copies should be authenticated with stamps and/or signatures of authorized persons.
Several categories and types of SOPs can be distinguished. The name "SOP" may not always
be appropriate, e.g., the description of situations or other matters may better designated
protocols, instructions or simply registration forms. Also worksheets belonging to an
analytical procedure have to be standardized (to avoid jotting down readings and calculations
on odd pieces of paper).
A number of important SOP types are:
- Fundamental SOPs. These give instructions how to make SOPs of the other categories.
- Methodic SOPs. These describe a complete testing system or method of investigation.
- SOPs for safety precautions.
- Standard procedures for operating instruments, apparatus and other equipment.
- SOPs for analytical methods.
- SOPs for the preparation of reagents.
- SOPs for receiving and registration of samples.

- SOPs for Quality Assurance.


- SOPs for archiving and how to deal with complaints.

2.2 Initiating a SOP


As implied above, the initiative and further procedure for the preparation, implementation and
management of the documents is a procedure in itself which should be described. These SOPs
should at least mention:
a. who can or should make which type of SOP;
b. to whom proposals for a SOP should be submitted, and who adjudges the draft;
c. the procedure of approval;
d. who decides on the date of implementation, and who should be informed;
e. how revisions can be made or how a SOP can be withdrawn.
It should be established and recorded who is responsible for the proper distribution of the
documents, the filing and administration (e.g. of the original and further copies). Finally, it
should be indicated how frequently a valid SOP should be periodically evaluated (usually 2
years) and by whom. Only officially issued copies may be used, only then the use of the
proper instruction is guaranteed.
In the laboratory the procedure for the preparation of a SOP should be as follows:
The Head of Laboratory (HoL) charges a staff member of the laboratory to draft a SOP (or the
HoL does this himself or a staff member takes the initiative). In principle, the author is the
person who will work with the SOP, but he or she should always keep in mind that the SOP
needs to be understood by others. The author requests a new registration number from the
SOP administrator or custodian (which in smaller institutes or laboratories will often be the
HoL, see 2.4). The administrator verifies if the SOP already exists (or is drafted). If the SOP
does not exist yet, the title and author are entered into the registration system. Once the
writing of a SOP is undertaken, the management must actively support this effort and allow
authors adequate preparation time.
In case of methodic or apparatus SOPs the author asks one or more qualified colleagues to try
out the SOP. In case of execution procedures for investigations or protocols, the project leader
or HoL could do the testing. In this phase the wording of the SOP is fine-tuned. When the test
is passed, the SOP is submitted to the SOP administrator for acceptance. Revisions of SOPs
follow the same procedure.

2.3 Preparation of SOPs


The make-up of the documents should meet a minimum number of requirements:
1. Each page should have a heading and/or footing mentioning:
a. date of approval and/or version number;
b. a unique title (abbreviated if desired);
c. the number of the SOP (preferably with category);
d. page number and total number of pages of the SOP.

e. the heading (or only the logo) of originals should preferably be printed in another colour
than black.
Categories can be denoted with a letter or combination of letters, e.g.:
- F for fundamental SOP
- A or APP for apparatus SOP
- M or METH for analytical method SOP
- P or PROJ for procedure to carry out a special investigation (project)
- PROT for a protocol describing a sequence of actions or operations
- ORG for an organizational document
- PERS for describing personnel matters
- RF for registration form (e.g. chemicals, samples)
- WS for worksheet (related to analytical procedures)
2. The first page, the title page, should mention:
a. general information mentioned under 2.3.1 above, including the complete title;
b. a summary of the contents with purpose and field of application (if these are not evident
from the title); if
desired the principle may be given, including a list of points that may need attention;
c. any related SOPs (of operations used in the present SOP);
d. possible safety instructions;
e. name and signature of author, including date of signing. (It is possible to record the authors
centrally in a register);
f. name and signature of person who authorizes the introduction of the SOP (including date).
3. The necessary equipment, reagents (including grade) and other means should be detailed.
4. A clear, unambiguous imperative description is given in a language mastered by the user.
5. It is recommended to include criteria for the control of the described system during
operation.
6. It is recommended to include a list of contents particularly if the SOP is lengthy.
7. It is recommended to include a list of references.

2.4 Administration, Distribution, Implementation


From this description it would seem that the preparation and administration of a SOP and
other quality assurance documentation is an onerous job. However, once the draft is made,
with the use of word processors and a simple distribution scheme of persons and departments
involved, the task can be considerably eased.

A model for a simple preparation and distribution scheme is given in Figure 2-1. This is a
relation matrix which can not only be used for the laboratory but for any department or a
whole institute. In this matrix (which can be given the status of a SOP) can be indicated all
persons or departments that are involved with the subject as well as the kind of their
involvement. This can be indicated in the scheme with an involvement code. Some of the most
usual involvements are (the number can be used as the code):
1. Taking initiative for drafting
2. Drafting the document
3. Verifying
4. Authorizing
5. Implementing/using
6. Copy for information
7. Checking implementation
8. Archiving
Fig. 2-1. Matrix of information organization (see text).

There is a multitude of valid approaches for distribution of SOPs but there must always be a
mechanism for informing potential users that a new SOP has been written or that an existing
SOP has been revised or withdrawn.
It is worthwhile to set up a good filing system for all documents right at the outset. This will
spare much inconvenience, confusion and embarrassment, not only in internal use but also
with respect to the institute's management, authorities, clients and, if applicable, inspectors of
the accreditation body.

The administrator responsible for distribution and archiving SOPs may differ per institute. In
large institutes or institutes with an accredited laboratory this will be the Quality Assurance
Officer, otherwise this may be an officer of the department of Personnel & Organization or
still someone else. In non-accredited laboratories the administration can most conveniently be
done by the head of laboratory or his deputy. The administration may be done in a logbook,
by means of a card system or, more conveniently, with a computerized database such as
PerfectView or Cardbox. Suspending files are very useful for keeping originals, copies and
other information of documents. The most logic system seems to make an appropriate
grouping into categories and a master index for easy retrieval. It is most convenient to keep
these files at a central place such as the office of the head of laboratory. Naturally, this does
not apply to working documents that obviously are used at the work place in the laboratory,
e.g., instrument logbooks, operation instruction manuals and laboratory notebooks.
The data which should be stored per document are:
- SOP number
- version number
- date of issue
- date of expiry
- title
- author
- status (title submitted; being drafted; draft ready; issued)
- department of holders/users
- names of holders
- number of copies per holder if this is more than one
- registration number of SOPs to which reference is made
- historical data (dates of previous issues)
The SOP administrator keeps at least two copies of each SOP; one for the historical and one
for the back-up file. This also applies to revised versions. Superseded versions should be
collected and destroyed (except the copy for the historical file) to avoid confusion and
unauthorized use.
Examples of various categories of SOPs will be given in the ensuing chapters. The contents of
a SOP for the administration and management of SOPs can be distilled from the above. An
example of the basic format is given as Model F 002.

2.5 Laboratory notebook


Unless recorded automatically, raw data and readings of measurements are most conveniently
written down on worksheets that can be prepared for each analytical method or procedure,
including calibration of equipment. In addition, each laboratory staff member should have a
personal Notebook in which all observations, remarks, calculations and other actions
connected with the work are recorded in ink, not with a pencil, so that they will not be erased
or lost. To ensure integrity such a notebook must meet a few minimum requirements: on the
cover it must carry a unique serial number, the owner's name, and the date of issue. The copy
is issued by the QA officer or head of laboratory who keeps a record of this (e.g. in his/her
own Notebook). The user signs for receipt, the QA officer or HoL for issue. The Notebook
should be bound and the pages numbered before issue (loose-leaf bindings are not GLP!). The
first one or two pages can be used for an index of contents (to be filled in as the book is used).

Such Notebooks can made from ordinary notebooks on sale (before issue, the page numbering
should then be done by hand or with a special stamp) or with the help of a word processor and
then printed and bound in a graphical workshop.
The instructions for the proper use of a laboratory notebook should be set down in a protocol,
an example is given as Model PROT 005. A model for the pages in a laboratory notebook is
given.

2.6 Relativization as encouragement


In the Preface it was stated that documentation should not be overdone and that for the
implementation of all new Quality Management rules the philosophy of a step-by-step
approach should be adopted. It is emphasized that protocols and SOPs, as well as the
administration involved, should be kept as simple as possible, particularly in the beginning.
The Quality Management system must grow by trial and error, with increasing experience, by
group discussions and with changing perceptions. In the beginning, attention will be focused
on basic operational SOPs, later shifting to record keeping (as more and more SOPs are
issued) and filling gaps as practice reveals missing links in the chain of Quality Assurance.
Inevitably problems will turn up. One way to solve them is to talk with people in other
laboratories who have faced similar problems.
Do not forget that Quality Management is a tool rather than a goal. The goal is quality
performance of the laboratory.

SOPs
F 002 - Administration of Standard Operating Procedures
PROT 005 - The Use of Laboratory Notebooks
Model page of Laboratory Notebook

F 002 - Administration of Standard Operating Procedures


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: F 002

Version: 1

Title: Administration of Standard Operating Procedures


1. PURPOSE

Page: 1 # 2

Date: 95-06-21

File:

To give unambiguous instruction for proper management and administration of Standard


Operating Procedures as they are used in the Regional Soil Survey Institute (RSSI).
2. PRINCIPLE
Standard Operating Procedures are an essential part of a quality system. For all jobs and
duties relevant operating procedures should be available at the work station. To guarantee that
the correct version of the instruction is used copying Standard Operating Procedures is
prohibited. Standard Operating Procedures are issued on paper with the heading printed in
green.
3. FIELD OF APPLICATION
Generally for use in the quality system of RSSI but more specifically this instruction is for use
in the Chemistry Department.
4. RELATED SOPs
- F 011

The preparation of SOPs for apparatus

- F 012

The preparation of SOPs for methods

- PROJ 001

The preparation of SOPs for special investigations

5. REQUIREMENTS
Database computer program, PerfectView or Cardbox
6. PROCEDURE
6.1 Administration
The administration of SOPs for the Chemistry Department can be done by the Head of
Laboratory.
6.2 Initiating new SOP
(See these Guidelines, 2.2)
6.3 Revision of SOPs
(see these Guidelines, 2.2)
Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

6.5 Distribution of SOPs


When the Sop fulfils all the necessary requirements it is printed. The author hands over the
manuscript (or the floppy disk with text) to the SOP administrator who is responsible for the
printing. The number of copies is decided by him/her and the author. Make matrix of
distribution (see Guidelines for Quality Management Fig. 2-1).
The author (or his successor) signs all copies in the presence of the administrator before
distribution. As the new copies are distributed the old ones (if there was one) are taken in. For
each SOP a list of holders is made. The holder signs for receipt of a copy. The list is kept with
the spare copies.
Copying SOPs is forbidden. Extra copies can be obtained from the SOP administrator.
Users are responsible for proper keeping of the SOPs. If necessary, copies can be protected by
a cover or foil, and/or be kept in a loose-leaf binding.
7. ARCHIVING
Proper archiving is essential for good administration of SOPs. All operating instructions
should be kept up-to-date and be accesible to personnel. Good Laboratory Practice requires
that all documentation pertaining to a test or investigation should be kept for a certain period.
SOPs belong to this documentation.
8. REFERENCES
Mention here the used Standards and other references for this SOP.

PROT 005 - The Use of Laboratory Notebooks


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: F 002

Version: 1

Title: The Use of Laboratory Notebooks


1. PURPOSE

Page: 1 # 2

Date: 95-11-28

File:

To give instruction for proper lay-out, use and administration of Laboratory Notebooks in
order to guarantee the integrity and retrievability of raw data (if no preprinted Work Sheets
are used), calculations and notes pertaining to the laboratory work.
2. PRINCIPLE
Laboratory Notebooks may either be issued to persons for personal use or to Study Projects
for common use by participating persons. They are used to write down observations, remarks,
calculations and other actions in connection with the work. They may be used for raw data but
bound preprinted Work Sheets are preferred for this.
3. RELATED SOPs
F 001

Administration of SOPs

PROJ 001

The preparation of SOPs for Special Investigations

4. REQUIREMENTS
Bound notebooks with about 100-150 consecutively numbered pages. Any binding which
cannot be opened is suitable; a spiral binding is very convenient.
Both ruled and squared paper can be used. On each page provisions for dating and signing for
entries, and signing for verification or inspection may be made.
5. PROCEDURE
5.1 Issue
Notebooks are issued by or on behalf of the Head of Laboratory who keeps a record of the
books in circulation (this record may have a format similar to a Laboratory Notebook or be
part of the HoL's own Notebook).
On the cover, the book is marked with an assigned (if not preprinted) serial number and the
name of the user (or of the project). On the inside of the cover the HoL writes the date of issue
and signs for issue. The user (or Project Leader) signs the circulation record for receipt.
5.2 Use
All entries are dated and made in ink. The person who makes the entry signs per entry (in
project notebooks) or at least per page (in personal notebooks). The Head of Laboratory
(and/or Project Leader) may inspect or verify entries and pages and may sign for this on the
page(s) concerned.
If entries are corrected, this should be lined out with a single line so that it is possible to see
what has been corrected. Essential corrections should be initialed and dated and the reason for

correction stated. Pages may not be removed; if necessary, a whole page may be deleted by a
diagonal line.
Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

5.3 Withdrawal
When fall, the Notebook is exchanged for a new one. The HoL is responsible for proper
archiving. A notebook belonging to a Study Project is withdrawn when the study is
completed.
When an employee leaves the laboratory for another post (s)he should hand in her/his
notebook to the HoL
6. ARCHIVING
The Head of Laboratory is custodian of the withdrawn Laboratory Notebooks. They must
remain accessible for inspection and audit trailing,
7. REFERENCES

Model page of Laboratory Notebook


Date/Signature

SUBJECT

Verified by:
Signature: ______________________

WO/Test no. __________________

Date: __________________________

File: _________________________

3 ORGANIZATION AND PERSONNEL


3.1 Function and aims of the institute
3.2 Scope of the laboratory
3.3 Organigram
3.4 Description of processes
3.5 Job descriptions, personnel records, job allocation, replacement of staff
3.6 Education and training of staff
3.7 Introduction of new staff
SOPs

In this chapter the place and internal structure of the Organization or Institute, of which the
laboratory is a part, is discussed. The description of the internal structure inherently includes
the job description of the various positions throughout the organization as well as a list of all
the involved personnel, their qualifications, knowledge, experience and responsibilities.
Because of the continuity of the work it is important that in case of illness or other absence of
staff replacement by a qualified and experienced colleague is pre-arranged.

3.1 Function and aims of the institute


The function and/or the aims of the institute should be drawn up in order to set a framework
defining the character of the laboratory. This description should rest in several places so that it
can easily be produced upon request (Directorate, Secretariat, heads of departments or
sections including Personnel & Organization, as well as the public relations officer). As an
example, the aims of ISRIC, an institute with an analytical laboratory, are given.

3.2 Scope of the laboratory


If the field of work, or the scope of the laboratory, is not made specifically clear in the
description of the Institute's activities, it should be elaborated in a separate statement. Soil
analysis for soil characterization and land evaluation is not the same as analysis for soil
fertility purposes and advice to farmers. Such a statement should be kept with the overall
statement about the scope of the institute.

3.3 Organigram
The organizational set-up of an institute can conveniently be represented in a diagram, the
organigram (also called organogram). An organigram should be drawn by the department of
Personnel & Organization (P&O) (or equivalent) on behalf of the Directorate. Since the
organization of an institute is usually quite dynamic, frequent updating of this document
might be necessary. For the laboratory an important aspect of the organigram is the
hierarchical line of responsibilities, particularly in case of problems such as damage, accidents
or complaints from clients. Not all details of these responsibilities can be given in the main
organigram. Such details are to be documented in sub-organigrams, the various job
descriptions (see 3.5) as well as in regulations and statutes of the institute as a whole.
As an example the simplified organigram of ISRIC is given (Model ORG 001); a suborganigram of the laboratory is given on a Job Description Form (Model PERS 011).

3.4 Description of processes


The way work is organized in the laboratory should be described in a SOP. This includes the
kind and frequency of consultations and meetings, how jobs are assigned to laboratory
personnel, how instructions are given and how results are reported. The statement that
personnel are protected from improper pressure of work can also be made in this SOP.

3.5 Job descriptions, personnel records, job allocation,


replacement of staff

3.5.1 Job descriptions


3.5.2 Personnel records
3.5.3 Substitution of staff

Quality assurance in the laboratory requires that all work is done by staff which are qualified
for the job. Thus, to ensure a job is done by the right man or woman, it is essential for the
management to have records of all personal skills and qualifications of staff as well as of the
required qualifications for the various jobs.

3.5.1 Job descriptions


The professional requirements for each position in an organization has to be established and
laid down in a Job Description Form which for clarity may carry an organigram or suborganigram showing the position (Model PERS 011).
The job description of the heads of departments or sections is usually done by the department
of P&O in consultation with the directorate, other jobs are done by P&O (on behalf of the
directorate) in consultation with the respective heads of departments or sections. Copies
should rest with P&O and the heads of departments concerned, as well as with the person(s)
filling the position.

3.5.2 Personnel records


The list of laboratory personnel with their capabilities and skills is made by the head of
laboratory in consultation with the department of Personnel & Organization and both should
have a copy. A record of the personal qualifications and skills of each staff member can be
called a Staff Record Form and a model is shown here as PERS 012 . When this form is
completed the place of the person in the organization can be indicated by a code of the
position as shown in the sub-organigram drawn on the Job Description Forms (Model PERS
011), in this case capitals A, B, C, etc.
From the Job Descriptions and the Qualifications of Staff (PERS Oil and PERS 012) a shortlist can be derived indicating the positions of staff. An example of such a list is Model PERS
013. For quick reference, a matrix table is a convenient and surveyable way of listing the
skills of staff. This is shown in Model PERS 014 where per person is recorded for which job
he or she is qualified. In fact, such a proficiency list is the basis of the job allocation to staff.
This allocation of jobs, i.e. a listing of all relevant tasks with the persons who perform the
tasks (who-is-doing-what), including substitutes, can be indicated on a Job Allocation Form
(Model PERS 015). Combinations of lists are always possible of course, e.g. PERS 013 and
014).
All these lists are prepared by the heads of departments and P&O, and should be made
available to the directorate, secretariat, and heads of other departments. Staff of departments
should at least have access to a copy of these lists of their own department. Although for small
working groups such lists may seem to be overdone and perhaps superfluous, in departments
with many people they are necessary.

3.5.3 Substitution of staff


The absence of a staff member may create a problem as a part of the work of the laboratory is
interrupted. For holidays this problem is usually limited as these are planned and measures
can be taken in advance: a job can be properly completed or a substitute can be organized in
time. Unexpected absence, such as in the case of illness, presents a different situation, as for
certain procedures a substitute needs to be arranged at short notice and a person might not to
be readily available. The extent of disruption varies with the type of job concerned. Some jobs
can be left unattended for a few days but others need instant take-over, e.g. when extracts
have been prepared and need to be measured soon after. Other jobs are essential for the
continuity of the work programme. If the preparation of samples is interrupted, the supply to
the laboratory stops. When moisture determinations are not done, the calculation of results of
many analyses cannot be done. Usually the head of laboratory, knowing his staff, will ask a
colleague of the absentee to stand in. However, such a simple solution may not always be at
hand. The colleague may be engaged in a job at the time, he may be absent also, or the head
himself may be away and then his deputy, who may not have the same insight, has to act. To
cope with these situations a scenario for substitution has to be available. To a large extent such
a scenario is based on the personal qualifications, skills and experience of the laboratory staff.
Sometimes, help must sought from outside: when the necessary expertise is not available, or
when the absence is too protracted.
A scenario for substitution can be made in several ways. The most obvious way is based on
the Job Allocation Form (PERS 015). First on the list for each task is the one who normally
performs the job. In case of absence and no one is available for substitution several options
can be considered.
1. The job is not carried out (perhaps someone becomes available soon).
2. Someone from outside the laboratory is hired or borrowed (having ascertained that he or
she has the necessary skills).
3. The job is put out to contract (ascertain that the other laboratory has satisfactory quality
standards).
In case of incidental short-term substitution of a staff member in the laboratory, e.g. in the
case of illness, this change from the normal occupation can usually adequately be documented
in laboratory Notebooks and on the various worksheets and/or data sheets pertaining to the
jobs concerned. In any case, the head of laboratory should keep a record in his own Notebook.
More permanent changes in staff or in the organization, however, require more paper work.
All such changes have to be recorded on all the relevant registration forms mentioned above.
Therefore, these must be revised accordingly. As observed in Chapter 1, the most onerous
aspect of the procedure is the distribution of the revised documents to the persons and offices
where they are required (and the obsolete ones taken back). On the other hand, should the
work involved provide an incentive to limit changes in laboratory staff, then it serves an
unintended additional purpose: a rapid turn-over of staff is, generally, detrimental to the
continuity and quality of the work.

3.6 Education and training of staff

To maintain or improve the quality of the work, it is essential that staff members follow
training or refresher courses from time to time. These may concern new developments in
analytical techniques or approaches, data handling, the use of computers, laboratory
management (such as Quality Management and LIMS) or training in the use of newly
acquired instruments.
Such training can be given within the institute, by outside specialists, or centrally conducted
courses can be attended, if necessary abroad. In certain cases it may be worthwhile to second
someone to another laboratory for a certain period to get in-service training and experience in
a different laboratory culture.
Ideally, after training or attending a course, the staff member should report and convey his
experience or knowledge to colleagues and make proposals for any change of existing
procedures or adoption of new practices to improve the performance of the laboratory. Tests
to assess the proficiency of analysts are discussed in Chapter 6.
In many laboratories it is common practice that technicians change duties from time to time
(e.g. each half year) or carry out more than one type of analysis in order to avoid creating bad
habits and to increase job satisfaction and motivation. An advantage is gained in an increased
flexibility of the laboratory staff with respects to skills, but a disadvantage is the possible
reduction of productivity and quality of results in the transitional period.

3.7 Introduction of new staff


When a new employee is appointed in the laboratory, he or she should be properly introduced
to the other staff, to the rules of the laboratory in general and in particular to details of his/her
new job. In order to ensure that this is properly done it is useful to draw up a SOP with a
checklist of all aspects involved. A programme of training and monitoring the settling into the
job has to be made. After a probationary period the head of laboratory will make an evaluation
and report this to P&O. If applicable, a final decision as to the appointment can be made.
Example of concise description of function and aims of an institute.
INTERNATIONAL SOIL REFERENCE AND INFORMATION CENTRE (ISRIC),
Wageningen, Netherlands
Position
The International Soil Reference and Information Centre, ISRIC, is a centre for
documentation, research, and training about the world's soils, with emphasis on the resources
of developing countries. It houses a large collection of soil monoliths with related data and
documents, books, reports and maps.
ISRIC collects, generates and transfers information on soils by lecturing and by publishing
monographs and papers on the collected materials and research data. Training courses are
given, usually in developing countries.
Participation in scientific working groups is directed towards developments in soil genesis,

classification and correlation, mapping, soil databases (e.g. the use of Geographic
Information Systems - GIS), and land evaluation.
ISRIC was born out of an initiative of the International Society of Soil Science. It was
adopted by Unesco as one of its activities in the field of earth sciences. The Centre was
founded in 1966 by the Government of the Netherlands,
Advice on the programme and activities of ISRIC is given by a Scientific Advisory Council
with members from the Dutch agricultural scientific community and from international
organisations such as FAO and Unesco. Core funds are provided by the Dutch DirectorateGeneral for Development Cooperation. Project activities are generally externally funded,
Aims
To serve as a Data Centre for documentation about soil as a natural resource, through
assembling soil monoliths, reports,: maps and other information on soils of the world, with
emphasis on the developing countries,
To contribute to an increase in the understanding of the soil for sustained utilization in a
changing global environment.
To improve the accessibility of soil and terrain information for the widest possible range of
users through applied research, improvement of research methods, and advice on the
establishment of soil laboratories, soil reference collections and databases,
To contribute to developments in soil classification, soil mapping and land evaluation and in
the development of geographically referenced soils and terrain digital databases.
Visitors services
ISRIC provides information on soils of the world, on the preparation of soil monoliths for
display, and techniques of soil information systems, etc.
Visitors may consult the collections of soil monoliths, reports, maps, books and soil databases
through
- individual visits during which visitors may consult the collections with or without help of
the staff.
- group visits which include one or two day visits by groups of students to get an introduction
to soil classification and/or to practice classification,
- individual guest research of 3-12 months during which scientists may use ISRIC's
collections for a specific study.
Depending on the purpose of the study and the degree of staff involvement, a fee may be
charged. ISRIC provides staff for analytical services, consulting and training, against

payment. Details of tariffs will be provided on request.


Activities
Soil monolith collections and NASRECs
Assembling and analyzing representative profiles of the major soils of the world and
displaying a reference collection of soil monoliths at ISRIC. The present collection comprises
more than 900 profiles from over 70 countries. Assembling a collection of: laterite profiles
and developing a descriptive terminology and classification of laterites for interdisciplinary
use (CORLAT).
Advising on the establishment of national soil reference collections and databases
(NASRECs) for training, research, land use planning and agricultural extension services in
individual countries, A bi-annual Unesco-ISRIC training course is given for this purpose. Onsite support is given on project basis.
Laboratory
- Analyzing samples, representative of the soil collection, testing and improving methods and
procedures of soil analysis.
- Advising and instructing soil laboratories on organization, equipment and procedures with
the aim to improve their performance. Aspects are the introduction of Quality Management
and the development of systems for quality control: a Laboratory Information Management
System for soil and plant laboratories (SOILIMS).
- Seat of the Bureau of the Wageningen Soil, Plant and Water Analytical Laboratories
(WaLab), a cooperation of four Wageningen research laboratories to perform a wide range of
quality analyses for third parties.
Soil inventory and mapping
Assembling a collection of soil and related maps, geo-referenced databases and reports for
consultation and various uses. ISRIC's Soil Information System (ISIS) contains data of the
collected soil profiles. ISRIC has a library and an extensive map collection, mainly from
developing countries.
- ISRIC is the World Data Centre for Soils of the International Council of Scientific Unions
(ICSU).
- Participation in international soil mapping programmes, e.g. the World Soils and Terrain
Digital Database (SOTER, an ISSS initiative),
- Assessment of Global Soil Degradation (GLASOD, a UNEP project).
- World Inventory of Soil Emissions (WISE).

- Mapping of Soil and Terrain Vulnerability in central and eastern Europe (SOVEUR).
- World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT).
- Southeast Asian Land Resources Information Systems (SALRIS).
Publications
Issuing publications on the soils collection, analytical methods and techniques, proceedings
of international workshops and conferences, procedure and training manuals, and preparation
of teaching materials.
Soil classification
Study and correlation of major soil classification systems; assistance in the elaboration of
new classification systems (World Reference base for soil classification, WRB).
Guest research
ISRIC accommodates visiting scientists, who study the soil monolith collection for
comparison and correlation, or participate in other ongoing activities. Recent studies have
been on Podzols, Andosols, Vertisols and Ferralsols.
Consulting and Training
Carrying out short-term and long-term consultancies in the fields of soil science and
agroclimatology.
Training both on-the-spot and at ISRIC in soil classification, data(base) handling and
interpretation, laboratory management and analytical procedures, and establishments of
NASRECs.
ISRIC
P.O. Box 353
6700 AJ Wageningen
the Netherlands
Phone: (31)(0)317-471711
Fax: (31)(0)317-471700
E-mail: soil@isric.nl
Internet: http://www/isric.nl
Visiting address: 9 Duivendaal, 6701 AR Wageningen

SOPs

ORG 001 - Organigram


PERS 011 - Job Description Form
PERS 012 - Qualifications and skills of laboratory staff
PERS 013 - List of laboratory staff
PERS 014 - Proficiency list of laboratory staff
PERS 015 - Job allocation laboratory staff

ORG 001 - Organigram


LOGO

GENERAL INFORMATION FORM

Model: ORG 001

Page: 1 # 1

Version: 1

Date: 9606-04

Title: Organigram of International Soil Reference and Information


Centre, Wageningen, the Netherlands

File:

Figure
Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

PERS 011 - Job Description Form


LOGO

JOB DESCRIPTION FORM

Model: PERS 011

Version: 1

Position: Senior technician

P&O sign.:

Page: 1 # 3

Date: 95-06-05

Institute:

International Soil Reference and Information Centre, Duivendaal 9,


Wageningen.

Department:

Laboratory

Section:

Physical analysis

Position code:

Salary scale(s):

6-9

Required education:

Certificate Technical College, majoring in Chemistry or Physics or:


B.Sc, in Chemistry, Physics, or Agriculture (soil science),

Who is direct chief?:

Head of laboratory

In charge of how
many people?:

One (technician)

Give relevant section of Organigram and indicate (circle) position concerned:


Figure

Job Description (main aspects):


1. Execute physical analysis on soil samples
2. Interpret and report results of analysis (with PC-based programs)
3. Improve existing and develop new techniques of analysis
4. Give training to students and trainees
5. Execute consulting missions in laboratory assistance
Additional information related to main aspects:
1. Personally execute various types of physical analysis on soil samples, e.g. water retention
characteristics, bulk density, particle density, specific surface area, structure stability. Delegate
part of the work to technician.
2. Calculate results of analyses, interpret data and report them in a publishable manner to
Head of Laboratory. For this, use is made of personal computers (mainly Lotus 123, dBASE,
and Excel programs).
3. Etc., etc.
4.
5.
Is work executed according to
instructions, manuals, prescriptions,
schemes and the like?

Yes, where it concerns analytical work.

Interpretation of results using tables, reports etc., as


well as experience.

Improvement of new techniques according to


approved workplan. Reports on this in writing.

Give training according to schemes, using lecture


notes and other training material, as well as
experience

Consulting missions ditto.

What technical equipment is used?

Usual laboratory equipment. In addition: soil


moisture equipment, AAS, autoanalyzer, flame
photometer, colorimeter, sieving and grinding

equipment. PC with specialized software.

How are orders usually received?


(orally, in writing, extensive, brief)

In writing and orally, brief. Making workplans for


projects, training and consulting, interactive with
direct chief (HoL).

To what extent can execution of work be Etc., etc.


influenced? (planning, choice of
procedure and materials, own ideas)

What is the procedure in case of


problems in the execution of the job?
(consultation with chief, client,
colleagues, of literature)

If job requires writing of letters, reports,


operating procedures or other writing
work, what is the nature of this?

Are there certain well-defined mandates


for signing, giving clearance, advising
purchasing or other financial
commitments?

Other information relevant for the job


description

PERS 012 - Qualifications and skills of laboratory staff


LOGO

STAFF RECORD FORM

Model: PERS 012

Version: 1

Title: Qualifications and skills of laboratory staff

Page: 1 of 1

Date: 95-06-19

Position code(s):..............

Name:

Address:

Date of birth:

Education/qualifications/certificates/diplomas: (with date when obtained):

Previous positions experience:

Specialist in (analysis, techniques):

Specialist in (equipment):

Knowledge of (equipment):

Other relevant information:

Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

PERS 013 - List of laboratory staff


LOGO

STAFF RECORD FORM

Model: PERS 013

Title: List of laboratory staff

Version: 1

Page: 1 # 1

Date: 96-06-11

(Position code corresponds with codes on forms PERS 011, PERS 012 and PERS 014)
Position code(s)

Name

Position

Peters, Martin

Head

Williams, John J.

Senior technician

Farr, Susan

Technician

Johnson, Frederick

Senior technician

Carlson, Elisabeth

Technician

Pedro, Manuel

Technician

James, Hugh

Junior technician

Jackson, Michael M.

Junior technician

O'Brien, Patrick

Senior technician

Date:

Revised:

Revised:

Revised

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

PERS 014 - Proficiency list of laboratory staff


LOGO

STAFF RECORD FORM

Model: PERS 014

Version: 1

Page: 1 # 1

Date: 96-06-16

Title: Proficiency list of laboratory staff

Name

HoL Sign.:

Technique

Prep

pH

PSA

CEC

XRD

OC

N-Kj

Caeq

Crop

Peters. M.

Williams, J.J.

Farr, S.

Johnson, F.

Carlson, E,

Pedro, M.

James, H.

Jackson, M.M.

O'Brien, P.

Abbreviation of techniques:
Prep

sample preparation;

pH

pH determination;

PSA

particle-size analysis;

CEC

cation exchange capacity and exchangeable bases;

XRD

X-ray diffraction;

OC

organic carbon (Walkley-B);

N-Kj

nitrogen with Kjeldahl method;

Caeq

calcium carbonate equivalent;

Crop

crop analysis.

specialist;

qualified,

(Position codes correspond with codes on forms PERS 011, PERS 012, and PERS 013)
NON-ANALYTICAL TASKS
1. Checking First Aid kit, eye washers and other safety facilities: Carlson (E). Subst.:
Pedro (F).
2. Preparing lists for ordering supplies: Johnson (D). Subst.: Williams (B)
3. Checking and registering supplies: Johnson (D). Subst.: Williams (B)
4. Receiving samples: Jackson (H). Subst.: James (G)
5. Preparing analytical programme for work order: Peters (A). Subst.: Williams (B)
6. Registration and labelling samples, preparing work orders: Williams (B). Subst:
Johnson (D)
7. Preparing work list: Williams (B). Subst.: Johnson (D)
8. Etc.
9. Etc.

Date:

Revised:

Revised:

Revised

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

PERS 015 - Job allocation laboratory staff


LOGO JOB ALLOCATION FORM

Model: PERS 015

Page: 1 # 1

Version: 1

Title: Job allocation laboratory staff (with substitutes)

Date: 96-06-14

HoL Sign.:

(Position codes correspond with codes on forms PERS 011, PERS 012, PERS 013 and PERS
014)
ANALYTICAL TASKS
1. Sample preparation: James (G). Subst: Jackson (H); Farr (C)
2. Moisture determination: James (G). Subst,: Jackson (H)
3. Particle-size analysis: Farr (C). Subst.: O'Brien (I)
4. pH and EC: Carlson (E). Subst.: Jackson (H)
5. Organic carbon (Walkley-B): Johnson (D). Subst.: Pedro (F)
6. Kjeldahl-nitrogen: Williams (B). Subst.: Pedro (F)
7. Calcium carbonate equivalent: Pedro (F), Subst.: Johnson (D)
8. Etc.
9. Etc.
Date:

Revised:

Revised:

Revised

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

P&O sign.:

4 FACILITIES AND SAFETY


4.1 Housing facilities
4.2 Safety
4.3 Admittance to the laboratory
SOPs

If an institute or organization establishes a laboratory and expects (or demands) quality


analytical data then the directorate should provide the necessary means to achieve this goal.
The most important requirements that should be fulfilled, in addition to skilled staff, which
was discussed in the previous chapter, are the supply of adequate equipment and working
materials, the presence of suitable housing, and the enforcement of proper safety measures.
The present chapter focusses on the housing facilities and safety.

4.1 Housing facilities


4.1.1 The scientific block
4.1.2 The storage block
4.1.3 Climate

Often, the laboratory has to be housed in an existing building or sometimes in a few rooms or
a shed. On the other hand, even when a laboratory is planned in a new prospective building

not all wishes or requirements can be fulfilled. Whatever the case, conditions should be made
optimal so that the desired quality can be assured.
In the out-of-print FAO Soils Bulletin no. 10, Dewis and Freitas (1970) give an extensive and
useful account of the requirements which should be met by laboratories for soil and water. As
their recommendations to a large extent are still valid, also for plant analysis, with some
adaptations they can be followed here. These recommendations can be modified for smaller
laboratories but the main principles involved should not be ignored.
The general building lay-out should preferably consist of two separate blocks:
1. A Scientific Block, for analytical determinations, staff training and administration.
2. A Storage Block, for receipt, preparation and storage of samples, which, both in case of soil
and plant material, inevitably involves the danger of causing contamination. Also some dusty
analytical work, e.g. the sieving of the sand fraction as part of the particle-size analysis,
should be done in the storage block. For storage of bulk chemicals and waste.
Transport of prepared samples from the storage block to the scientific block should be through
a passage or buffer room or, if the blocks are on two levels, by means of an elevator. There
should not be direct connection (e.g. simply a door) between a room in which samples are
crushed or milled and a room in which analyses are being done because of contamination by
dust.

4.1.1 The scientific block


The scientific block may take various forms but ideally the building would contain separate
groups of laboratory rooms as follows:
1. Rooms for preliminary operations such as:
a. weighing of samples for analysis, including sub-sampling and fine-grinding when
necessary,
b. extraction, oxidation and freeze-drying for some analyses.
2. Rooms for physical analysis of soils such as soil moisture retention, specific surface area,
particle-size analysis (sieving should be done in the storage block or in a room for preliminary
operations (Type la).
3. Rooms for general chemical processes involving the use of concentrated acids, alkalies or
ammonia, where fumes may be evolved, even if these operations have to be conducted in
fume cupboards and the room is air-conditioned.
4. "Clean" rooms where instruments can be used without danger of being affected by fumes or
adverse atmospheric conditions. This includes the traditional "balance room" and rooms for
specialized purposes such as atomic absorption (with fume exhaust), autoanalyzer, optical
mineral analysis, and particularly X-ray analysis (diffraction and fluorescence spectroscopy).
A particular requirement for these rooms is a stable uninterrupted power supply (UPS). In
many places stabilizers are no luxury. Interruptions in the electricity supply are very annoying

and costly: analyses and calibration procedures may have to repeated and computer files may
be lost (make back-ups frequently!). Also, some safety and warning devices may become
ineffective. When the interruption is prolonged, no work can be done at all except for some
tidying up and paper work.
5. Storage room for chemicals and maintenance supplies for apparatus, with special
precautions usually demanded by law for poisons and inflammable material (see also Section
4.2, Safety). Large amounts of inflammable liquids such as alcohol and acetone should be
stored in separate sheds.
6. Workshop or service rooms for the central preparation and storage of distilled and/or
deionized water, for general washing and drying of laboratory ware, for construction and
repair of instruments and for glass-blowing.
7. Rooms for office administration, filing of records, staff meetings, seminars, reception of
visitors, etc. These days, most analysts have or share a personal computer which should be
placed in an office and not in Type 4 areas. Also the central lab computer (which may be a
PC) should be situated in a separate (Type 7) room.
The rooms of Types 3 and 4 should be so arranged and equipped that no samples need to be
taken into them, except those already weighed for analysis and contained in covered vessels.
Although it may seem convenient to carry out all stages of an individual analysis in one room,
this often conflicts with the need to keep delicate instruments away from dust, fumes and
vibration and would frequently lead to unnecessary duplication of equipment.

4.1.2 The storage block


The storage block should consist of at least three rooms:
1. Room for receipt and registration of all samples, with sufficient bench and shelf space to
cope with the input.
2. Room for drying, crushing, grinding/milling and sieving of samples, with measures to
exhaust dust from the air. If both soil and plant samples are being milled, this should be done
in separate rooms.
3. Room for storage of samples, both before and after analysis, with adequate shelf space.
Quality assurance requires that samples should be kept for a minimum period after analysis
(at least a year, but often longer, unless they are of a perishable nature such as moist soil
samples or water samples). This could imply that very soon the storage room is filled to
capacity. In that case additional room need to be found, if necessary in another building.
Proper registration of sample location in the storage place (room, shelf) is very useful. A
laboratory notebook can be formatted for this and its use described (and prescribed) in a
Protocol.

4.1.3 Climate
The air temperature of the laboratory and working rooms should ideally be maintained at a
constant level (preferably between 18 and 25C) and the humidity should also be kept
reasonably steady at about 50%. In many tropical countries air conditioning of the whole

building is virtually as essential as central heating in cold and temperate countries, while in
countries having a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters, both air cooling
and central heating are necessary.
The importance of supplying clean air, at a constant favourable temperature and humidity to
all parts of a scientific laboratory building is too often neglected for financial reasons,
particularly in tropical countries where air conditioning on a large scale during the hot seasons
may be very expensive. However, if some form of air conditioning is not provided, the
efficiency of the work done is bound to be reduced and other expenses incurred through a
number of factors:
1. Analytical processes normally carried out at room temperature can be affected by
differences in temperature so that an analysis performed in a "cold" room can give a different
result to one performed in a "hot" room. The temperature of distilled or deionized water may
be very different from that in the laboratory. The extraction of phosphate, for example, may be
influenced by temperature. Control of temperature is possible on a small scale by the use of
thermostatic waterbaths or immersion coolers but this is impracticable for shaking machines
or other large scale routine operations. Temperature correction factors can, of course, be
applied in some cases but these have to be established first and may be inaccurate for wide
temperature variations.
2. Many chemicals are affected by the temperature and humidity conditions under which they
are stored, particularly if these conditions fluctuate. Thus, a substance may absorb water from
humid air or effloresce in dry air or decompose at high temperatures, becoming either useless
or needing purification.
3. Modem scientific instruments can be quickly and permanently damaged by changes in
temperature and humidity, which often cause condensation, tarnishing and short-circuits.
4. The efficiency of all laboratory personnel is undoubtedly reduced by abnormally high or
low temperatures or high humidity and by the presence of even moderate amounts of dust or
chemical fumes in the air, thus affecting output both in quantity and quality.
5. Central air conditioning is preferred to the use of obviously cheaper alternatives such as
individual cooling units or heaters in each room. Almost inevitably, corridors, store rooms
and, often, sample preparation rooms are ignored and this may lead to undesirably wide
differences in temperature and humidity between such places and analytical laboratories. For
instance the moisture condition of a sample kept in a hot and humid store room (or a very cold
one) may change significantly when taken to an air-conditioned laboratory. The effects of
storage on the results of analysis of soil samples, as often noted in the literature, may vary
with temperature and humidity.

4.2 Safety
4.2.1 Equipment
4.2.2 Chemicals, reagents, and gases
4.2.3 Waste disposal
4.2.4 General rules to observe

4.2.5 First Aid


4.2.6 Fire fighting

4.2.1 Equipment
Most accidents in laboratories occur as a result of casual behaviour and neglect, not only
actively in the operations but also passively in the maintenance of appliances (old electricity
cables, plugs, manifolds, tubing, clamps, etc.). Therefore, for each apparatus and installation
such as water distillers, deionized water systems and gas cylinders, there should be a
maintenance logbook in which all particulars should be recorded. Maintenance, calibrations,
malfunctioning and actions to rectify this and other relevant remarks for optimal functioning
should be detailed (without budget being felt as a limiting factor). If complicated sensitive
equipment such as atomic absorption spectrophotometers and autoanalyzers are used by more
than one operator, each user should record the operation in the journal to make him or her
responsible for proper use. Details of this are laid down in SOPs which need to made for each
apparatus (see Chapter 5).

4.2.2 Chemicals, reagents, and gases


The proper handling and storage of chemicals, reagents and gases, particularly the toxic and
inflammable ones should also be laid down in SOPs. An example of such a SOP, for changing
gas cylinders, is given (PROT 051). Such simple SOPs or instructions should also be written
for the storage of chemicals. These may differ according to institute and country as the laws
and regulations differ. In some countries, for instance, acetylene and nitrous oxide cylinders
may not be situated in the laboratory and should be stored in a special ventilated cupboard or
outside the building. Bottles with inflammable substances need to be stored in stainless steel
containers. Working supplies of acids and ammonia can best be stored under fume cupboards
with ventilated storage. Quantities of inflammable material such as acetone and alcohol in
excess of 5 or 10 litre should be kept outside the building in a separate shed.
Somebody should be responsible for checking and keeping in order the special safety
equipment such as first-aid kits, chemical-spill kits, eye-wash bottles (unless special eye-wash
fountains are present), the functioning of safety showers, the presence and maintenance of fire
extinguishers (the latter will usually be done for the whole institute). For the instruction of
new personnel and to facilitate inspection, a floor-plan indicating all safety appliances and
emergency exits should be available. Of all inspection actions a record should be kept which
rests at least with the head of laboratory. One way of doing this is to prepare a Safety Logbook
with at least one page for each item to be inspected regularly. An example of a page of this
logbook is given as Model SAF 011 (which has the same lay-out as Model APP 041 for the
Maintenance Logbook for laboratory apparatus (see Chapter 5).
Storing chemicals in alphabetical order is convenient but can only be done to a limited extent
as several chemicals should not be stored together. This must be carefully considered in each
case. For instance, oxidizing and reducing agents should not be stored together. Acids should
not be stored with organic liquids. The chemical properties and hazards of each chemical in
stock can be looked up in relevant handbooks. In addition, suppliers of chemicals have
Material Safety Data Sheets available for their hazardous products. If a chemical has
particular hazardous properties this is indicated on the label by a hazard symbol. Although

these symbols are almost self-descriptive, the most important ones are reproduced here (see
Fig. 3-1). Absence of a hazard symbol does not necessarily imply safety!
Fig. 3-1: Hazard symbols on labels of chemical containers.
Each laboratory has its own specific range of chemicals. Once a proper partition into
categories is made, this can be laid down in a Standard Registration Form which should be
verified by a qualified chemist.
Both for efficient working and for inspection purposes a list of chemicals in stock and the
place they are stored should be prepared and kept up-to-date. Copies of this list should be
situated in or near all storage places so that any container or bottle removed can be tallied for
easy stock-management (timely ordering new stock!).
An example of the first page of such a list is given on. A separate list should be made of the
suppliers where each of the chemicals can be ordered.

4.2.3 Waste disposal


An important item to observe is waste disposal. In many countries the regulations as to waste
disposal are very strict. Sometimes a record of incoming and outgoing chemicals is required.
Some chemicals in use in soil and plant laboratories such as common acids, bases and salts
may be disposed of in dilute form and need not necessarily offer a problem but local
regulations vary and tend to become stricter. Care should be taken when a laboratory drain
outlet "disappears" somewhere in the ground to some obscure destination or in a cesspit.
Unless there is no other option, observe the rule not to dilute concentrated solutions in order
to make it disposable: 'dilution is no solution to pollution'!.
A number of chemicals deserve special attention as they may never be disposed of via the
sink, such as all toxic compounds (e.g., cyanides), persistent mineral oils, chromates,
molybdates, vanadates, selenium, arsenic, cobalt and several other metals and metalloids and
their compounds. All these materials have to be collected in proper containers to be disposed
of in a way prescribed by the local authorities. These have to be contacted about the
appropriate actions to be taken and regulations to be obeyed.
Make an inventory of toxic compounds in the laboratory and prepare a Protocol for their
collection and disposal. Usually a technician is charged with the responsibility for this.
Waste sample remains should never be disposed of by washing down a drain. Use proper
receptacles for this purpose. Nevertheless, sinks and gullies should be fitted with removable
silt traps which should be emptied regularly. In certain cases heavily polluted soil samples
may have to be treated as toxic chemical waste.

4.2.4 General rules to observe


The "Methods manual for forest soil and plant analysis" (Kalra and Maynard, 1991) gives a
useful list of various points to improve safety in a laboratory. With some modifications, this
list is reproduced here (with permission). It is suggested that each laboratory adapts and
moulds this list into a SOP called "Good Laboratory Behaviour" or "General Laboratory
Rules".

1. All employees must receive and understand the locally applicable Workplace Hazardous
Materials information guide or equivalent (if such a guide exists). In any case, the
management is responsible for proper instruction.
2. Develop a positive attitude toward laboratory safety: prevention is better than cure.
3. Observe normal laboratory safety practices.
4. Good housekeeping is extremely important. Maintain a safe, clean work environment.
5. You may work hard, but never in haste.
6. Follow the safety precautions provided by the manufacturer when operating instruments.
7. Monitor instruments while they are operating.
8. Avoid working alone. If you must work alone, have someone contact you periodically.
9. Learn what to do in case of emergencies (e.g., fire, chemical spill, see 4.2.6).
10. Learn emergency first aid (see 4.2.5.2).
11. Seek medical attention immediately if affected by chemicals and use first aid until medical
aid is available.
12. Report all accidents and near-misses to the management.
13. Access to emergency exits, eye-wash fountains and safety showers must not be blocked.
Fountains and showers should be checked periodically for proper operation. (Safety showers
are used for chemical spills and fire victims.)
14. Wash hands immediately after contact with potentially hazardous or toxic chemicals.
15. Clean up any spillage immediately. Use appropriate materials for each spillage.
16. Dispose of chipped or broken glassware in specially marked containers.
17. Use forceps, tongs, or heat-resistant gloves to remove containers from hot plates, ovens or
muffle furnaces.
18. Do not eat, drink or smoke in the laboratory. In many countries smoking in common
rooms is prohibited by law.
19. Do not use laboratory glassware for eating or drinking.
20. Do not store food in the laboratory.
21. Telephone calls to a laboratory should be regarded as improper disturbance and therefore
be restricted to urgent cases.

22. Unauthorized persons should be kept out of a laboratory. Visitors should always be
accompanied by authorized personnel.
23. All electrical, plumbing, and instrument maintenance work should be done by qualified
personnel.
24. Routinely check for radiation leaks from microwave ovens using an electromagnetic
monitor.
25. When working with X-ray equipment, routinely check (once a week) for radiation leaks
from X-ray tubes with appropriate X-radiation detectors. In some countries wearing a film
badge is obligatory. However, this is no protection!
26. Use fume hoods when handling concentrated acids, bases, and other hazardous chemicals.
Fume hoods should be checked routinely for operating efficiency. Do not use them for storage
(except the cupboards underneath, which preferably have a tube connection with the fume
cupboard above for ventilation).
27. Muffle furnaces must be vented to the atmosphere (e.g. via a fume cupboard).
28. Atomic absorption spectrophotometers must be vented to the atmosphere (if necessary via
fume cupboard). Ensure that the drain trap is filled with water prior to igniting the
burner.
29. Use personal safety equipment as described below.
a. Body protection: laboratory coat and chemical-resistant apron.
b. Hand protection: gloves, particularly when handling concentrated acids, bases, and other
hazardous chemicals.
c. Dust mask: when crushing or milling/grinding samples, etc.
d. Eye protection: safety glasses with side shields. Persons wearing contact lenses should
always wear safety glasses in experiments involving corrosive chemicals.
e. Full-face shields: wear face shields over safety glasses in experiments involving corrosive
chemicals.
f. Foot protection: proper footwear should be used. Do not wear sandals in the laboratory.
30. Avoid unnecessary noise in the laboratory. Noise producing apparatus such as centrifuges,
or continuously running vacuum pumps should be placed outside the working area.
31. Cylinders of compressed gases should be secured at all times.
32. Never open a centrifuge cover until the machine has stopped completely.
33. Acids, hydroxides, and other hazardous liquid reagents should be kept in plastic or plastic
coated bottles.

34. Do not pipet by mouth.


35. When diluting, always add acid to water, not water to acid.
36. For chemicals cited for waste disposal, write down contents on the label.
37. Always label bottles, vessels, wash bottles, etc., containing reagents, solutions, samples,
etc., including those containing water and also those you use for a short while (this while may
become days!).
38. Extreme care is required when using perchloric acid, otherwise fires or explosions may
occur. Work must be performed in special fume cupboards, certified as perchloric acid safe,
with a duct washdown system and no exposed organic coating, sealing compound, or
lubricant. Safety glasses, face shield, and gloves must be used. When wet-digesting soil or
plant samples, treat the sample first with nitric acid to destroy easily oxidizable matter.
Oxidizable substances (e.g. tissue, filter paper) should never be allowed to come into
contact with hot perchloric acid without pre-oxidation with nitric acid. Do not wipe
spillage with flammable material. Do not store on wooden shelves. Do not let perchloric acid
come into contact with rubber.
39. Read labels before opening a chemical container. Use workplace labels for all prepared
reagents indicating kind of reagent and concentration, date of preparation, date of expiry and
the name of the person who prepared it. Good Laboratory Practice prescribes that all these
particulars, including the amounts of components used, are recorded in the Reagents and
Solutions Book .
Useful information can also be found on Internet e.g.,
http://www.safety.ubc.ca/manual/safema12.htm.

4.2.5 First Aid


Every employee of a laboratory should have knowledge of emergency first aid and roughly
one out of every ten employees of a whole institute should have a valid First Aid certificate
including an endorsement for resuscitation. These qualifications should be mentioned on the
Staff Record Form model PERS 012 . The management should encourage first aid training
and the essential refresher courses by allowing time off and a periodical bonus.
Since no paragraph nor even a chapter can take the place of a proper first aid training, only
some major practical aspects will be mentioned here to provide the basics of emergency first
aid. These may be summarized in a SOP or Instruction.
4.2.5.1 Essential Items and Equipment
1. Names and internal phone numbers of employees with First Aid certificate.
2. Telephone numbers of physicians and hospitals as well as the general emergency number.
3. First Aid kit
4. Eye wash fountains or bottles.
5. Safety showers (at least one per laboratory).

It is the (delegatable) responsibility of the head of laboratory that these items are in order. A
check-list for regular inspection of these points should be made (and kept, for instance, with
the First Aid kit).
Items 1 and 2 could be taken care of by issuing a sticker with this information to each
employee (to be stuck onto or next to his/her telephone).
The First Aid kit should be the responsibility of one person who keeps a logbook of regular
contents checks and purchased supplements. Tallying used materials from the First Aid kit in
practice appears to be illusive. Also eye-wash equipment and safety showers need to be
inspected regularly. When an eye-wash bottle has been used, it should be replaced or refilled
and the expiration date revised.
4.2.5.2 Emergency First Aid
Sometimes, in case of an accident, there is no time or possibility to await qualified help. In
that case, the necessary help needs to be given by others. The most important general points to
observe are listed here:
1. Stay calm, try to oversee the situation and watch out for danger.
2. Try to find out what is wrong with the casualty.
3. Take care that the casualty keeps breathing. If breathing stops, try to apply artificial
respiration by mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-nose insufflation. When unconscious, turn
casualty on his/her side with the face tilted to the floor (support head by kind of cushion).
4. Staunch serious bleeding. If necessary, arterial bleeding may be stopped by pressing a
thumb in the wound.
5. Do not move the casualty unless he/she is in a dangerous position (e.g., in case of gas,
smoke, fire or electricity), then carefully move casualty to a safe place.
6. Put the casualty's mind at rest.
7. Call qualified help as soon as possible: medical service, a physician and/or an ambulance,
and if necessary, the police. Do not leave casualty unattended.
A few specific accidents that may occur in the laboratory are the following:
Burns:

Hold affected parts of the skin for at least 10 minutes in cold


water. Try to keep the bum sterile and do not apply ointment.

Corrosive burns:

(e.g. by hydrogen peroxide): wash the affected part of the


skin thoroughly with water.

Eye (corrosive) burns:

Wash eye thoroughly with tap water: use an eye fountain or

eye-wash bottle or a tubing connected to a tap.

Hydrofluoric acid burn:

Wash the affected part with dilute ammonia (1-2%) or


sodium bicarbonate solution.

Poisoning by swallowing:

1. Corrosive solutions (acids,


bases):

Let the casualty drink one or two glasses of water to dilute


the poison. Vomiting should not be induced.

2. Petroleum products.

Do not induce vomiting (the products may get into the


bronchial tubes).

3. Non-corrosive solutions (e.g. Try to induce vomiting. Swallow activated charcoal.


herbicides, fungicides):
In all these cases must the casualty immediately be taken to a physician or hospital. Try to
bring the original container (with or without some of the poison).

4.2.6 Fire fighting


As in the case of First Aid, a number of employees should be properly trained in fire fighting,
this goes especially for laboratory personnel. Therefore, at this point only general instructions
will be given to be applied when no qualified person can help in time. These instructions can
be moulded into a Standard Instruction to be issued to each and every employee.
4.2.6.1 Necessary items and equipment
1. Fire-proof blanket.
2. Safety shower (at least one per laboratory).
3. Buckets with sand.
4. Portable fire extinguishers of essentially two types: CO2 or b.c.f. (halon, halogenated
hydrocarbons) since these can be used without causing damage to electrical equipment. The
extinguishing power of halon is about 6 times that of CO2! Water has the disadvantage that it
conducts electricity, powder extinguishers (containing salts) cause damage to instruments.
4.2.6.2 Actions

When fire is detected stay calm, try to oversee the situation and watch out for danger. Then
the following actions should be taken in this order:
1. Close windows and doors.
2. Give fire alarm (shouting, telephone, fire alarm).
3. Rescue people (and animals if present).
4. Switch off electricity and/or gas supply.
5. Fight fire, if possible with at least two persons.
Persons with burning clothing should be wrapped in a blanket on the floor, sprayed with water
or be pulled under a safety shower. A CO2 fire extinguisher can also be used, but do not spray
in the face.
When using fire extinguishers it is important that the fire is fought at the seat of the fire i.e., at
the bottom of the flames, not in the middle of the flames.
If gas cylinders are present there is the danger of explosion by overheating. If they cannot be
removed, take cover and try to cool them with a fire-hose. When the situation looks hopeless,
evacuate the building. Let everybody assemble outside and check if no one is missing. To
practice this, a regular fire drill (once a year), should be held.
The management should have a calamity scenario drawn up for the whole institute as a
Standard Instruction which is issued to each and every employee.

4.3 Admittance to the laboratory


In connection with safety and quality, only authorized persons have admittance to the
laboratory blocks. These persons are: all laboratory staff, the Quality Assurance Officer and,
usually, other professional officers employed by the institute. Others may only enter the
laboratory after permission. This permission can be given by the head of laboratory or his/her
deputy. The entrances should be marked with a sign "no admittance for unauthorized
persons". In case of trainees, students, visitors etc., at least one laboratory staff member must
be charged with their supervision or responsibility.

SOPs
PROT 051 - The replacement of a gas cylinder
SAF 011 - Safety Logbook (Laboratory)
RF 031 - Stock record of chemicals

PROT 051 - The replacement of a gas cylinder


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Page: 1#1

Model: PROT 051

Version: 2

Date: 95-03-14

Title: The replacement of a gas cylinder


1 PURPOSE
To properly replace an empty pressure gas cylinder by a new one.
2 RELATED SOPs
- PROT

Acceptance delivery of goods

- PROT

Storage of gases

- RF

Logbook: Stock record of gases

3 REQUIREMENTS
Large spanner of correct size or shifting spanner. Detergent/soap solution with small paint
brush.
4 PROCEDURE
4.1 General
1. A cylinder may only be changed by well-instructed qualified personnel,
2. Ascertain yourself of the identity of the gas,
3. Ascertain that cylinder was properly labelled upon receipt (with date and initial). Add to
label date of opening and initial.
4. Take note of the particular properties and dangers of the gas.
5. Take note of applicable instructions of supplier.
4.2 Procedure
1. Make sure all connected equipment is switched off.
2. Close secondary valve in instrument room.

3. Close valve on cylinder.


4. Remove manifold from cylinder with (shifting) spanner of the correct size (do not use
monkey wrench!).
5. Replace cylinder.
6. Connect manifold with (shifting) spanner of correct size (do not use monkey wrench!).
7. Open valve on cylinder and make sure connection is gas-tight. In case of any doubt, apply
detergent solution to the connection with a brush: bubbling indicates a leak. Warning: never
search for a leak with a naked flame! If a leak is suspected, immediately close main valve
on cylinder and notify the management -which should decide what action should be taken to
solve the problem (e.g., replace manifold or cylinder or both).
8. Check if pressure indicated by manifold is conform specification of supplier.
9. Close valve on cylinder when gas is not to be used for some time.
10. Enter replacement in gas/supply logbook.
11. Add to label of empty cylinder date of replacement and initial. Add label "EMPTY".
12. Notify the person in charge of gas stock (and of ordering new cylinders).
13. Notify any worker who might be waiting for the cylinder change.
Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Expiry date:

SAF 011 - Safety Logbook (Laboratory)


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: SAF 011

Version: 1

Page: 1 # ...

Date: 96-02-27

Title: Safety Logbook (Laboratory)

Date

Inspection / Problem / Action taken / Remarks

Sign.

Sign. HoL

RF 031 - Stock record of chemicals


LOGO

STANDARD REGISTRATION FORM

Model:

Version: 2

Updated: 96-07-01

Page: 1 # 8

Sign.:

Title: Safety Logbook (Laboratory)


copies (locat.): central stare (1) fume cupboard (2)/(3) Steel boxes (4) / (5) shed (6)
lab. no. order no.

chemical

M1084

Aluminium chloride, hexahydrate

M1063

Aluminium nitrate, nonahydrate

M1095

Aluminium oxide

M0099

1-Amino-2-hydroxy-4-naftelene-sulfonic
acid

Ml 115

Ammonium acetate

M1136

Ammonium carbonate

Ml 145

Ammonium chloride

Ml 164

Ammonium fluoride

Ml 188

Ammonium nitrate

10

Ml 182

Ammonium heptamolybdate, tetrahydrate

11

M3792

Ammonium iron(II)sulfate, hexahydrate

12

M3776

Ammonium iron(III)sulfate, dodecahydrate

grade locat. stock removed

13

M1206

Ammonium monohydrogenfosfate

14

Ml 226

Ammonium monovanadate

15

Ml 192

Ammonium oxalate, monohydrate

16

M1217

Ammonium sulfate

17

M4282

Gum Arabic

18

M8127

Ascorbic acid

19

M1703

Barium acetate

20

M1714

Barium carbonate

21

M1717

Barium chloride, dihydrate

22

M0255

Diphenylamine-4-sulfonic acid barium salt

23

M1737

Barium hydroxide, octahydrate

24

K7375

Bolus alba (kaolin)

25

M0165

Boric acid

26

M8121

Bromocresolgreen

5 MATERIALS: APPARATUS,
REAGENTS, SAMPLES
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Apparatus
5.3 Reagents
5.4 Samples
SOPs

5.1 Introduction
Quality analytical work can only be performed if all materials used are suitable for the job,
properly organized and well cared for. This means that the tools are adequate and in good
condition, and that sample material receives attention with respect to proper handling, storing
and disposal.
The tools used for analysis may be subdivided into four categories:
1 Primary measuring equipment (pipettes, diluters, burettes, balances, thermometers, flow
meters, etc.)
2. Analytical apparatus or instruments.
3. Miscellaneous equipment and materials (ovens, furnaces, fridges, stills, glassware, etc.)
4. Reagents.
The saying that a chain is as strong as its weakest link applies particularly to these items. An
analyst may have gone out of his/her way (as he/she should) to prepare extracts, if the cuvette
of the spectrophotometer is dirty, or if the wavelength dial does not indicate the correct
wavelength, the measurements are in jeopardy. Both the blank and the control sample (and a
possible "blind" sample or spike) most likely will reveal that something is wrong, but the
harm is already done: the problem has to be found and resolved, and the batch might have to
be repeated. This is a costly affair and has to be minimized (it is an illusion to think that it can
be totally prevented) by proper handling and maintenance of the equipment.
Also the quality and condition of a number of other working materials have to be watched
closely. The calibration of thermometers, burettes and pipettes, particularly the adjustable
types, may exceed the acceptable tolerance (and be put out of use). New glassware may look

clean but always needs to be washed. Glassware may give off unwanted elements (boron,
silicon, sodium). The same goes for milling and grinding equipment (pestles and mortars,
tungsten carbide grinders, brass or steel sieves). For virtually all analyses glassware needs to
be rinsed with deionized water after washing. Therefore, if glassware, such as volumetric
flasks, is shared by analysts, they should be able to rely on the loyalty and good laboratory
practice of their colleagues.
A similar reasoning applies to reagents. One of the most prominent sources of the errors made
in a laboratory is the use of wrongly prepared or old reagents. Therefore, reagents have to be
prepared very carefully and exactly following the prescriptions, they have to be well labelled
and expiry dates have to be observed closely. Filtering a pH buffer solution in which fungi are
flourishing may save time and reagent but is penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Of equal importance for the quality of the work is the proper handling of the sample material.
Not only the technical aspects such as sample preparation, but particularly the safeguarding of
identity and integrity of the samples as well as the final storage or disposal (chain of custody).
As part of the overall quality assurance, in this chapter a number of instructions and
suggestions are presented to ensure the analytical reliability of the main tools and proper
organization of sample handling.

5.2 Apparatus
5.2.1 Registration
5.2.2 Operation

For quality assurance, with respect to instruments and other equipment the following
requirements should be met:
1. Apparatus used for generation of data, and for controlling environmental factors relevant to
the study should be suitably located and of appropriate design and adequate capacity.
2. The apparatus used should be periodically inspected, cleaned, maintained, and calibrated
according to Standard Operating Procedures. Records of procedures should be maintained.
In practice, therefore, a number of record forms and instructions need to be prepared.

5.2.1 Registration

5.2.1.1 Instrument Identification List


5.2.1.2 Instrument Maintenance List. Instrument Calibration List

5.2.1.1 Instrument Identification List


For proper management a complete list of all available apparatus is indispensable. This
Instrument Identification List should contain all information relevant for ensuring reliable and
continuous functioning of the apparatus. A model page for such an instrument list is given as
Model APP 003.
Such a record should, in addition to the description and registration/identification number,
contain information about the supplier (to contact in case of inspection, repair or
replacement), the date the apparatus was installed, and the person to whom the responsibility
for the instrument was assigned. This list can be compiled by any laboratory staff member on
behalf of the head of laboratory. A copy can be issued to all laboratory staff (as well as the
Quality Assurance Officer if applicable) or the list is deposited in a central place accessible to
all staff. The latter option allows a card-box system (physical and/or on computer) where
cards can easily be inserted and removed. When new apparatus is acquired the list must be
revised (or a new list or page may be issued) including the deletion of old apparatus when
replaced.
5.2.1.2 Instrument Maintenance List. Instrument Calibration List
For apparatus that needs maintenance and calibration at regular intervals an Instrument
Maintenance List and an Instrument Calibration List (or card-box system) must be prepared.
These lists, which may be combined, include columns for instrument identification, reference
to the logbook concerned and fixed dates or intervals for actions. They are an aide-mmoire
for the laboratory management, the actions themselves being recorded in the logbooks. A
model for these lists is given (Model APP 004).

5.2.2 Operation

5.2.2.1 Operation Instruction Manual


5.2 2.2 Instrument Maintenance Logbook
5.2 2.3 User Logbook
5.2.2.4 SOPs for use of equipment

5.2.2.1 Operation Instruction Manual


For all apparatus an Operation Instruction Manual should be available. Usually this is the
instruction manual issued by the supplier. Should this instruction not be satisfactory,
incomplete, or in a language in which the user is not proficient, then a proper instruction
manual should be made. Most commonly, the technician using an instrument writes this as a
SOP. Examples are given at the end of this chapter (see 5.2.2.4). Often, laboratories have the
instruction manual and maintenance logbook (see next) combined into one volume.
5.2 2.2 Instrument Maintenance Logbook

In addition to the instruction manual, for each apparatus a Maintenance Logbook should be
prepared. All relevant actions taken with respect to the apparatus should be recorded in this
logbook, e.g., problems encountered and repairs made, periodic inspections, and calibrations
(other than normal calibrations with standard curves as part of an analysis). A model for the
pages of such a logbook is given as Model APP 041.
When initiating these logbooks for apparatus that have been in use for some time, the present
condition of the apparatus is the starting point and must be assessed and recorded in the
logbook together with any other information which happens to be known and which might be
relevant for future functioning (age, past problems, defects, repairs, etc.). This is preferably
compiled by the technician-in-charge of each instrument concerned. If this venture is taken up
from scratch it is advisable to start with analytical instruments that generate data, and
subsequently deal with the auxiliary equipment.
Maintenance should always be carried out by qualified technicians either from inside or
outside the institute. Many laboratories have maintenance contracts with suppliers. Such
contracts are generally quite expensive and should be critically reviewed regularly on
usefulness and length of intervals. Depending on the intensity and skill with which equipment
is used maintenance intervals can often be extended (unless accreditation bodies require strict
adherence to maintenance schedules). For other equipment regular maintenance may be
changed into if-and-when-you-need maintenance, particularly those which are checked or
calibrated before each use (which may reveal a gradual decline in response, e.g. AAS) and
those for which back-up instruments are available (e.g. electronic balances). Often, however,
such policies are only theory because for some reason qualified service may not readily be
available, for instance when the supplier has no local office in the country. This makes the inhouse maintenance facilities even more important. A sensible measure is to build up a stock of
essential parts (e.g. hollow cathode lamps for AAS), necessary tools, blueprints and, if
possible, back-up equipment. Keep records of all these items. Also, arrangements with other
laboratories for mutual assistance can be useful.
Note. An example of an organization with this aim is SPALNA, the Soil and Plant Analytical
Laboratory Network of Africa. Secretariat at: IITA. Oyo Rd.. PMB 5320. Ibadan. Nigeria.
5.2 2.3 User Logbook
Finally, for all apparatus sensitive to use and particularly to misuse, such as flame
photometers. AAS. ICPs, chromatographs, autoanalyzers. X-ray equipment, spectrophotometers etc.. a User Logbook should be prepared in which users identify themselves and
report particulars of the use: date, duration, elements measured, matrix in which was
measured, and whether any problems were encountered (if there were serious problems, these
should then be recorded in the Maintenance Logbook as well and reported to the head of
laboratory). A suggestion for a page of this logbook is given as Model APP 051.
To facilitate easy and rapid information for the user (and the HoL or QA officer) in some
laboratories the status of maintenance and calibration is given on a label on the instruments.
5.2.2.4 SOPs for use of equipment

As indicated above, a SOP should be made for the use of each apparatus. Although much
freedom exists as to the format of such SOPs, a minimum of essential information should be
included. As a guide, a few examples are given at the end of this chapter. These comprise:
1. A standard instruction for writing these SOPs (Model F 011),
2. Two SOPs for primary measuring equipment: an adjustable pipette and an electronic
balance (Models APP 061, and APP 062).
3. A SOP for a common analytical instrument: a pH meter (Model APP 071).
One of the most important aspects of the SOPs for this equipment is the calibration and
adjustment (standardization). A number of tools belonging to the category of primary
measuring equipment cannot be adjusted e.g., volumetric flasks, standard glass burettes,
volumetric pipettes. This type of equipment is not normally calibrated unless there is reason to
suspect inaccuracy or when it is to be used for very accurate analytical work. Sometimes
different qualities are available e.g., volumetric flasks Class A and Class B (tolerance 0.1%
and 0.2% respectively).
Note: When calibrating volumetric glassware the weight of the displaced air may not be
neglected: this amounts to a correction of 0.11% (i.e. filling up a volumetric flask with 100.00
ml water of 25C should result in a weight increase of 99.89 g).

5.3 Reagents
5.3.1 Reagent chemicals
5.3.2 Standard and Reagent solutions

5.3.1 Reagent chemicals


It is advisable to use analytical grade chemicals in the laboratory throughout. Nevertheless, in
soil analysis, analytical grade is often not really necessary and is the chemically pure grade
satisfactory. It is then a matter of balancing the saving of money against disadvantages such as
needing more space (some chemicals will be in stock in two grades), more book-keeping and
risk of making mistakes. The minimum requisite purity of chemicals (including that of water
and other solvents) should be stated in the description of the analytical procedure (see Chapter
7).
When chemicals (and gases) arrive in the laboratory' the containers need to be labelled. On
the label should be recorded the date it was received, when it was first opened and, in some
cases, the expiry date. Such labels can conveniently be home-made with the PC. A suggestion
for a model is given in Figure 5-1.
Fig. 5-1 - Label for reagent chemical containers

When taking chemicals form a bottle there are three basic rules to obey:
1. Use a clean spoon or spatula (do not use one which happens to lie around, unless it is
cleaned).
2. Do not return chemical to the bottle.
3. Close the bottle tightly after use.

5.3.2 Standard and Reagent solutions


There are basically two types of standards needed for chemical analysis:
1. Standard reagents for standard reagent solutions, e.g., the popular standard reagent
ampoules, or pure chemicals. These are needed for first-line control (calibration of measuring
instruments).
2. Standard sample material, to be divided in primary (certified) standard material and the
"home-made" control samples. These are needed for second-line and third-line control.
The present discussion is restricted to Type 1, the standard reagents. The standard sample
material is discussed in Chapters 7. 8, and 9.
In addition to standard solutions for calibration, reagent solutions need to be prepared for
extractions and analytical reactions.
Much of the success of an analysis depends on the reliability of the used standard and other
reagent solutions. These should be prepared with great care and only by experienced
personnel. In larger routine laboratories extracting solutions are often made by one person or a
unit and centrally stored. Each preparation of a solution should be recorded in a Reagents
Book (or separate Standards Book). A model for a page of such a book is given. When an
ampoule is used rather than a reagent chemical, this can be entered in the column "Amount
weighed in". (If titrations are used to determine titres, details of this can be recorded on
Worksheets belonging to the analytical procedure involved).

The lay-out of a reagent book may be one of two kinds:


1. All reagents prepared are recorded chronologically.
2. For each reagent a page (or set of pages) is reserved.
In the latter case the first row of the form (RF 032) may be preprinted or prefilled-in for
convenience.
When a standard or any other reagent solution is prepared the bottle in which it is stored
should be properly labelled. A suggestion for the model of such a label is given in Figure 5-2.
Fig. 5-2. Label for reagent solutions.

For bottles containing standard solutions for calibration of instruments labels of slightly
different model can be used as shown in Figure 5-3. In the upper empty section the what the
shelf-life of a reagent solution is marker in large characters for easy recognition which is
convenient during the calibration procedure, e.g. "Ca 10" for AAS. For handling reagent
solutions similar rules apply as for reagent chemicals: do not return unused solution to the
bottle (contamination!) and close the analyte and concentration can be written with a field
marker in large characters for easy recognition which is convenient during the calibration
procedure, e.g., "Ca 10" for AAS. For handling reagent solutions similar rules apply as for
reagent chemicals: do not return unused solution to the bottle (contamination!) and close the
bottles immediately and tightly after use to prevent evaporation and contamination. Even so,
reagent solutions should generally not be kept for longer than six months after preparation
(while some may only be used for few days, and some should be prepared freshly each time
they are used!). In some cases, expiry dates are provided by the supplier, but in most cases
only experience can teach what the shelf-life of a reagent solution is. Sometimes, reagent
solutions can be re-standardized to extend the shelf-life (place new or additional label or
sticker!). To avoid mistakes, coloured labels (or coloured dots) may be used. For example, red
labels could be used for reagents with a short life (e.g. buffer solutions), blue labels for
reagents that should be stored in the refrigerator, and yellow for reagents that are to be kept in
the dark.
Fig. 5-3. Label for standard solutions.

The preparation of each (standard) reagent solution including information about labelling,
storing and disposal, should be written up as a SOP.

5.4 Samples
Test samples of soil, plant and water vary widely in nature and condition. The sampling itself
will not be discussed here as the responsibility for this usually lies outside the laboratory.
Note. This does not mean that the sampling procedure has no influence on the analytical
results. Several factors such as moisture content, packing, time lapse between sampling and
analysis, etc. may be of influence. In addition, the technique and pattern of sampling (grid
density) can have a strong bearing on the interpretation of the results.
The laboratory should demand proper packaging, labelling and administration of samples
before they reach the laboratory. Specific information as to the character of the sample may be
very useful for further processing. In fact, SOPs, protocols, registration forms and labels
(made of plastic, not of paper) can be prepared and issued to clients or project managers prior
to sampling or delivery to the laboratory. This greatly facilitates the administration and
processing in the laboratory and reduces the risk of mistakes and confusion. There is probably
no laboratory which has never experienced a problem in this field.
Good Laboratory Practice aims at proper administration and a continuous scrutiny of the
identity of samples and an unbroken chain of custody. Every effort should be made to prevent
samples being accidentally interchanged, being contaminated (broken bags), losing their
identity (i.e. their label or number) or getting lost. A system can never be full-proof and there
may always be circumstances beyond one's control (e.g. fire), and particularly possible
malevolence and sabotage are virtually impossible to prevent.
Chain of custody
From the moment samples arrive at the laboratory (or institute) their identity, integrity
(spilling and contamination!), and knowledge of their whereabouts must be safeguarded. This
implies the following actions:

1 Inspection of packaging, condition of samples, (dry, moist), identification (labels still


readable?).
2. Registration by an authorized person who takes care of further routing the samples
according to a protocol.
This will usually imply handing over the samples to someone charged with the preparation
(drying, sieving etc.) and transfer to the laboratory. Each institute needs a protocol describing
the formal procedure for handling samples. An example of a simple draft version is given as
Model PROT 011.
The registration procedure includes entering particulars of the samples into a Sample Logbook
with forms of a design fitted for the purpose. An example is given here as Model RF 011. The
sample numbers can be entered into the logbook or, perhaps more conveniently, attached to
the registration form when a proper sample list is accompanying the samples. A copy of this
list is kept in the (physical) file which is made for each work order. The registration procedure
also includes assigning a programme of analyses and defining a target date of completion. An
example of a form for this purpose is given as Model RF 021.
It is emphasized that a computerized laboratory information and management system (LIMS)
is a powerful tool in the organization and quality control of the laboratory (see Chapter 8). In
the chain of custody a LIMS is useful as it facilitates the registration of samples and analytical
programme and produces ready-to-use printed sticker-labels with all relevant information for
the sample containers.
Finally, the ways samples are stored and disposed of also have to be described in protocols.
As mentioned in Section 4.2.3, sometimes contaminated samples may have to be treated as
chemical waste.

SOPs
APP 003 - Instrument Identification List
APP 004 - Instrument Maintenance/Calibration List
APP 041 - Logbook of AAS
APP 051 - User Logbook of AAS
F 011 - Standard Instructions for drafting apparatus SOPs
APP 061 - Operation of Eppendorf Varipette 4810
APP 062 - Operations of electronic balance Sartorius
APP 071 - Operation of pH meter Metrohm E 632
RF 032 - Page of Reagents Book
PROT 011 - Protocol for custody chain of samples
RF 011 - Protocol for accepting delivery of samples
RF 021 - Form for accepting order for analysis

APP 003 - Instrument Identification List

LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: APP 003

Version: 2

Date: 96-05-15

Page: 1 # ...

File:

Title: Instrument Identification List

Instr. Description Serial


no.
no.

Install. Supplier Person-in-charge Location Logbook


date
(deputy)
no.

APP 004 - Instrument Maintenance/Calibration List


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: APP 004

Version: 2

Date: 96-05-15

Page: 1 # ...

File:

Title: Instrument Maintenance/Calibration List

Instr. no. Description Serial no.

Maintenance / Calibration schedule

Logbook no.

APP 041 - Logbook of AAS


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: APP 041

Version: 2

Title: Maintenance Logbook of AAS Perkin Elmer AAnalyst 100

Page: 1 # ...

Date: 97-03-17

Serial no.:_____________

Date

Location: _____________

Inspection / Problem / Action taken / Remarks

Sign.

Sign. HoL

APP 051 - User Logbook of AAS

LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: APP 051

Version: 2

Page: 1 # ...

Date: 97-02-26

Title: User Logbook of AAS Perkin-Elmer AAnalyst 100

Serial no.:_____________

Location: _____________

Date Name user Duration Elements Matrix Problems Y/N Other Particulars Sign.

F 011 - Standard Instructions for drafting apparatus SOPs


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: F 011

Version: 2

Title: Standard instructions for drafting apparatus SOPs

CONTENTS

PURPOSE

PRINCIPLE

SPECIFICATIONS

DEFINITIONS

RELATED SOPs

SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS

DOCUMENTATION

OPERATION

MAINTENANCE

10

CALIBRATION

11

WITHDRAWAL FROM SERVICE

Page: 1 # ...

Date: 95-12-11

12

ARCHIVING ROUGH DATA

13

AUTOMATED (COMPUTERIZED) INFO SYSTEMS

14

REFERENCES

Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of expiry:

The first page is composed according to Standard Instruction F 001 (General Instructions)
0 TITLE
Give title of SOP, e.g. "Operation of Philips/Pye Unicam SP3-200 Infrared
Spectrophotometer".
1 PURPOSE
State briefly the purpose of the apparatus. If applicable, mention the analytes and matrices
that can be used. If apparatus is part of larger system specify this.
2 PRINCIPLE
Describe briefly the principle of the technique used.
3 SPECIFICATIONS
Give all data relevant for the identification, location, etc., as well as for its proper use:
conditions under which the apparatus can be used, relevant specifications and/or limitations.
3.1 General information
Give the following general data. This can also be given in an Appendix. Alternatively, make
reference to the corresponding Maintenance Logbook where all this information must be
given also:
- name and description of apparatus; type and serial numbers; own identification number
- name manufacturer and/or supplier
- dates of receipt and implementation
- location of apparatus
- name of person responsible for apparatus

3.2 Functional information


Specify working ranges, limitations and other information relevant for the application of the
apparatus, e.g.:
- working range(s) for applicable analytes (usually given by manufacturer)
- lower limit(s) of detection
- sensitivity
- signal/noise ratio
- temperature range
- other limitations (e.g. matrix concentrations)
4 DEFINITIONS
Give definitions of used terms5 RELATED SOPs
Where necessary refer to other relevant SOPs e.g.:
- F 011 Standard instruction for drafting apparatus SOPs
6 SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS
Describe the precautions to take for safe operation, e.g. checking of gas and pressure valves;
use of fume exhaust; fire or explosion danger; wearing gloves or safety goggles; use of pipette
balloon; etc. etc.
7 DOCUMENTATION
A number of relevant documents accompany the apparatus facilitating control and optimal use
with minimum trouble or failure.
7.1 Logbook(s)
For each apparatus a logbook should be made. All relevant events concerning the use and
maintenance of the apparatus should be recorded in this book. It may be divided in two parts
or consists of two volumes: Instrument Maintenance Logbook and User Logbook. The
logbook(s) should have the following features:
- Front page with title, SOP number, serial number, and date of issue,
- Second page with general information mentioned under 3.1.
7.1.1 For maintenance:
(instructions for maintenance are given under 8 below)
- In case of trouble:
date of mishap
description of problem
cause

solution
date of restoring to service
- In case of maintenance:
date of latest and next service (maintenance status)
kind of maintenance
what parts were used and have to be ordered
particulars for next service particulars of calibration (instructions for calibration are given
under 10)
7.1.2 For user registration:
- date of use
- name of user
- particulars of determination (analyte, matrix)
- duration of use
- relevant observations (problems, note for next user)
7.2 Manufacturer or supplier documents
These are the original manuals delivered with the apparatus. Often, photocopies are kept with
the apparatus (particularly smaller manuals may get lost). If the original is not kept with the
apparatus, make clear where to be found: with sticker, on photocopy, in logbook(s), centrally
in manual file, or otherwise.
7.3 Internal documents
In the laboratory there should be a list of persons who are authorized to
- use the apparatus
- perform the maintenance
- perform the calibration
8 OPERATION
8.1 General
Give here all actions necessary to prepare the apparatus for use. Include instructions for
proper environment such as:
- correct gases, lamps, cooling system
- climate control in working room
- safety measures and pollution control
8.2 Operation instruction
Divide this paragraph in as many numbered parts as there are separate steps to be performed.
Describe these steps accurately and in chronological order, using the imperative.

When the operation instruction is extensive or already exists as a separate document, it need
not be integrated with the apparatus SOP. Its existence as an annex to the SOP is then
mentioned in Section 3.
8.3 Malfunctioning, Interferences
Describe all interferences and malfunctioning that are known to possibly occur and disturb the
proper functioning of the apparatus. Give information about
- kind of problem
- appearance or how it can be recognized
- how it can be solved
- who to turn to for assistance to solve the problem
9 MAINTENANCE
9.1 Definition/description
If applicable, state the maximum period between services or give service scheme of kind and
frequency of service. As an appendix, there must be a list of essential spare parts that should
be in stock. The final part of each service should be a test of the relevant specifications of the
apparatus.
9.2 Maintenance by own personnel
Describe the technical operations that need to be performed for maintenance of the apparatus.
If necessary, distinguish between different kinds of service. Use a stepwise description of the
operation (as for the operation instruction 6.2). Record particulars in the Maintenance
Logbook.
9.3 Maintenance by third party
Give information about
- name, address and telephone number of company (or individual) involved
- name of contact person
- specifications of warranty and of the contract (e.g., frequency) for service
The serviceman roust report his findings in writing; these reports must be filed (e.g. stick in
Maintenance Logbook or in special Maintenance Report File cross-referenced with a remark
in the Maintenance Logbook).
10 CALIBRATION
10.1 Definition
Determining the value of the deviation(s) of an instrument from an applicable
Calibration standard.

Operation to make instrument sufficiently accurate for the measurement (this


Adjustment operation is also called standardization)
Give here all operations or manipulations necessary to calibrate the described apparatus. In
certain cases this may involve adjustment. Use a stepwise description of the operation. The
operation for adjustment should (also) be described in the Operation Instruction (8.2).
Note: This calibration is to be distinguished from the calibration of an instrument for each
measurement. This is usually done batchwise using standard series specified in the various
analytical methods.
Relevant calibration items are;
- Pre-set values and tolerated deviations)
- Frequency of calibration
- what calibration standards are used
- relation to national or international standards
- environmental conditions during calibration
- measures to minimize shifts in adjustment
10.2 Calibration by own personnel
Record in logbook:
- calibration status of instrument
- calibration result
10.3 Calibration by third party
Give information about contract for calibration:
- Name, address and phone number of company
- Name contact person
- Contract number
- Frequency of service
Note: Calibration of modern instruments by third party becomes less and less necessary.
Usually it is included in maintenance contracts.
11 WITHDRAWAL FROM SERVICE
When an instrument is not functioning properly or defect it may no longer be used. Describe
if there are other reasons for putting the instrument out of action, e.g. when calibration or
maintenance dates have expired. (In non-accredited laboratories the latter two rules are often
not observed. Quality may then be in jeopardy.) State how the instrument is to be labelled if it
is not to be used,
Record in logbook:

- Date of putting out of action


- Reason
- Suggestions for solving the problem
- Date of restoring into action
12 ARCHIVING ROUGH DATA
Rough data are the measuring results of the instrument. This may be a figure on a display, a
chromatogram, a printer list with data, etc.
State which rough data are to be archived and how this is done.
13 AUTOMATED (COMPUTERIZED) INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Instruments may be connected to a computer which records (and interprets) the rough data.
These data may, in turn, (semi)automatically or manually be transferred to a PC for
calculation and/or a laboratory information management system (LIMS).
13.1 Description
Describe clearly the situation and procedures involved. Include the procedure for archiving
and retrieving data and for how long data will be kept.
13.2 Software
The use of software inherently implies the occurrence of problems which may necessitate
help-desk service. Therefore, the following information should be documented:
- Name of program
- Date and/or version number
- Author or supplier. Address and phone number of contact person
14 REFERENCES
State which references were used for drafting the SOP (if not mentioned earlier). Also give
references which may contribute to knowledge and skill of the user of the equipment.
Source: Institute for Inland Water Management and Waste Water Treatment (RIZA), Lelystad.

APP 061 - Operation of Eppendorf Varipette 4810


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: APP 061

Version: 1

Page: 1 # 7

Date: 95-11-27

Title: Operation of Eppendorf Varipette 4810

CONTENTS

PURPOSE

PRINCIPLE

SPECIFICATIONS

DEFINITIONS

RELATED SOPs

SAFETY MEASURES

OPERATION

7.1

Volume adjustment

7.2.

Pipetting

7.3

Calibration

7.3.1

Calculation of mean volume

7.3.2

Calculation of bias

7.3.3

Calculation of precision

MALFUNCTIONING

MAINTENANCE

9.1

Maintenance by user

9.2

Maintenance by supplier

10

LOGBOOK

11

REFERENCES

APPENDIX: CALIBRATION WORKSHEET

Author:

Sign.:

Head (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

1 PURPOSE
Pipetting small volumes of solutions.
2 PRINCIPLE
The pipetting mechanism is based on displacement of liquid by means of manual
displacement of air above the liquid.
3 SPECIFICATIONS
Volume range: 20 l - 2500 l. Suitable for aqueous and organic solutions.
4 DEFINITIONS
Accuracy: The closeness of the measured value to the true value,

(Note; this may also be expressed as bias: see for definition Guidelines for Quality
Management)

Precision: The closeness with which replicate measured values agree.


5 RELATED SOPs
F 001

Administration of SOPs

F 011

Standard instruction for drafting apparatus SOPs

APP 041

Maintenance Logbook

APP 003

Instrument Identification List

APP 004

Instrument Maintenance List

6 SAFETY MEASURES
Not applicable.
7 OPERATION
Prevent liquid from entering the pipette body at all times.
7.1 Volume adjustment
See Figure 1
1. Pull control knob until a click is heard (or felt).
2. Turn control knob until desired volume is shown on display,
3. Press control knob until a click is heard.
Fig. 1. Procedure for volume adjustment Varipette (Eppendorf, 1992).
7.2 Pipetting
See Figure 2.
Fig.2. Liquid charge, liquid discharge, tip ejection

7.3 Calibration
Calibrate once a month with a cleaned pipette (see Section 9.1) at both minimum and
maximum volume of working range and at an intermediate volume (see Table 2).
Procedure
1. Pipette and weigh 10 times a chosen pipette volume of demineralized water (boiled for 15
mins. and cooled) using an analytical balance (resolution 0.1 mg). Record data on worksheet
(for model see Appendix of this SOP).
2. Calculate mean volume of the pipette with Equation 1 of Section 7.3.1 of this SOP,
3. Verify if accuracy (trueness) and precision are within specifications of manufacturer.
7.3.1 Calculation of mean volume
The mean volume is calculated with Equation 1:
(1)

where:

v = mean pipette volume ( l)


g = mean of 10 calibration weighings (g)
d = density of used water (g/ml) at temperature of this water (see Table 1)
Table 1. Density of water at different temperatures
Water temp. (C)

Density (g/ml)

Water temp. (C)

Density (g/ml)

15

0.99913

21

0.99802

16

0.99897

22

0.99780

17

0.99880

23

0.99756

18

0.99862

24

0.99732

19

0.99843

25

0.99707

20

0.99823

30

0.99567

7.3.2 Calculation of accuracy (trueness)


The accuracy is calculated with Equation 2:
(2)

where:
a =accuracy (%)
b = pipette setting ( l)
v = mean pipette volume ( l)
7.3.3 Calculation of precision
The precision is calculated with Equation 3:

(3)

where:
p = precision (%)
s = standard deviation of 10 calibration weighings (g)
g = mean weight of 10 calibration weighings (g)
When the calibration results do not meet the specifications of the manufacturer (see Table 2),
the pipette should not be used. If the pipette cannot be fixed by proper maintenance (see 9.1 of
this SOP), then it should be fixed by the supplier or be withdrawn from service (or be used for
other purposes where lower accuracy is permitted; the pipette should then be clearly marked).
Specifications of manufacturer:
Table 2. Factory specifications of the Varipette 4810
Varipette range

200 - 1000 l

500 - 2500 l

Setting ( l)

Accuracy

Precision

200

100 0.8 %

0.3 %

500

100 0.6 %

0.2 %

1000

100 0.6 %

0.2 %

500

100 0.7 %

0.3 %

1000

100 0.6 %

0.2 %

2500

100 0.6 %

0.2 %

8 MALFUNCTIONING
- Problem:

drops of liquid inside the pipette tip.

Cause:

tip has come loose.

Solution:

fix tip.

- Problem:

liquid dripping from tip.

Cause:

wrong tip, or leak in pipette.

Solution:

replace tip, or clean pipette (see 9.1).

9 MAINTENANCE
9.1 Maintenance by user
Calibrate according to instruction in Section 7.3. Prior to calibration inspect if pipette is dirty.
If so, pipette should be cleaned by qualified person. The parts of the Varipette are shown in
Figure 3.
Fig. 3. Parts of the Varipette.
9.2 Maintenance by supplier
When a problem cannot be solved by own qualified personnel, the pipette has to be sent to the
supplier for repair. (Recalibrate when returned.)
10 LOGBOOK
Dates and particulars of repairs, cleaning services, and calibrations must be recorded in the
logbook for automatic pipettes.
11 REFERENCE
Eppendorf 4810. Operation Manual, IS 92.
Source: Winand Staring Centre for Integrated Land, Soil and Water Research (SC-DLO),
Wageningen.
APPENDIX. CALIBRATION WORKSHEET FOR AUTOMATIC PIPETTES
Calibration performed by:

Sign.:

Date

Pipette type + Identification no.

Pipette setting ( l))

:Min.:

Temperature water (C)

Density water (g/ml)

Max.:

Intermediate

Weight (g)

Weighing no.

Min. volume

Max. Volume

Volume

10

Mean
Final results (see 7.3 this SOP):
Calibration

Setting

Min

Max

Factory Specification

Min

Max

Sign. Head

Volume ( l)

Accuracy (%)

Precision (%)

APP 062 - Operations of electronic balance Sartorius


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: APP 062

Version: 1

Title: Operations of electronic balance Sartorius 3708 MP 1

CONTENTS

PURPOSE

PRINCIPLE

Page: 1 # 5

Date: 95-02-02

SPECIFICATIONS

DEFINITIONS

ELATED SOPs

SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS

OPERATION

7.1

Preparation

7.2.

Checking

7.3

Adjustment

7.4

Weighing

MALFUNCTIONING

MAINTENANCE

10

LOGBOOK

11

REFERENCE

Author:

Sign:

Head (sign.)

Date of Expiry

1 PURPOSE

To measure the mass of substances or objects.


2 PRINCIPLE
Electronic mass compensation.
3 SPECIFICATIONS
3.1 General
Serial no. 2709013. For particulars see appropriate section in Balance Maintenance Logbook.
3.2 Functional
Weighing range

0 - 320 g

Readability

0.001 g

Precision (standard deviation)

Linearity deviation (max.)

0.0005 g

0.001 g

Taring range (by subtraction)

320 g

Taring time

10 ms

Measuring time (approx.)


The balance should be level and prevented from
- vibrations
- large temperature fluctuations
- direct sunlight
- draught
4 DEFINITIONS
Not applicable.
5 RELATED SOPs

2s

F 001

Administration of SOPs

F 011

Standard instruction for drafting apparatus SOPs

APP

Balance Maintenance Logbook

APP 003

Instrument Identification List

APP 004

Instrument Maintenance List

6 SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS
Not applicable.
7 OPERATION
Fig. 1. Electronic balance Sartorius 3708 MP 1.
A Balance pan

D Spirit level

G Sensitivity adjustment

B Power switch

E Weight display

H Screws for metal house

C Levelling screws

F Tare sensor

I Data output

Sensitivity of the balance depends on varying earth rotation velocities at different locations in
the world and must therefore be checked and adjusted.
7.1 Preparation
1. Check if balance is level.
2. Turn on switch "B". Allow balance to warm up for at least 20 mins.
7.2 Checking
1. Press tare sensor "F" to zero balance.
2. Place calibration weight (e.g., 300 g) on the balance pan.
3. The weight should be 300.000 0.001 g.
4. If this not the case, adjust sensitivity according to Section 7.3 below.

7.3 Adjustment
1. Remove plate "G". The sequence of the counters of the 6-digit switch corresponds with the
sequence of the weight display, i.e., the right counter corresponds to the right digit of the
weight display.
2. Place calibration weight on the weighing pan (only if weight had been removed).
3. In case of a lower weight indication: increase value on switch until weight indication equals
that of the calibration weight.
4. In case of a higher weight indication: reduce value of switch until weight indication equals
that of the calibration weight.
5. Permissable tolerance in all cases: 0.001 g (1 in final digit).
6. Press sensor "F" to zero balance and repeat sensitivity adjustment.
7. Fasten plate "G" again.
If calibration is unsuccessful, the balance should not be used until it has been repaired.
7.4 Weighing
7.4.1 Direct weighing
1. Press tare sensor to zero balance,
2. Place sample on balance pan. Read weight indication on display after illumination of
stability indicator "g"
7.4.2 Weighing-in
1. Place tare container on balance pan. Press tare sensor to zero balance.
2. Transfer sample material into tare container. Read net weight on display.
Note: This procedure can be repeated as often as necessary up to the maximum capacity of the
balance.
7.4.3 Weighing to a pre-set value
1. Example: pre-set value: 50 g.
2. While transferring sample to container observe the 10 g digit until "4" appears.
3. Proceed adding sample material until weight of "49" appears.
4. Continue adding procedure and watch other digits accordingly.
8 MALFUNCTIONING
- Problem Weight indication does not light up, decimal point does not light up:

Cause

Power supply

Supply voltage

Balance not switched on

Fuse defective (Warning: when changing fuse, pull plug from socket!)

- Problem Weight indication does not light up, decimal point does

Cause

Overload

- Problem Weight indication is changing continuously

Cause

Balance not switched on long enough, operating temperature not yet reached

Unsatisfactory installation conditions (draught, vibrations)

- Problem Weighing results incorrect

Cause

Unsatisfactory installation conditions

Balance not levelled

Sensitivity setting incorrect (solution: adjust balance)


If balance cannot be made to function property, call qualified assistance.
9 MAINTENANCE
9.1 Maintenance by user

- Keep balance clean


- Calibrate and adjust balance weekly and after each removal.
- Removing the balance:
1. Pull plug from socket
2. Remove balance
3. Connect plug with socket
4. Level balance
5. Switch on balance
6. Wait for 20 minutes (or less if balance was warm) and adjust balance as described in
Sections 7.2 and 7.3 of this SOP.
9.2 Maintenance by supplier
Have balance serviced, calibrated and adjusted once a year.
10 LOGBOOK
record in Maintenance (and/or Calibration) Logbook:
- All malfunctions encountered
- All actions taken to solve problems
- All calibrations
11 REFERENCE
Instruction for Installation and Operation of 3707 MP 1 No date. Sartorius-Werke, Gttingen,
Germany.
Source: Winand Staring Centre for Integrated Land, Soil and Water Research (SC-DLO),
Wageningen.

APP 071 - Operation of pH meter Metrohm E 632


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: APP 071

Version: 1

Title: Operation of pH meter Metrohm E 632

CONTENTS

Page: 1 # 5

Date: 94-11-22

PURPOSE

PRINCIPLE

SPECIFICATIONS

RELATED SOPs

SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS

OPERATION

6.1

Principle

6.2

Materials

6.3

Reagents

6.4

Precautions

6.5

Accuracy

6.6

Starting

6.7

Calibration and adjustment

6.8

Measurement

CHECKING AND MAINTENANCE

REFERENCES

Author:

Head (sign.):

Sign.:

Date of Expiry:

1 PURPOSE
To measure pH of soil paste, extracts, solutions, waters.
2 PRINCIPLE
The potentiometric pH measurement is based on measuring the difference in electrical
potential between solution and electrode. It is a relative measurement dependent on electrode
and temperature. Therefore, the pH meter must be calibrated and adjusted (standardized) with
standard buffers of known pH.
3 SPECIFICATIONS
With glass electrodes the pH range is 0 - 12.
Readability: 0.01 unit.
Temperature range: 0 - 100C.
Electrode: combination glass electrode, e.g. Metrohm 6.0203.100
4 RELATED SOPs
F 002

Administration of SOPs

F 011

Standard instruction for drafting apparatus SOPs

APP 041

Maintenance Logbook

APP 042

User Logbook

APP 003

Instrument Identification List

APP 004

Instrument Maintenance List

APP ...

Inspection and maintenance of pH meter Metrohm E 632

APP ...

Inspection and maintenance of combination glass electrodes

5 SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS
Not applicable.
6 OPERATION
6.1 Principle
The standardization of the pH meter consists of two adjustment steps. The deviation of the
preset ("true") value of buffer solutions is electronically compensated.
The first step is always executed with a pH 7 buffer, whereas the second step can be done with
a lower (e.g. pH 4) or higher (pH 9 or 10) buffer depending on the range in which the sample
measurements are made (in exceptional cases a buffer of very low pH may be required, e.g.,
pH 2).
6.2 Materials
Thermometer, -10 to 100 C, accuracy 0.5 C.
6.3 Reagents
Buffer solutions pH Dilute standard analytical concentrate ampoules according to
4.00, 7.00 and 9.00 instruction.
or 10.00 (25 C)

Note: Standard buffer solutions of which the pH values deviate slightly


from these values can also be used.

Water

Deionized or distilled water, with electrical conductivity < 2 S/cm and


pH > 5.6 (Grade 2 water according to ISO 3696).

Note: If no standard ampoules are used buffer solutions can be prepared


as follows (these solutions can also be prepared to act as "independent"
standards):

Buffer solution pH 4 Dissolve 10.21 g potassium hydrogen phthalate, C8H5KO4, in water in a

1 L volumetric flask and make to volume with water. (First dry the
potassium hydrogen phthalate at 110 C for at least 2 hrs.).

The pH of this 0.05 M phthatate solution is 4.00 at 20C and 4.01 at


25C.

Buffer solution pH 7 Dissolve 3.40 g potassium dihydrogen phosphate, KH2PO4, and 3.55 g
disodium hydrogen phosphate, Na2HPO4, in water in a 1 L volumetric
flask and make to volume with water. (Both phosphates should first be
dried at 110 C for at least 2 hrs.).

The pH of this 0,25 M (of each phosphate) solution is: 6.88 at 20C and
6.86 at 25C,

Buffer solution pH 9 Dissolve 3.80 g disodium tetraborate decahydrate, Na2B4O7.10 H2O


(borax), in water in a 1 L volumetric flask and make to volume with
water. (Note: Observe the expiry date of borax: this may lose crystal
water upon aging.)

The pH of this 0.01 M borax solution is 9,22 at 20C and 9.18 at 25 C.


6.4 Precautions
- The electrode must be stored in a 3 M KCl solution.
- The diaphragm of the electrode must be submerged in the solution during measurement.;
- The electrolyte level inside the electrode must be above the level of the solution being
measured.
6.5 Accuracy (bias)
The pH is readable in 2 decimals. For standardization procedures and the preparation of
reagents the second decimal has significance and can be used. For the measurement of soil
suspensions and extracts the second decimal usually has no meaning and the result should be
rounded off to one decimal. (For rules of decimal significance and rounding off see Chapter 7
of these Guidelines for QM).
6.6 Starting
- Connect electrode with socket on the back of the instrument,
- Switch on mains with push button 7 (see Figure 1). The instrument is now ready for use.
- If necessary, push button 3 (stand-by) and button 5 (pH) and set switch 13 (slope) on 1.00.

6.7 Calibration and adjustment


These should always be performed after:
- switching on the pH meter
- replacement of electrode
- checking the calibration and the deviation of the pH from the theoretical value of the
standard buffer appears to exceed 0.05 unit.
When the pH meter is on and already adjusted then only a check of the adjustment is needed
(described in Section 7.1 of this SOP),
6.7.7 Calibration step 1
- Transfer sufficient standard buffer solution pH 7.00 to a 50 ml or 100 ml beaker.
- Measure temperature of buffer and set switch 14 (temp. compensation) to this temperature.
- Immerse electrode in buffer solution and push button 4 (measure).
- With button 6 (Ucomp) adjust value on display (8) to theoretical pH value of the buffer at the
measured temperature. (Note: this value can be read from a table enclosed with the standard
ampoule).
- Push button 3 (stand-by). Rinse electrode with water. Setting of switch 6 (Ucomp) should now
not be changed any more.
6.7.2 Calibration step 2
- Transfer a sufficient volume of one of the two other buffer solutions (pH 4 or 9) to a 50 ml
or 100 ml beaker. (Note: this second buffer is chosen such that the pH of the solution to be
measured falls in between , the first and second calibration buffer).
- Measure temperature of buffer and adjust switch 14 (temp. compensation) to this
temperature.
- Immerse electrode in buffer solution and push button 4 (measure),
- With switch 13 (slope) adjust the value on the display to the theoretical pH value of this
buffer. (Note: this value can be read from a table enclosed with the standard ampoule).
The setting of switch 13 may not be lower than 0.95. If this condition is not met, this electrode
may not be used for the measurement and must be exchanged for another one which does
meet the condition.
- Push button 3 (stand-by) and rinse electrode with water.

- As a check, repeat readings of buffers (pH 7 first) and readjust according to Step 1 and 2 if
necessary.
Fig. 1. Front panel of Metrohm pH meter E 632.
6.8 Measurement
- Measure temperature of solution (or suspension) to be measured and adjust switch 14 (temp.
compensation) to this temperature.
- Immerse electrode in solution (or suspension) to be measured.
- Push button 4 (measure) and read pH value.
Note: For Quality Control it is essential to include measurement of an independent buffer
solution of known pH (as a check on calibration) and of a control sample (in each batch, to
check the system under measuring conditions).
- Push button 3 (stand-by), rinse electrode with water and place in electrode holder filled with
3 M KCl solution.
- Enter use in User Logbook.
7 CHECKING AND MAINTENANCE
7.1 Checking of adjustment
Checking of the adjustment of previously adjusted pH meters (verification) is needed:
- Prior to each new use of the instrument.
- During batch measurement. The frequency is indicated in the procedure of the investigation
(e.g., after every 50 or 100 measurements or once every hour).
This verification is done with at least one of the calibration buffers indicated in Section 6.3. If
the deviation exceeds 0.05 unit from the preset value, the instrument must be recalibrated and
adjusted as described in Section 6.7 above.
7.2 Inspection and maintenance of electrodes
Periodical inspection of the pH electrodes, as well as inspection after complaints about
malfunctioning must be carried out by a qualified technician and is described in SOP Model
APP ...
7.3 Inspection and maintenance of pH meter
Periodical inspection of the pH meter, as well as inspection after complaints about
malfunctioning must be carried out by a qualified technician and is described in SOP Model
APP ...

8 REFERENCES
Metrohm, Instructions for use, digital pH-meter E632.
Metrohm, Application Bulletin 188/1e.
Bates, R..G. (1973) Determination of pH, theory and practice, John Wiley & Sons, New York.
DIN 19266, pH-Messung, Standardpufferlsungen.
ISO 3696. Water for analytical laboratory use. Specification and test methods.
Source: Delft Geotechnics, Delft

RF 032 - Page of Reagents Book


Date Reagent Concentration Analysis Bottle no. Amount
code
used
weighed in

Final
volume

Label Sign.
no.

Verified by:

Date:

Sign.:

PROT 011 - Protocol for custody chain of samples


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Page: 1 # 1

Model: PROT 011

Version: Draft

Date: 96-03-26

Title: Protocol for custody chain of samples


1 PURPOSE
To organize the pathway of samples through the institute.
2 PRINCIPLE
From the arrival at the institute until the discarding or final storage, samples usually go
through several hands and are processed at several places. To ensure their integrity,
traceability and to prevent that they get lost, their pathway and the responsible personnel
involved ("chain of custody") must be documented.
3 RELATED SOPs
- RF 011

Form for accepting delivery of samples

- RF 001

Sample List

- RF 021

Form for accepting order for analysis

- RF ...

Sample Storage Logbook

- RF ...

Sample Location Logbook

- PROT ...

Storage of samples

- PROT ...

Disposal of sample material

4 PROCEDURE
4.1 Upon arrival of samples at the institute an authorized officer fills out form RF 011
(protocol for accepting delivery of samples).

4.2 If there is a regular custodian, the samples are handed over to him/her. (The custodian can
be the officer who received the samples).

4.3 Document RF Oil is taken to the person responsible for farther processing (e.g. Project
Officer, Head of Laboratory). This person signs for acceptance and keeps a copy of the
form. Another copy is made for the Work Order File prepared for the corresponding work
order (This file contains hard copies of all relevant information and documents
concerning the work order). The original is kept at a designated place (e.g. book of forms
RF 011).

Note. If samples can be received by more than one person or at more than one
location/department, more than one book or file of forms RF 011 may be kept. The forms
RF 011 could then be differentiated with a suffix (e.g. A, B, etc.).

4.4 The whereabouts of samples are recorded by the custodian in a Sample Location
Logbook. If samples are stored behind lock and key, anybody taking out (sub)samples has
to sign for this in a Sample Storage Logbook.

4.5 After completion of the analytical work, the sample is (re)stored for possible later use.
The duration of storage is indicated in the Sample Storage Logbook. It is useful to record
the location also in the Work Order File (e.g. on the Order Form RF 021).

(Duration of storage may be determined by agreement with customer or by usual


procedure of the Institute, e.g. 1 year or indefinitely. This is also recorded on the order
form RF 021.)

Author:

QA Officer (sign.):

Sign.:

Date of Expiry:

RF 011 - Protocol for accepting delivery of samples


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: RF 011-A

Version: 2

Page: A...

Date: 96-01-22

Title: Form for accepting delivery of samples

Work order no.:


Date of arrival:
Name Client/Project:
Address:
Carrier:
Origin of samples:
Number & kind of samples:
a. ......... soil / plant / water samples*
b. ......... ring or core samples (or: ...... boxes with core samples)
c. ......... other (specify):
Condition of samples*:

moist / dry / unknown

Sample list enclosed*:

yes / no (if list is missing, make one for Work Order File)

Other information enclosed:

Order for analysis enclosed*: yes / no

Type of packaging*:

crate / cardboard box / bag / other: ................

Number of packages:

........

Condition of package*:

undamaged / damaged (specify)

Samples received by:

........................................

sign.:

* Circle as appropriate.
Samples placed in custody of:

..........................................

sign.:

This document passed to:

Project officer (name):..................................

sign.:

: Laboratory (name): ....................................

sign.:

: Other (name): .............................................

sign.:

Remarks:

RF 021 - Form for accepting order for analysis


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Model: RF 021

Version: 3

Title: Form for accepting order for analysis

Work order no.:


Date of arrival:
Name Client/Project:
Address:
Carrier:
Origin of samples:
Number & kind of samples:
a. ......... soil / plant / water samples*
b. ......... ring or core samples (or: ...... boxes with core samples)
c. ......... other (specify):
Kind or particulars of material relevant for
analytical approach

Page: A...

Date: 96-12-06

Sample list correct?*:

yes / no (without proper list, order cannot be


processed)

Condition of samples*:

moist / dry

Analytical programme submitted*:

yes / no (tick requested analyses overleaf)

All samples same programme?*:

yes / no (if "no", describe under Remarks


overleaf)

Requested date of completion:

Sample residue*:

discard / store indefinitely / store until


(date): ...................

* Circle as appropriate.
Order accepted by (on behalf of lab):

..................................

sign.:

Entered into SOILIMS:

date:

sign.:

Order Confirmation sent to client:

date:

sign.:

Change in Registration by:

..................................

date:

Entered into SOILIMS:

date:

sign.:

Order Confirmation to client:

date:

sign.:

sign.:

Remarks:
Tick requested analyses:
Procedure

Code(s)

Preparation
pH-H2O
pH-KCl
EC2.5
Particle-size analysis (specify fractions below)
Water-dispersible clay
CEC
Exchangeable bases
Exchangeable acidity
Exchangeable Al
Organic carbon
Total carbon
Carbonate equivalent
Available phosphate
Gypsum

Dithionite extraction
Acid oxalate extraction
Na pyrophosphate extraction
P-retention
pH-NaF
ODOE
Melanic index
DTPA extr. (Cu, Fe, Zn, Mn)
Boron (hot water)
Saturation extract
1:5 extract
pF*

1.5

2.3

2.7

3.4

Bulk density
Specific surface area

X-ray diffraction*:

clay / whole sample / other fractions: ............

4.2

treatments;
Guinier photo*:

clay / whole sample / other fractions: ...........

treatments:

Plant analysis (specify below)


Water analysis (specify below)
* Circle as appropriate.
Remarks:

6 BASIC STATISTICAL TOOLS


There are lies, damn lies, and statistics......
(Anon.)

6.1 Introduction
6.2 Definitions
6.3 Basic Statistics
6.4 Statistical tests

6.1 Introduction
In the preceding chapters basic elements for the proper execution of analytical work such as
personnel, laboratory facilities, equipment, and reagents were discussed. Before embarking
upon the actual analytical work, however, one more tool for the quality assurance of the work
must be dealt with: the statistical operations necessary to control and verify the analytical
procedures (Chapter 7) as well as the resulting data (Chapter 8).
It was stated before that making mistakes in analytical work is unavoidable. This is the reason
why a complex system of precautions to prevent errors and traps to detect them has to be set
up. An important aspect of the quality control is the detection of both random and systematic
errors. This can be done by critically looking at the performance of the analysis as a whole
and also of the instruments and operators involved in the job. For the detection itself as well
as for the quantification of the errors, statistical treatment of data is indispensable.

A multitude of different statistical tools is available, some of them simple, some complicated,
and often very specific for certain purposes. In analytical work, the most important common
operation is the comparison of data, or sets of data, to quantify accuracy (bias) and precision.
Fortunately, with a few simple convenient statistical tools most of the information needed in
regular laboratory work can be obtained: the "t-test, the "F-test", and regression analysis.
Therefore, examples of these will be given in the ensuing pages.
Clearly, statistics are a tool, not an aim. Simple inspection of data, without statistical
treatment, by an experienced and dedicated analyst may be just as useful as statistical figures
on the desk of the disinterested. The value of statistics lies with organizing and simplifying
data, to permit some objective estimate showing that an analysis is under control or that a
change has occurred. Equally important is that the results of these statistical procedures are
recorded and can be retrieved.

6.2 Definitions
6.2.1 Error
6.2.2 Accuracy
6.2.3 Precision
6.2.4 Bias

Discussing Quality Control implies the use of several terms and concepts with a specific (and
sometimes confusing) meaning. Therefore, some of the most important concepts will be
defined first.

6.2.1 Error
Error is the collective noun for any departure of the result from the "true" value*. Analytical
errors can be:
1. Random or unpredictable deviations between replicates, quantified with the "standard
deviation".
2. Systematic or predictable regular deviation from the "true" value, quantified as "mean
difference" (i.e. the difference between the true value and the mean of replicate
determinations).
3. Constant, unrelated to the concentration of the substance analyzed (the analyte).
4. Proportional, i.e. related to the concentration of the analyte.
* The "true" value of an attribute is by nature indeterminate and often has only a very relative
meaning. Particularly in soil science for several attributes there is no such thing as the true
value as any value obtained is method-dependent (e.g. cation exchange capacity). Obviously,
this does not mean that no adequate analysis serving a purpose is possible. It does, however,

emphasize the need for the establishment of standard reference methods and the importance of
external QC (see Chapter 9).

6.2.2 Accuracy
The "trueness" or the closeness of the analytical result to the "true" value. It is constituted by
a combination of random and systematic errors (precision and bias) and cannot be quantified
directly. The test result may be a mean of several values. An accurate determination produces
a "true" quantitative value, i.e. it is precise and free of bias.

6.2.3 Precision
The closeness with which results of replicate analyses of a sample agree. It is a measure of
dispersion or scattering around the mean value and usually expressed in terms of standard
deviation, standard error or a range (difference between the highest and the lowest result).

6.2.4 Bias
The consistent deviation of analytical results from the "true" value caused by systematic
errors in a procedure. Bias is the opposite but most used measure for "trueness" which is the
agreement of the mean of analytical results with the true value, i.e. excluding the contribution
of randomness represented in precision. There are several components contributing to bias:
1. Method bias
The difference between the (mean) test result obtained from a number of laboratories using
the same method and an accepted reference value. The method bias may depend on the
analyte level.
2. Laboratory bias
The difference between the (mean) test result from a particular laboratory and the accepted
reference value.
3. Sample bias
The difference between the mean of replicate test results of a sample and the ("true") value of
the target population from which the sample was taken. In practice, for a laboratory this refers
mainly to sample preparation, subsampling and weighing techniques. Whether a sample is
representative for the population in the field is an extremely important aspect but usually falls
outside the responsibility of the laboratory (in some cases laboratories have their own field
sampling personnel).
The relationship between these concepts can be expressed in the following equation:
Figure

The types of errors are illustrated in Fig. 6-1.


Fig. 6-1. Accuracy and precision in laboratory measurements. (Note that the
qualifications apply to the mean of results: in c the mean is accurate but some individual
results are inaccurate)

6.3 Basic Statistics


6.3.1 Mean
6.3.2 Standard deviation
6.3.3 Relative standard deviation. Coefficient of variation

6.3.4 Confidence limits of a measurement


6.3.5 Propagation of errors

In the discussions of Chapters 7 and 8 basic statistical treatment of data will be considered.
Therefore, some understanding of these statistics is essential and they will briefly be
discussed here.
The basic assumption to be made is that a set of data, obtained by repeated analysis of the
same analyte in the same sample under the same conditions, has a normal or Gaussian
distribution. (When the distribution is skewed statistical treatment is more complicated). The
primary parameters used are the mean (or average) and the standard deviation (see Fig. 6-2)
and the main tools the F-test, the t-test, and regression and correlation analysis.
Fig. 6-2. A Gaussian or normal distribution. The figure shows that (approx.) 68% of the
data fall in the range x s, 95% in the range x 2s, and 99.7% in the range x 3s.

6.3.1 Mean
The average of a set of n data xi:
(6.1)

6.3.2 Standard deviation


This is the most commonly used measure of the spread or dispersion of data around the mean.
The standard deviation is defined as the square root of the variance (V). The variance is
defined as the sum of the squared deviations from the mean, divided by n-1. Operationally,
there are several ways of calculation:
(6.1)

or
(6.3)

or

(6.4)

The calculation of the mean and the standard deviation can easily be done on a calculator but
most conveniently on a PC with computer programs such as dBASE, Lotus 123, Quattro-Pro,
Excel, and others, which have simple ready-to-use functions. (Warning: some programs use n
rather than n- 1!).

6.3.3 Relative standard deviation. Coefficient of variation


Although the standard deviation of analytical data may not vary much over limited ranges of
such data, it usually depends on the magnitude of such data: the larger the figures, the larger
s. Therefore, for comparison of variations (e.g. precision) it is often more convenient to use
the relative standard deviation (RSD) than the standard deviation itself. The RSD is expressed
as a fraction, but more usually as a percentage and is then called coefficient of variation (CV).
Often, however, these terms are confused.
(6.5; 6.6)

Note. When needed (e.g. for the F-test, see Eq. 6.11) the variance can, of course, be calculated
by squaring the standard deviation:
V = s2

(6.7)

6.3.4 Confidence limits of a measurement


The more an analysis or measurement is replicated, the closer the mean x of the results will
approach the "true" value , of the analyte content (assuming absence of bias).
A single analysis of a test sample can be regarded as literally sampling the imaginary set of a
multitude of results obtained for that test sample. The uncertainty of such subsampling is
expressed by
(6.8)

where

= "true" value (mean of large set of replicates)


x = mean of subsamples
t = a statistical value which depends on the number of data and the required confidence

(usually 95%).
s = standard deviation of mean of subsamples
n = number of subsamples
(The term

is also known as the standard error of the mean.)

The critical values for t are tabulated in Appendix 1 (they are, therefore, here referred to as ttab
). To find the applicable value, the number of degrees of freedom has to be established by: df
= n -1 (see also Section 6.4.2).
Example
For the determination of the clay content in the particle-size analysis, a semi-automatic pipette
installation is used with a 20 mL pipette. This volume is approximate and the operation
involves the opening and closing of taps. Therefore, the pipette has to be calibrated, i.e. both
the accuracy (trueness) and precision have to be established.
A tenfold measurement of the volume yielded the following set of data (in mL):
19.941

19.812

19.829

19.828

19.742

19.797

19.937

19.847

19.885

19.804

The mean is 19.842 mL and the standard deviation 0.0627 mL. According to Appendix 1 for n
= 10 is ttab = 2.26 (df = 9) and using Eq. (6.8) this calibration yields:
pipette volume = 19.842 2.26 (0.0627/

) = 19.84 0.04 mL

(Note that the pipette has a systematic deviation from 20 mL as this is outside the found
confidence interval. See also bias).
In routine analytical work, results are usually single values obtained in batches of several test
samples. No laboratory will analyze a test sample 50 times to be confident that the result is
reliable. Therefore, the statistical parameters have to be obtained in another way. Most usually
this is done by method validation (see Chapter 7) and/or by keeping control charts, which is
basically the collection of analytical results from one or more control samples in each batch
(see Chapter 8). Equation (6.8) is then reduced to
(6.9)

where

= "true" value
x = single measurement
t = applicable ttab (Appendix 1)
s = standard deviation of set of previous measurements.
In Appendix 1 can be seen that if the set of replicated measurements is large (say > 30), t is
close to 2. Therefore, the (95%) confidence of the result x of a single test sample (n = 1 in Eq.
6.8) is approximated by the commonly used and well known expression
(6.10)

where S is the previously determined standard deviation of the large set of replicates (see also
Fig. 6-2).
Note: This "method-s" or s of a control sample is not a constant and may vary for different
test materials, analyte levels, and with analytical conditions.
Running duplicates will, according to Equation (6.8), increase the confidence of the (mean)
result by a factor

where
x = mean of duplicates
s = known standard deviation of large set
Similarly, triplicate analysis will increase the confidence by a factor
further discussed in Section 8.3.3.

, etc. Duplicates are

Thus, in summary, Equation (6.8) can be applied in various ways to determine the size of
errors (confidence) in analytical work or measurements: single determinations in routine
work, determinations for which no previous data exist, certain calibrations, etc.

6.3.5 Propagation of errors

6.3.5.1. Propagation of random errors


6.3.5.2 Propagation of systematic errors

The final result of an analysis is often calculated from several measurements performed
during the procedure (weighing, calibration, dilution, titration, instrument readings, moisture

correction, etc.). As was indicated in Section 6.2, the total error in an analytical result is an
adding-up of the sub-errors made in the various steps. For daily practice, the bias and
precision of the whole method are usually the most relevant parameters (obtained from
validation, Chapter 7; or from control charts, Chapter 8). However, sometimes it is useful to
get an insight in the contributions of the subprocedures (and then these have to be determined
separately). For instance if one wants to change (part of) the method.
Because the "adding-up" of errors is usually not a simple summation, this will be discussed.
The main distinction to be made is between random errors (precision) and systematic errors
(bias).
6.3.5.1. Propagation of random errors
In estimating the total random error from factors in a final calculation, the treatment of
summation or subtraction of factors is different from that of multiplication or division.
I. Summation calculations
If the final result x is obtained from the sum (or difference) of (sub)measurements a, b, c, etc.:
x = a + b + c +...
then the total precision is expressed by the standard deviation obtained by taking the square
root of the sum of individual variances (squares of standard deviation):

If a (sub)measurement has a constant multiplication factor or coefficient (such as an extra


dilution), then this is included to calculate the effect of the variance concerned, e.g. (2b)2
Example
The Effective Cation Exchange Capacity of soils (ECEC) is obtained by summation of the
exchangeable cations:
ECEC = Exch. (Ca + Mg + Na + K + H + Al)
Standard deviations experimentally obtained for exchangeable Ca, Mg, Na, K and (H + Al) on
a certain sample, e.g. a control sample, are: 0.30, 0.25, 0.15, 0.15, and 0.60 cmolc/kg
respectively. The total precision is:

It can be seen that the total standard deviation is larger than the highest individual standard
deviation, but (much) less than their sum. It is also clear that if one wants to reduce the total
standard deviation, qualitatively the best result can be expected from reducing the largest
individual contribution, in this case the exchangeable acidity.
2. Multiplication calculations

If the final result x is obtained from multiplication (or subtraction) of (sub)measurements


according to

then the total error is expressed by the standard deviation obtained by taking the square root
of the sum of the individual relative standard deviations (RSD or CV, as a fraction or as
percentage, see Eqs. 6.6 and 6.7):

If a (sub)measurement has a constant multiplication factor or coefficient, then this is included


to calculate the effect of the RSD concerned, e.g. (2RSDb)2.
Example
The calculation of Kjeldahl-nitrogen may be as follows:

where
a = ml HCl required for titration sample
b = ml HCl required for titration blank
s = air-dry sample weight in gram
M = molarity of HCl
1.4 = 1410-3100% (14 = atomic weight of N)
mcf = moisture correction factor
Note that in addition to multiplications, this calculation contains a subtraction also (often,
calculations contain both summations and multiplications.)
Firstly, the standard deviation of the titration (a -b) is determined as indicated in Section 7
above. This is then transformed to RSD using Equations (6.5) or (6.6). Then the RSD of the
other individual parameters have to be determined experimentally. The found RSDs are, for
instance:
distillation: 0.8%,
titration: 0.5%,
molarity: 0.2%,
sample weight: 0.2%,
mcf: 0.2%.
The total calculated precision is:

Here again, the highest RSD (of distillation) dominates the total precision. In practice, the
precision of the Kjeldahl method is usually considerably worse ( 2.5%) probably mainly as a
result of the heterogeneity of the sample. The present example does not take that into account.
It would imply that 2.5% - 1.0% = 1.5% or 3/5 of the total random error is due to sample
heterogeneity (or other overlooked cause). This implies that painstaking efforts to improve
subprocedures such as the titration or the preparation of standard solutions may not be very
rewarding. It would, however, pay to improve the homogeneity of the sample, e.g. by careful
grinding and mixing in the preparatory stage.
Note. Sample heterogeneity is also represented in the moisture correction factor. However, the
influence of this factor on the final result is usually very small.
6.3.5.2 Propagation of systematic errors
Systematic errors of (sub)measurements contribute directly to the total bias of the result since
the individual parameters in the calculation of the final result each carry their own bias. For
instance, the systematic error in a balance will cause a systematic error in the sample weight
(as well as in the moisture determination). Note that some systematic errors may cancel out,
e.g. weighings by difference may not be affected by a biased balance.
The only way to detect or avoid systematic errors is by comparison (calibration) with
independent standards and outside reference or control samples.

6.4 Statistical tests


6.4.1 Two-sided vs. one-sided test
6.4.2 F-test for precision
6.4.3 t-Tests for bias
6.4.4 Linear correlation and regression
6.4.5 Analysis of variance (ANOVA)

In analytical work a frequently recurring operation is the verification of performance by


comparison of data. Some examples of comparisons in practice are:
- performance of two instruments,
- performance of two methods,
- performance of a procedure in different periods,
- performance of two analysts or laboratories,
- results obtained for a reference or control sample with the "true", "target" or "assigned"
value of this sample.

Some of the most common and convenient statistical tools to quantify such comparisons are
the F-test, the t-tests, and regression analysis.
Because the F-test and the t-tests are the most basic tests they will be discussed first. These
tests examine if two sets of normally distributed data are similar or dissimilar (belong or not
belong to the same "population") by comparing their standard deviations and means
respectively. This is illustrated in Fig. 6-3.
Fig. 6-3. Three possible cases when comparing two sets of data (n1 = n2). A. Different
mean (bias), same precision; B. Same mean (no bias), different precision; C. Both mean
and precision are different. (The fourth case, identical sets, has not been drawn).

6.4.1 Two-sided vs. one-sided test


These tests for comparison, for instance between methods A and B, are based on the
assumption that there is no significant difference (the "null hypothesis"). In other words, when
the difference is so small that a tabulated critical value of F or t is not exceeded, we can be
confident (usually at 95% level) that A and B are not different. Two fundamentally different
questions can be asked concerning both the comparison of the standard deviations s1 and s2
with the F-test, and of the meansx1, and x2, with the t-test:
1. are A and B different? (two-sided test)
2. is A higher (or lower) than B? (one-sided test).
This distinction has an important practical implication as statistically the probabilities for the
two situations are different: the chance that A and B are only different ("it can go two ways")
is twice as large as the chance that A is higher (or lower) than B ("it can go only one way").
The most common case is the two-sided (also called two-tailed) test: there are no particular
reasons to expect that the means or the standard deviations of two data sets are different. An
example is the routine comparison of a control chart with the previous one (see 8.3).
However, when it is expected or suspected that the mean and/or the standard deviation will go
only one way, e.g. after a change in an analytical procedure, the one-sided (or one-tailed) test
is appropriate. In this case the probability that it goes the other way than expected is assumed
to be zero and, therefore, the probability that it goes the expected way is doubled. Or, more
correctly, the uncertainty in the two-way test of 5% (or the probability of 5% that the critical
value is exceeded) is divided over the two tails of the Gaussian curve (see Fig. 6-2), i.e. 2.5%
at the end of each tail beyond 2s. If we perform the one-sided test with 5% uncertainty, we
actually increase this 2.5% to 5% at the end of one tail. (Note that for the whole gaussian
curve, which is symmetrical, this is then equivalent to an uncertainty of 10% in two ways!)
This difference in probability in the tests is expressed in the use of two tables of critical values
for both F and t. In fact, the one-sided table at 95% confidence level is equivalent to the twosided table at 90% confidence level.
It is emphasized that the one-sided test is only appropriate when a difference in one direction
is expected or aimed at. Of course it is tempting to perform this test after the results show a
clear (unexpected) effect. In fact, however, then a two times higher probability level was used
in retrospect. This is underscored by the observation that in this way even contradictory
conclusions may arise: if in an experiment calculated values of F and t are found within the
range between the two-sided and one-sided values of Ftab, and ttab, the two-sided test indicates
no significant difference, whereas the one-sided test says that the result of A is significantly
higher (or lower) than that of B. What actually happens is that in the first case the 2.5%
boundary in the tail was just not exceeded, and then, subsequently, this 2.5% boundary is
relaxed to 5% which is then obviously more easily exceeded. This illustrates that statistical
tests differ in strictness and that for proper interpretation of results in reports, the statistical
techniques used, including the confidence limits or probability, should always be specified.

6.4.2 F-test for precision


Because the result of the F-test may be needed to choose between the Student's t-test and the
Cochran variant (see next section), the F-test is discussed first.

The F-test (or Fisher's test) is a comparison of the spread of two sets of data to test if the sets
belong to the same population, in other words if the precisions are similar or dissimilar.
The test makes use of the ratio of the two variances:
(6.11)

where the larger s2 must be the numerator by convention. If the performances are not very
different, then the estimates s1, and s2, do not differ much and their ratio (and that of their
squares) should not deviate much from unity. In practice, the calculated F is compared with
the applicable F value in the F-table (also called the critical value, see Appendix 2). To read
the table it is necessary to know the applicable number of degrees of freedom for s1, and s2.
These are calculated by:
df1 = n1-1
df2 = n2-1
If Fcal Ftab one can conclude with 95% confidence that there is no significant difference in
precision (the "null hypothesis" that s1, = s, is accepted). Thus, there is still a 5% chance that
we draw the wrong conclusion. In certain cases more confidence may be needed, then a 99%
confidence table can be used, which can be found in statistical textbooks.
Example I (two-sided test)
Table 6-1 gives the data sets obtained by two analysts for the cation exchange capacity (CEC)
of a control sample. Using Equation (6.11) the calculated F value is 1.62. As we had no
particular reason to expect that the analysts would perform differently, we use the F-table for
the two-sided test and find Ftab = 4.03 (Appendix 2, df1, = df2 = 9). This exceeds the calculated
value and the null hypothesis (no difference) is accepted. It can be concluded with 95%
confidence that there is no significant difference in precision between the work of Analyst 1
and 2.
Table 6-1. CEC values (in cmolc/kg) of a control sample determined by two analysts.
1

10.2

9.7

10.7

9.0

10.5

10.2

9.9

10.3

9.0

10.8

11.2

11.1

11.5

9.4

10.9

9.2

8.9

9.8

10.6

10.2

x:

10.34

9.97

s:

0.819

0.644

n:

10

10

Fcal = 1.62

tcal = 1.12

Ftab = 4.03

ttab = 2.10

Example 2 (one-sided test)


The determination of the calcium carbonate content with the Scheibler standard method is
compared with the simple and more rapid "acid-neutralization" method using one and the
same sample. The results are given in Table 6-2. Because of the nature of the rapid method we
suspect it to produce a lower precision then obtained with the Scheibler method and we can,
therefore, perform the one sided F-test. The applicable Ftab = 3.07 (App. 2, df1, = 12, df2 = 9)
which is lower than Fcal (=18.3) and the null hypothesis (no difference) is rejected. It can be
concluded (with 95% confidence) that for this one sample the precision of the rapid titration
method is significantly worse than that of the Scheibler method.

Table 6-2. Contents of CaCO3 (in mass/mass %) in a soil sample determined with the
Scheibler method (A) and the rapid titration method (B).
A

2.5

1.7

2.4

1.9

2.5

2.3

2.6

2.3

2.5

2.8

2.5

2.5

2.4

1.6

2.6

1.9

2.7

2.6

2.4

1.7

2.4

2.2

2.6

x:

2.51

2.13

s:

0.099

0.424

n:

10

13

Fcal = 18.3

tcal = 3.12

Ftab = 3.07

ttab* = 2.18

(ttab* = Cochran's "alternative" ttab)

6.4.3 t-Tests for bias

6.4.3.1. Student's t-test


6.4.3.2 Cochran's t-test
6.4.3.3 t-Test for large data sets (n 30)
6.4.3.4 Paired t-test

Depending on the nature of two sets of data (n, s, sampling nature), the means of the sets can
be compared for bias by several variants of the t-test. The following most common types will
be discussed:
1. Student's t-test for comparison of two independent sets of data with very similar standard
deviations;
2. the Cochran variant of the t-test when the standard deviations of the independent sets differ
significantly;
3. the paired t-test for comparison of strongly dependent sets of data.
Basically, for the t-tests Equation (6.8) is used but written in a different way:
(6.12)

where

x = mean of test results of a sample


= "true" or reference value
s = standard deviation of test results
n = number of test results of the sample.
To compare the mean of a data set with a reference value normally the "two-sided t-table of
critical values" is used (Appendix 1). The applicable number of degrees of freedom here is:
df = n-1
If a value for t calculated with Equation (6.12) does not exceed the critical value in the table,
the data are taken to belong to the same population: there is no difference and the "null
hypothesis" is accepted (with the applicable probability, usually 95%).
As with the F-test, when it is expected or suspected that the obtained results are higher or
lower than that of the reference value, the one-sided t-test can be performed: if tcal > ttab, then
the results are significantly higher (or lower) than the reference value.
More commonly, however, the "true" value of proper reference samples is accompanied by
the associated standard deviation and number of replicates used to determine these
parameters. We can then apply the more general case of comparing the means of two data
sets: the "true" value in Equation (6.12) is then replaced by the mean of a second data set. As
is shown in Fig. 6-3, to test if two data sets belong to the same population it is tested if the
two Gauss curves do sufficiently overlap. In other words, if the difference between the means
x1-x2 is small. This is discussed next.
Similarity or non-similarity of standard deviations
When using the t-test for two small sets of data (n1 and/or n2<30), a choice of the type of test
must be made depending on the similarity (or non-similarity) of the standard deviations of the
two sets. If the standard deviations are sufficiently similar they can be "pooled" and the
Student t-test can be used. When the standard deviations are not sufficiently similar an
alternative procedure for the t-test must be followed in which the standard deviations are not
pooled. A convenient alternative is the Cochran variant of the t-test. The criterion for the
choice is the passing or non-passing of the F-test (see 6.4.2), that is, if the variances do or do
not significantly differ. Therefore, for small data sets, the F-test should precede the t-test.
For dealing with large data sets (n1, n2, 30) the "normal" t-test is used (see Section 6.4.3.3
and App. 3).
6.4.3.1. Student's t-test
(To be applied to small data sets (n1, n2 < 30) where s1, and s2 are similar according to F-test.
When comparing two sets of data, Equation (6.12) is rewritten as:

(6.13)

where
x1 = mean of data set 1
x2 = mean of data set 2
sp = "pooled" standard deviation of the sets
n1 = number of data in set 1
n2 = number of data in set 2.
The pooled standard deviation sp is calculated by:
6.14

where
s1 = standard deviation of data set 1
s2 = standard deviation of data set 2
n1 = number of data in set 1
n2 = number of data in set 2.
To perform the t-test, the critical ttab has to be found in the table (Appendix 1); the applicable
number of degrees of freedom df is here calculated by:
df = n1 + n2 -2
Example
The two data sets of Table 6-1 can be used: With Equations (6.13) and (6.14) tcal, is calculated
as 1.12 which is lower than the critical value ttab of 2.10 (App. 1, df = 18, two-sided), hence
the null hypothesis (no difference) is accepted and the two data sets are assumed to belong to
the same population: there is no significant difference between the mean results of the two
analysts (with 95% confidence).
Note. Another illustrative way to perform this test for bias is to calculate if the difference
between the means falls within or outside the range where this difference is still not
significantly large. In other words, if this difference is less than the least significant difference
(lsd). This can be derived from Equation (6.13):
6.15

In the present example of Table 6-1, the calculation yields lsd = 0.69. The measured
difference between the means is 10.34 -9.97 = 0.37 which is smaller than the lsd indicating
that there is no significant difference between the performance of the analysts.
In addition, in this approach the 95% confidence limits of the difference between the means
can be calculated (cf. Equation 6.8):
confidence limits = 0.37 0.69 = -0.32 and 1.06
Note that the value 0 for the difference is situated within this confidence interval which agrees
with the null hypothesis of x1 = x2 (no difference) having been accepted.
6.4.3.2 Cochran's t-test
To be applied to small data sets (n1, n2, < 30) where s1 and s2, are dissimilar according to Ftest.
Calculate t with:
6.16

Then determine an "alternative" critical t-value:


6.17

where
t1 = ttab at n1-1 degrees of freedom
t2 = ttab at n2-1 degrees of freedom
Now the t-test can be performed as usual: if tcal< ttab* then the null hypothesis that the means
do not significantly differ is accepted.
Example
The two data sets of Table 6-2 can be used.
According to the F-test, the standard deviations differ significantly so that the Cochran variant
must be used. Furthermore, in contrast to our expectation that the precision of the rapid test

would be inferior, we have no idea about the bias and therefore the two-sided test is
appropriate. The calculations yield tcal = 3.12 and ttab*= 2.18 meaning that tcal exceeds ttab*
which implies that the null hypothesis (no difference) is rejected and that the mean of the
rapid analysis deviates significantly from that of the standard analysis (with 95% confidence,
and for this sample only). Further investigation of the rapid method would have to include the
use of more different samples and then comparison with the one-sided t-test would be
justified (see 6.4.3.4, Example 1).
6.4.3.3 t-Test for large data sets (n 30)
In the example above (6.4.3.2) the conclusion happens to have been the same if the Student's
t-test with pooled standard deviations had been used. This is caused by the fact that the
difference in result of the Student and Cochran variants of the t-test is largest when small sets
of data are compared, and decreases with increasing number of data. Namely, with increasing
number of data a better estimate of the real distribution of the population is obtained (the
flatter t-distribution converges then to the standardized normal distribution). When n 30 for
both sets, e.g. when comparing Control Charts (see 8.3), for all practical purposes the
difference between the Student and Cochran variant is negligible. The procedure is then
reduced to the "normal" t-test by simply calculating tcal with Eq. (6.16) and comparing this
with ttab at df = n1 + n2-2. (Note in App. 1 that the two-sided ttab is now close to 2).
The proper choice of the t-test as discussed above is summarized in a flow diagram in
Appendix 3.
6.4.3.4 Paired t-test
When two data sets are not independent, the paired t-test can be a better tool for comparison
than the "normal" t-test described in the previous sections. This is for instance the case when
two methods are compared by the same analyst using the same sample(s). It could, in fact,
also be applied to the example of Table 6-1 if the two analysts used the same analytical
method at (about) the same time.
As stated previously, comparison of two methods using different levels of analyte gives more
validation information about the methods than using only one level. Comparison of results at
each level could be done by the F and t-tests as described above. The paired t-test, however,
allows for different levels provided the concentration range is not too wide. As a rule of fist,
the range of results should be within the same magnitude. If the analysis covers a longer
range, i.e. several powers of ten, regression analysis must be considered (see Section 6.4.4). In
intermediate cases, either technique may be chosen.
The null hypothesis is that there is no difference between the data sets, so the test is to see if
the mean of the differences between the data deviates significantly from zero or not (twosided test). If it is expected that one set is systematically higher (or lower) than the other set,
then the one-sided test is appropriate.
Example 1
The "promising" rapid single-extraction method for the determination of the cation exchange
capacity of soils using the silver thiourea complex (AgTU, buffered at pH 7) was compared
with the traditional ammonium acetate method (NH4OAc, pH 7). Although for certain soil

types the difference in results appeared insignificant, for other types differences seemed
larger. Such a suspect group were soils with ferralic (oxic) properties (i.e. highly weathered
sesquioxide-rich soils). In Table 6-3 the results often soils with these properties are grouped to
test if the CEC methods give different results. The difference d within each pair and the
parameters needed for the paired t-test are given also.
Table 6-3. CEC values (in cmolc/kg) obtained by the NH4OAc and AgTU methods (both at
pH 7) for ten soils with ferralic properties.
Sample

NH4OAc

AgTU

7.1

6.5

-0.6

4.6

5.6

+1.0

10.6

14.5

+3.9

2.3

5.6

+3.3

25.2

23.8

-1.4

4.4

10.4

+6.0

7.8

8.4

+0.6

2.7

5.5

+2.8

14.3

19.2

+4.9

10

13.6

15.0

+1.4

d = +2.19

tcal = 2.89

sd = 2.395

ttab = 2.26

Using Equation (6.12) and noting that d = 0 (hypothesis value of the differences, i.e. no
difference), the t-value can be calculated as:

where
= mean of differences within each pair of data
sd = standard deviation of the mean of differences
n = number of pairs of data
The calculated t value (=2.89) exceeds the critical value of 1.83 (App. 1, df = n -1 = 9, onesided), hence the null hypothesis that the methods do not differ is rejected and it is concluded
that the silver thiourea method gives significantly higher results as compared with the
ammonium acetate method when applied to such highly weathered soils.
Note. Since such data sets do not have a normal distribution, the "normal" t-test which
compares means of sets cannot be used here (the means do not constitute a fair representation
of the sets). For the same reason no information about the precision of the two methods can be
obtained, nor can the F-test be applied. For information about precision, replicate
determinations are needed.
Example 2
Table 6-4 shows the data of total-P in four plant tissue samples obtained by a laboratory L and
the median values obtained by 123 laboratories in a proficiency (round-robin) test.
Table 6-4. Total-P contents (in mmol/kg) of plant tissue as determined by 123 laboratories
(Median) and Laboratory L.

d = 7.70

Sample

Median

Lab L

93.0

85.2

-7.8

201

224

23

78.9

84.5

5.6

175

185

10

tcal =1.21

sd = 12.702

ttab = 3.18

To verify the performance of the laboratory a paired t-test can be performed:


Using Eq. (6.12) and noting that d=0 (hypothesis value of the differences, i.e. no difference),
the t value can be calculated as:

The calculated t-value is below the critical value of 3.18 (Appendix 1, df = n - 1 = 3, twosided), hence the null hypothesis that the laboratory does not significantly differ from the
group of laboratories is accepted, and the results of Laboratory L seem to agree with those of
"the rest of the world" (this is a so-called third-line control).

6.4.4 Linear correlation and regression

6.4.4.1 Construction of calibration graph


6.4.4.2 Comparing two sets of data using many samples at different analyte levels

These also belong to the most common useful statistical tools to compare effects and
performances X and Y. Although the technique is in principle the same for both, there is a
fundamental difference in concept: correlation analysis is applied to independent factors: if X
increases, what will Y do (increase, decrease, or perhaps not change at all)? In regression
analysis a unilateral response is assumed: changes in X result in changes in Y, but changes in
Y do not result in changes in X.
For example, in analytical work, correlation analysis can be used for comparing methods or
laboratories, whereas regression analysis can be used to construct calibration graphs. In
practice, however, comparison of laboratories or methods is usually also done by regression
analysis. The calculations can be performed on a (programmed) calculator or more
conveniently on a PC using a home-made program. Even more convenient are the regression
programs included in statistical packages such as Statistix, Mathcad, Eureka, Genstat, Statcal,
SPSS, and others. Also, most spreadsheet programs such as Lotus 123, Excel, and Quattro-Pro
have functions for this.
Laboratories or methods are in fact independent factors. However, for regression analysis one
factor has to be the independent or "constant" factor (e.g. the reference method, or the factor
with the smallest standard deviation). This factor is by convention designated X, whereas the
other factor is then the dependent factor Y (thus, we speak of "regression of Y on X").

As was discussed in Section 6.4.3, such comparisons can often been done with the
Student/Cochran or paired t-tests. However, correlation analysis is indicated:
1. When the concentration range is so wide that the errors, both random and systematic, are
not independent (which is the assumption for the t-tests). This is often the case where
concentration ranges of several magnitudes are involved.
2. When pairing is inappropriate for other reasons, notably a long time span between the two
analyses (sample aging, change in laboratory conditions, etc.).
The principle is to establish a statistical linear relationship between two sets of corresponding
data by fitting the data to a straight line by means of the "least squares" technique. Such data
are, for example, analytical results of two methods applied to the same samples (correlation),
or the response of an instrument to a series of standard solutions (regression).
Note: Naturally, non-linear higher-order relationships are also possible, but since these are
less common in analytical work and more complex to handle mathematically, they will not be
discussed here. Nevertheless, to avoid misinterpretation, always inspect the kind of
relationship by plotting the data, either on paper or on the computer monitor.
The resulting line takes the general form:
y = bx + a

(6.18)

where
a = intercept of the line with the y-axis
b = slope (tangent)
In laboratory work ideally, when there is perfect positive correlation without bias, the
intercept a = 0 and the slope = 1. This is the so-called "1:1 line" passing through the origin
(dashed line in Fig. 6-5).
If the intercept a 0 then there is a systematic discrepancy (bias, error) between X and Y;
when b 1 then there is a proportional response or difference between X and Y.
The correlation between X and Y is expressed by the correlation coefficient r which can be
calculated with the following equation:
6.19

where

xi = data X
x = mean of data X
yi = data Y
y = mean of data Y
It can be shown that r can vary from 1 to -1:
r = 1 perfect positive linear correlation
r = 0 no linear correlation (maybe other correlation)
r = -1 perfect negative linear correlation
Often, the correlation coefficient r is expressed as r2: the coefficient of determination or
coefficient of variance. The advantage of r2 is that, when multiplied by 100, it indicates the
percentage of variation in Y associated with variation in X. Thus, for example, when r = 0.71
about 50% (r2 = 0.504) of the variation in Y is due to the variation in X.
The line parameters b and a are calculated with the following equations:
6.20

and
a = y - bx

6.21

It is worth to note that r is independent of the choice which factor is the independent factory
and which is the dependent Y. However, the regression parameters a and do depend on this
choice as the regression lines will be different (except when there is ideal 1:1 correlation).
6.4.4.1 Construction of calibration graph
As an example, we take a standard series of P (0-1.0 mg/L) for the spectrophotometric
determination of phosphate in a Bray-I extract ("available P"), reading in absorbance units.
The data and calculated terms needed to determine the parameters of the calibration graph are
given in Table 6-5. The line itself is plotted in Fig. 6-4.
Table 6-5 is presented here to give an insight in the steps and terms involved. The calculation
of the correlation coefficient r with Equation (6.19) yields a value of 0.997 (r2 = 0.995). Such
high values are common for calibration graphs. When the value is not close to 1 (say, below
0.98) this must be taken as a warning and it might then be advisable to repeat or review the
procedure. Errors may have been made (e.g. in pipetting) or the used range of the graph may
not be linear. On the other hand, a high r may be misleading as it does not necessarily indicate
linearity. Therefore, to verify this, the calibration graph should always be plotted, either on
paper or on computer monitor.

Using Equations (6.20 and (6.21) we obtain:

and
a = 0.350 - 0.313 = 0.037
Thus, the equation of the calibration line is:
y = 0.626x + 0.037

(6.22)

Table 6-5. Parameters of calibration graph in Fig. 6-4.


xi

yi

x1-x

(xi-x)2

yi-y

(yi-y)2

(x1-x)(yi-y)

0.0

0.05

-0.5

0.25

-0.30

0.090

0.150

0.2

0.14

-0.3

0.09

-0.21

0.044

0.063

0.4

0.29

-0.1

0.01

-0.06

0.004

0.006

0.6

0.43

0.1

0.01

0.08

0.006

0.008

0.8

0.52

0.3

0.09

0.17

0.029

0.051

1.0

0.67

0.5

0.25

0.32

0.102

0.160

3.0

2.10

0.70

0.2754

0.438

x=0.5

y = 0.35

Fig. 6-4. Calibration graph plotted from data of Table 6-5. The dashed lines delineate the
95% confidence area of the graph. Note that the confidence is highest at the centroid of
the graph.

During calculation, the maximum number of decimals is used, rounding off to the last
significant figure is done at the end (see instruction for rounding off in Section 8.2).
Once the calibration graph is established, its use is simple: for each y value measured the
corresponding concentration x can be determined either by direct reading or by calculation
using Equation (6.22). The use of calibration graphs is further discussed in Section 7.2.2.
Note. A treatise of the error or uncertainty in the regression line is given.
6.4.4.2 Comparing two sets of data using many samples at different analyte levels
Although regression analysis assumes that one factor (on the x-axis) is constant, when certain
conditions are met the technique can also successfully be applied to comparing two variables
such as laboratories or methods. These conditions are:
- The most precise data set is plotted on the x-axis
- At least 6, but preferably more than 10 different samples are analyzed
- The samples should rather uniformly cover the analyte level range of interest.
To decide which laboratory or method is the most precise, multi-replicate results have to be
used to calculate standard deviations (see 6.4.2). If these are not available then the standard
deviations of the present sets could be compared (note that we are now not dealing with
normally distributed sets of replicate results). Another convenient way is to run the regression

analysis on the computer, reverse the variables and run the analysis again. Observe which
variable has the lowest standard deviation (or standard error of the intercept a, both given by
the computer) and then use the results of the regression analysis where this variable was
plotted on the x-axis.
If the analyte level range is incomplete, one might have to resort to spiking or standard
additions, with the inherent drawback that the original analyte-sample combination may not
adequately be reflected.
Example
In the framework of a performance verification programme, a large number of soil samples
were analyzed by two laboratories X and Y (a form of "third-line control", see Chapter 9) and
the data compared by regression. (In this particular case, the paired t-test might have been
considered also). The regression line of a common attribute, the pH, is shown here as an
illustration. Figure 6-5 shows the so-called "scatter plot" of 124 soil pH-H2O determinations
by the two laboratories. The correlation coefficient r is 0.97 which is very satisfactory. The
slope (= 1.03) indicates that the regression line is only slightly steeper than the 1:1 ideal
regression line. Very disturbing, however, is the intercept a of -1.18. This implies that
laboratory Y measures the pH more than a whole unit lower than laboratory X at the low end
of the pH range (the intercept -1.18 is at pHx = 0) which difference decreases to about 0.8 unit
at the high end.
Fig. 6-5. Scatter plot of pH data of two laboratories. Drawn line: regression line; dashed
line: 1:1 ideal regression line.

The t-test for significance is as follows:


For intercept a: a = 0 (null hypothesis: no bias; ideal intercept is then zero), standard error
=0.14 (calculated by the computer), and using Equation (6.12) we obtain:

Here, ttab = 1.98 (App. 1, two-sided, df = n - 2 = 122 (n-2 because an extra degree of freedom
is lost as the data are used for both a and b) hence, the laboratories have a significant mutual
bias.
For slope: b = 1 (ideal slope: null hypothesis is no difference), standard error = 0.02 (given
by computer), and again using Equation (6.12) we obtain:

Again, ttab = 1.98 (App. 1; two-sided, df = 122), hence, the difference between the
laboratories is not significantly proportional (or: the laboratories do not have a significant
difference in sensitivity). These results suggest that in spite of the good correlation, the two
laboratories would have to look into the cause of the bias.

Note. In the present example, the scattering of the points around the regression line does not
seem to change much over the whole range. This indicates that the precision of laboratory Y
does not change very much over the range with respect to laboratory X. This is not always the
case. In such cases, weighted regression (not discussed here) is more appropriate than the
unweighted regression as used here.
Validation of a method (see Section 7.5) may reveal that precision can change significantly
with the level of analyte (and with other factors such as sample matrix).

6.4.5 Analysis of variance (ANOVA)


When results of laboratories or methods are compared where more than one factor can be of
influence and must be distinguished from random effects, then ANOVA is a powerful
statistical tool to be used. Examples of such factors are: different analysts, samples with
different pre-treatments, different analyte levels, different methods within one of the
laboratories). Most statistical packages for the PC can perform this analysis.
As a treatise of ANOVA is beyond the scope of the present Guidelines, for further discussion
the reader is referred to statistical textbooks, some of which are given in the list of Literature.
Error or uncertainty in the regression line
The "fitting" of the calibration graph is necessary because the response points yi, composing
the line do not fall exactly on the line. Hence, random errors are implied. This is expressed by
an uncertainty about the slope and intercept b and a defining the line. A quantification can be
found in the standard deviation of these parameters. Most computer programmes for
regression will automatically produce figures for these. To illustrate the procedure, the
example of the calibration graph in Section 6.4.3.1 is elaborated here.
A practical quantification of the uncertainty is obtained by calculating the standard deviation
of the points on the line; the "residual standard deviation" or "standard error of the yestimate", which we assumed to be constant (but which is only approximately so, see Fig. 64):
(6.23)

where
= "fitted" y-value for each xi, (read from graph or calculated with Eq. 6.22). Thus,
the (vertical) deviation of the found y-values from the line.
n = number of calibration points.
Note: Only the y-deviations of the points from the line are considered. It is assumed that
deviations in the x-direction are negligible. This is, of course, only the case if the standards
are very accurately prepared.

is

Now the standard deviations for the intercept a and slope b can be calculated with:
6.24

and
6.25

To make this procedure clear, the parameters involved are listed in Table 6-6.
The uncertainty about the regression line is expressed by the confidence limits of a and b
according to Eq. (6.9): a t.sa and b t.sb
Table 6-6. Parameters for calculating errors due to calibration graph (use also figures of Table
6-5).
xi

yi

0.05

0.037

0.013

0.0002

0.2

0.14

0.162

-0.022

0.0005

0.4

0.29

0.287

0.003

0.0000

0.6

0.43

0.413

0.017

0.0003

0.8

0.52

0.538

-0.018

0.0003

1.0

0.67

0.663

0.007

0.0001
0.001364

In the present example, using Eq. (6.23), we calculate

and, using Eq. (6.24) and Table 6-5:

and, using Eq. (6.25) and Table 6-5:

The applicable ttab is 2.78 (App. 1, two-sided, df = n -1 = 4) hence, using Eq. (6.9):
a = 0.037 2.78 0.0132 = 0.037 0.037
and
b = 0.626 2.78 0.0219 = 0.626 0.061
Note that if sa is large enough, a negative value for a is possible, i.e. a negative reading for the
blank or zero-standard. (For a discussion about the error in x resulting from a reading in y,
which is particularly relevant for reading a calibration graph, see Section 7.2.3)
The uncertainty about the line is somewhat decreased by using more calibration points
(assuming sy has not increased): one more point reduces ttab from 2.78 to 2.57 (see Appendix
1).

7 QUALITY OF ANALYTICAL
PROCEDURES
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Calibration graphs
7.3 Blanks and Detection limit
7.4 Types of sample material
7.5 Validation of own procedures
7.6 Drafting an analytical procedure
7.7 Research plan
SOPs

7.1 Introduction
In this chapter the actual execution of the jobs for which the laboratory is intended, is dealt
with. The most important part of this work is of course the analytical procedures meticulously
performed according to the corresponding SOPs. Relevant aspects include calibration, use of
blanks, performance characteristics of the procedure, and reporting of results. An aspect of
utmost importance of quality management, the quality control by inspection of the results, is
discussed separately in Chapter 8.
All activities associated with these aspects are aimed at one target: the production of reliable
data with a minimum of errors. In addition, it must be ensured that reliable data are produced
consistently. To achieve this an appropriate programme of quality control (QC) must be
implemented. Quality control is the term used to describe the practical steps undertaken to
ensure that errors in the analytical data are of a magnitude appropriate for the use to which the
data will be put. This implies that the errors (which are unavoidably made) have to be
quantified to enable a decision whether they are of an acceptable magnitude, and that
unacceptable errors are discovered so that corrective action can be taken. Clearly, quality
control must detect both random and systematic errors. The procedures for QC primarily
monitor the accuracy of the work by checking the bias of data with the help of (certified)
reference samples and control samples and the precision by means of replicate analyses of test
samples as well as of reference and/or control samples.

7.2 Calibration graphs


7.2.1 Principle
7.2.2 Construction and use
7.2.3 Error due to the regression line
7.2.4 Independent standards
7.2.5 Measuring a batch

7.2.1 Principle
Here, the construction and use of calibration graphs or curves in daily practice of a laboratory
will be discussed. Calibration of instruments (including adjustment) in the present context are
also referred to as standardization. The confusion about these terms is mainly semantic and
the terms calibration curve and standard curve are generally used interchangeably. The term
"curve" implies that the line is not straight. However, the best (parts of) calibration lines are
linear and, therefore, the general term "graph" is preferred.
For many measuring techniques calibration graphs have to be constructed. The technique is
simple and consists of plotting the instrument response against a series of samples with
known concentrations of the analyte (standards). In practice, these standards are usually pure
chemicals dispersed in a matrix corresponding with that of the test samples (the "unknowns").

By convention, the calibration graph is always plotted with the concentration of the standards
on the x-axis and the reading of the instrument response on the y-axis. The unknowns are
determined by interpolation, not by extrapolation, so that a suitable working range for the
standards must be selected. In addition, in the present discussion it is assumed that the
working range is limited to the linear range of the calibration graphs and that the standard
deviation does not change over the range (neither of which is always the case* and that data
are normally distributed. Non-linear graphs can sometimes be linearized in a simple way, e.g.
by using a log scale (in potentiometry), but usually imply statistical problems (polynomial
regression) for which the reader is referred to the relevant literature. It should be mentioned,
however, that in modem instruments which make and use calibration graphs automatically
these aspects sometimes go by unnoticed.
* This is the so-called "unweighted" regression line. Because normally the standard deviation
is not constant over the concentration range (it is usually least in the middle range), this
difference in error should be taken into account. This would then yield a "weighted regression
line". The calculation of this is more complicated and information about the standard
deviation of the y-readings has to be obtained. The gain in precision is usually very limited,
but sometimes the extra information about the error may be useful.
Some common practices to obtain calibration graphs are:
1. The standards are made in a solution with the same composition as the extractant used for
the samples (with the same dilution factor) so that all measurements are done in the same
matrix. This technique is often practised when analyzing many batches where the same
standards are used for some time. In this way an incorrectly prepared extractant or matrix may
be detected (in blank or control sample).
2. The standards are made in the blank extract. A disadvantage of this technique is that for
each batch the standards have to be pipetted. Therefore, this type of calibration is sometimes
favoured when only one or few batches are analyzed or when the extractant is unstable. A
seeming advantage is that the blank can be forced to zero. However, an incorrect extractant
would then more easily go by undetected. The disadvantage of pipetting does not apply in
case of automatic dispensing of reagents when equal volumes of different concentration are
added (e.g. with flow-injection).
3. Less common, but useful in special cases is the so-called standard additions technique.
This can be practised when a matrix mismatch between samples and standards needs to be
avoided: the standards are prepared from actual samples. The general procedure is to take a
number of aliquots of sample or extract, add different quantities of the analyte to each aliquot
(spiking) and dilute to the final volume. One aliquot is used without the addition of the analyte
(blank). Thus, a standard series is obtained.
If calibration is involved in an analytical procedure, the SOP for this should include a
description of the calibration sub-procedure. If applicable, including an optimalization
procedure (usually given in the instruction manual).

7.2.2 Construction and use


In several laboratories calibration graphs for some analyses are still adequately plotted
manually and the straight line (or sometimes a curved line) is drawn with a visual "best fit",

e.g. for flame atomic emission spectrometry, or colorimetry. However, this practice is only
legitimate when the random errors in the measurements of the standards are small: when the
scattering is appreciable the line-fitting becomes subjective and unreliable. Therefore, if a
calibration graph is not made automatically by a microprocessor of the instrument, the
following more objective and also quantitatively more informative procedure is generally
favoured.
The proper way of constructing the graph is essentially the performance of a regression
analysis i.e., the statistical establishment of a linear relationship between concentration of the
analyte and the instrument response using at least six points. This regression analysis (of
reading y on concentration x) yields a correlation coefficient r as a measure for the fit of the
points to a straight line (by means of Least Squares).
Warning. Some instruments can be calibrated with only one or two standards. Linearity is then
implied but may not necessarily be true. It is useful to check this with more standards.
Regression analysis was introduced in Section 6.4.4 and the construction of a calibration
graph was given as an example. The same example is taken up here (and repeated in part) but
focused somewhat more on the application.
We saw that a linear calibration graph takes the general form:
y = bx + a

(6.18; 7.1)

where:
a = intercept of the line with the y-axis
b = slope (tangent)
Ideally, the intercept a is zero. Namely, when the analyte is absent no response of the
instrument is to be expected. However, because of interactions, interferences, noise,
contaminations and other sources of bias, this is seldom the case. Therefore, a can be
considered as the signal of the blank of the standard series.
The slope b is a measure for the sensitivity of the procedure; the steeper the slope, the more
sensitive the procedure, or: the stronger the instrument response on yi to a concentration
change on x (see also Section 7.5.3).
The correlation coefficient r can be calculated by:
(6.19;7.2)

where

x1= concentrations of standards


x = mean of concentrations of standards
y1= instrument response to standards
y = mean of instrument responses to standards
The line parameters b and a are calculated with the following equations:
(6.20;7.3)

and
a = y - bx

(6.21;7.4)

Example of calibration graph


As an example, we take the same calibration graph as discussed in Section 6.4.4.1, (Fig. 6-4):
a standard series of P (0-1.0 mg/L) for the spectrophotometric determination of phosphate in a
Bray-I extract ("available P"), reading in absorbance units. The data and calculated terms
needed to determine the parameters of the calibration graph were given in Table 6-5. The
calculations can be done on a (programmed) calculator or more conveniently on a PC using a
home-made program or, even more conveniently, using an available regression program. The
calculations yield the equation of the calibration line (plotted in Fig. 7-1):
y = 0.626x + 0.037

(6.22; 7.5)

with a correlation coefficient r = 0.997 . As stated previously (6.4.3.1), such high values are
common for calibration graphs. When the value is not close to 1 (say, below 0.98) this must
be taken as a warning and it might then be advisable to repeat or review the procedure. Errors
may have been made (e.g. in pipetting) or the used range of the graph may not be linear.
Therefore, to make sure, the calibration graph should always be plotted, either on paper or on
computer monitor.
Fig. 7-1. Calibration graph plotted from data of Table 6-5.

If linearity is in doubt the following test may be applied. Determine for two or three of the
highest calibration points the relative deviation of the measured y-value from the calculated
line:
(7.6)

- If the deviations are < 5% the curve can be accepted as linear.


- If a deviation > 5% then the range is decreased by dropping the highest concentration.
- Recalculate the calibration line by linear regression.
- Repeat this test procedure until the deviations < 5%.
When, as an exercise, this test is applied to the calibration curve of Fig. 7-1 (data in Table 6-3)
it appears that the deviations of the three highest points are < 5%, hence the line is sufficiently
linear.
During calculation of the line, the maximum number of decimals is used, rounding off to the
last significant figure is done at the end (see instruction for rounding off in Section 8.2).
Once the calibration graph is established, its use is simple: for each y value measured for a
test sample (the "unknown") the corresponding concentration x can be determined either by
reading from the graph or by calculation using Equation (7.1), or x is automatically produced
by the instrument.

7.2.3 Error due to the regression line


The "fitting" of the calibration graph is necessary because the actual response points yi,
composing the line usually do not fall exactly on the line. Hence, random errors are implied.
This is expressed by an uncertainty about the slope and intercept b and a defining the graph. A
discussion of this uncertainty is given. It was explained there that the error is expressed by sy,
the "standard error of the y-estimate" (see Eq. 6.23, a parameter automatically calculated by
most regression computer programs.
This uncertainty about the -values (the fitted y-values) is transferred to the corresponding
concentrations of the unknowns on the x-axis by the calculation using Eq. (7.1) and can be
expressed by the standard deviation of the obtained x-value. The exact calculation is rather
complex but a workable approximation can be calculated with:
(7.7)

Example
For each value of the standards x the corresponding y is calculated with Eq. (7.5):
(7.8)

Then, sy is calculated using Eq. (6.23) or by computer:

Then, using Eq. (7.7):

Now, the confidence limits of the found results xf can be calculated with Eq. (6.9):
xf t.sx

(7.9)

For a two-sided interval and 95% confidence: ttab = 2.78 (see Appendix 1, df = n -2=4). Hence
all results in this example can be expressed as:
Xf 0.08 mg/L

Thus, for instance, the result of a reading y = 0.22 and using Eq. (7.5) to calculate xf = 0.29,
can be reported as 0.29 0.08 mg/L. (See also Note 2 below.)
The used sx value can only be approximate as it is taken constant here whereas in reality this is
usually not the case. Yet, in practice, such an approximate estimation of the error may suffice.
The general rule is that the measured signal is most precise (least standard deviation) near the
centroid of the calibration graph (see Fig. 6-4). The confidence limits can be narrowed by
increasing the number of calibration points. Therefore, the reverse is also true: with fewer
calibration points the confidence limits of the measurements become wider. Sometimes only
two or three points are used. This then usually concerns the checking and restoring of
previously established calibration graphs including those in the microprocessor or computer
of instruments. In such cases it is advisable to check the graph regularly with more standards.
Make a record of this in the file or journal of the method.
Note 1. Where the determination of the analyte is part of a procedure with several steps, the
error in precision due to this reading is added to the errors of the other steps and as such
included in the total precision error of the whole procedure. The latter is the most useful
practical estimate of confidence when reporting results. As discussed in Section 6.3.4 a
convenient way to do this is by using Equations (6.8) or (6.9) with the mean and standard
deviation obtained from several replicate determinations (n> 10) carried out on control
samples or, if available, taken from the control charts (see 8.3.2: Control Chart of the Mean).
Most generally, the 95% confidence for single values x of test samples is expressed by
Equation (6.10):
x2s

(6.10; 7.10)

where s is the standard deviation of the mentioned large number of replicate determinations.
Note 2. The confidence interval of 0.08 mg/L in the present example is clearly not
satisfactory and calls for inspection of the procedure. Particularly the blank seems to be
(much) too high. This illustrates the usefulness of plotting the graph and calculating the
parameters. Other traps to catch this error are the Control Chart of the Blank and, of course,
the technician's experience.

7.2.4 Independent standards


It cannot be overemphasized that for QC a calibration should always include measurement of
an independent standard or calibration verification standard at about the middle of the
calibration range. If the result of this measurement deviates alarmingly from the correct or
expected value (say > 5%), then inspection is indicated.
Such an independent standard can be obtained in several ways. Most usually it is prepared
from pure chemicals by another person than the one who prepared the actual standards.
Obviously, it should never be derived from the same stock or source as the actual standards. If
necessary, a bottle from another laboratory could be borrowed.
In addition, when new standards are prepared, the remainder of the old ones always have to be
measured as a mutual check (include this in the SOP for the preparation of standards!).

7.2.5 Measuring a batch

After calibration of the instrument for the analyte, a batch of test samples is measured. Ideally,
the response of the instrument should not change during measurement (drift or shift). In
practice this is usually the case for only a limited period of time or number of measurements
and regular recalibration is necessary. The frequency of recalibration during measurement
varies widely depending on technique, instrument, analyte, solvent, temperature and humidity.
In general, emission and atomizing techniques (AAS, ICP) are more sensitive to drift (or even
sudden shift: by clogging) than colorimetric techniques. Also, the techniques of recalibration
and possible subsequent action vary widely. The following two types are commonly practised.
1. Step-wise correction or interval correction
After calibration, at fixed places or intervals (after every 10, 15, 20, or more, test samples) a
standard is measured. For this, often a standard near the middle of the working range is used
(continuing calibration standard). When the drift is within acceptable limits, the measurement
is continued. If the drift is unacceptable, the instrument is recalibrated ("resloped") and the
previous interval of samples remeasured before continuing with the next interval. The extent
of the "acceptable" drift depends on the kind of analysis but in soil and plant analysis usually
does not exceed 5%. This procedure is very suitable for manual operation of measurements.
When automatic sample changers are used, various options for recalibration and repeating
intervals or whole batches are possible.
2. Linear correction or correction by interpolation
Here, too, standards are measured at intervals, usually together with a blank ("drift and wash")
and possible changes are processed by the computer software which converts the past
readings of the batch to the original calibration. Only in case of serious mishap are batches or
intervals repeated. A disadvantage of this procedure is that drift is taken to be linear whereas
this may not be so. Autoanalyzers, ICP and AAS with automatic sample changers often
employ variants of this type of procedure.
At present, the development of instrument software experiences a mushroom growth. Many
new fancy features with respect to resloping, correction of carryover, post-batch dilution and
repeating, are being introduced by manufacturers. Running ahead of this, many laboratories
have developed their own interface software programs meeting their individual demands.

7.3 Blanks and Detection limit


7.3.1 Blanks
7.3.2 Detection limit

7.3.1 Blanks
A blank or blank determination is an analysis of a sample without the analyte or attribute, or
an analysis without a sample, i.e. going through all steps of the procedure with the reagents

only. The latter type is the most common as samples without the analyte or attribute are often
not available or do not exist.
Another type of blank is the one used for calibration of instruments as discussed in the
previous sections. Thus, we may have two types of blank within one analytical method or
system:
- a blank for the whole method or system and
- a blank for analytical subprocedures (measurements) as part of the whole procedure or
system.
For instance, in the cation exchange capacity (CEC) determination of soils with the
percolation method, two method or system blanks are included in each batch: two percolation
tubes with cotton wool or filter pulp and sand or celite, but without sample. For the
determination of the index cation (NH4 by colorimetry or Na by flame emission spectroscopy)
a blank is included in the determination of the calibration graph. If NH4 is determined by
distillation and subsequent titration, a blank titration is carried out for correction of test
sample readings.
The proper analysis of blanks is very important because:
1. In many analyses sample results are calculated by subtracting blank readings from sample
readings.
2. Blank readings can be excellent monitors in quality control of reagents, analytical
processes, and proficiency.
3. They can be used to estimate several types of method detection limits.
For blanks the same rule applies as for replicate analyses: the larger the number, the greater
the confidence in the mean. The widely accepted rule in routine analysis is that each batch
should include at least two blanks. For special studies where individual results are critical,
more blanks per batch may be required (up to eight).
For quality control, Control Charts are made of blank readings identically to those of control
samples. The between-batch variability of the blank is expressed by the standard deviation
calculated from the Control Chart of the Mean of Blanks, the precision can be estimated from
the Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates of Blanks. The construction and use of control
charts are discussed in detail in 8.3. One of the main control rules of the control charts, for
instance, prescribes that a blank value beyond the mean blank value plus 3 the standard
deviation of this mean (i.e. beyond the Action Limit) must be rejected and the batch be
repeated, possibly with fresh reagents.
In many laboratories, no control charts are made for blanks. Sometimes, analysts argue that
'there is never a problem with my blank, the reading is always close to zero'. Admittedly, some
analyses are more prone to blank errors than others. This, however, is not a valid argument
for not keeping control charts. They are made to monitor procedures and to alarm when these
are out of control (shift) or tend to become out of control (drift). This can happen in any
procedure in any laboratory at any time.

From the foregoing discussion it will be clear that signals of blank analyses generally are not
zero. In fact, blanks may found to be negative. This may point to an error in the procedure:
e.g. for the zeroing of the instrument an incorrect or a contaminated solution was used or the
calibration graph was not linear. It may also be due to the matrix of the solution (e.g.
extractant), and is then often unavoidable. For convenience, some analysts practice "forcing
the blank to zero" by adjusting the instrument. Some instruments even invite or compel
analysts to do so. This is equivalent to subtracting the blank value from the values of the
standards before plotting the calibration graph. From the standpoint of Quality Control this
practice must be discouraged. If zeroing of the instrument is necessary, the use of pure water
for this is preferred. However, such general considerations may be overruled by specific
instrument or method instructions. This is becoming more and more common practice with
modem sophisticated hi-tech instruments. Whatever the case, a decision on how to deal with
blanks must made for each procedure and laid down in the SOP concerned.

7.3.2 Detection limit


In environmental analysis and in the analysis of trace elements there is a tendency to
accurately measure low contents of analytes. Modem equipment offer excellent possibilities
for this. For proper judgement (validation) and selection of a procedure or instrument it is
important to have information about the lower limits at which analytes can be detected or
determined with sufficient confidence. Several concepts and terms are used e.g., detection
limit, lower limit of detection (LLD), method detection limit (MDL). The latter applies to a
whole method or system, whereas the two former apply to measurements as part of a method.
Note: In analytical chemistry, "lower limit of detection" is often confused with "sensitivity"
(see 7.5.3).
Although various definitions can be found, the most widely accepted definition of the
detection limit seems to be: 'the concentration of the analyte giving a signal equal to the
blank plus 3 the standard deviation of the blank'. Because in the calculation of analytical
results the value of the blank is subtracted (or the blank is forced to zero) the detection limit
can be written as:
LLD, MDL = 3 sbl

(7.11)

At this limit it is 93% certain that the signal is not due to the blank but that the method has
detected the presence of the analyte (this does not mean that below this limit the analyte is
absent!).
Obviously, although generally accepted, this is an arbitrary limit and in some cases the 7%
uncertainty may be too high (for 5% uncertainty the LLD =3.3 sbl). Moreover, the precision
in that concentration range is often relatively low and the LLD must be regarded as a
qualitative limit. For some purposes, therefore, a more elevated "limit of determination" or
"limit of quantification" (LLQ) is defined as
LLQ = 2 LLD = 6 sbl

(7.12)

or sometimes as
LLQ = 10 sbl

(7.13)

Thus, if one needs to know or report these limits of the analysis as quality characteristics, the
mean of the blanks and the corresponding standard deviation must be determined (validation).
The sbl can be obtained by running a statistically sufficient number of blank determinations
(usually a minimum of 10, and not excluding outliers). In fact, this is an assessment of the
"noise" of a determination.
Note: Noise is defined as the 'difference between the maximum and minimum values of the
signal in the absence of the analyte measured during two minutes' (ox otherwise according to
instrument instruction). The noise of several instrumental measurements can be displayed by
using a recorder (e.g. FES, AAS, ICP, IR, GC, HPLC, XRFS). Although this is not often used
to actually determine the detection limit, it is used to determine the signal-to-noise ratio (a
validation parameter not discussed here) and is particularly useful to monitor noise in case of
trouble shooting (e.g. suspected power fluctuations).
If the analysis concerns a one-batch exercise 4 to 8 blanks are run in this batch. If it concerns
an MDL as a validation characteristic of a test procedure used for multiple batches in the
laboratory such as a routine analysis, the blank data are collected from different batches, e.g.
the means of duplicates from the control charts.
For the determination of the LLD of measurements where a calibration graph is used, such
replicate blank determinations are not necessary since the value of the blank as well as the
standard deviation result directly from the regression analysis (see Section 7.2.3 and Example
2 below).
Examples
1. Determination of the Method Detection Limit (MDL) of a Kjeldahl-N determination in soils
Table 7-1 gives the data obtained for the blanks (means of duplicates) in 15 successive
batches of a micro-Kjeldahl N determination in soil samples. Reported are the millilitres 0.01
M HCl necessary to titrate the ammonia distillate and the conversion to results in mg N by:
reading 0.01 14.
Table 7-1. Blank data of 15 batches of a Kjeldahl-N determination in soils for the calculation
of the Method Detection Limit.
ml HCl

mg N

0.12

0.0161

0.16

0.0217

0.11

0.0154

0.15

0.0203

0.09

0.0126

0.14

0.0189

0.12

0.0161

0.17

0.0238

0.14

0.0189

0.20

0.0273

0.16

0.0217

0.22

0.0308

0.14

0.0189

0.11

0.0154

0.15

0.0203

Mean blank:

0.0199

sbl:

0.0048

MDL = 3 sbl =0.014 mg N


The MDL reported in this way is an absolute value. Results are usually reported as relative
figures such as % or mg/kg (ppm). In the present case, if 1 g of sample is routinely used, then
the MDL would be 0.014 mg/g or 14 mg/kg or 0.0014%.
Note that if one would use only 0.5 g of sample (e.g. because of a high N content) the MDL as
a relative figure is doubled!
When results are obtained below the MDL of this example they must reported as: '<14 mg/kg'
or '< 0.0014%'. Reporting '0 %' or '0.0 %' may be acceptable for practical purposes, but may
be interpreted as the element being absent, which is not justified.
Note 1. There are no strict rules for reporting figures below the LLD or LLQ. Most important
is that data can be correctly interpreted and used. For this reason uncertainties (confidence
limits) and detection limits should be known and reported to clients or users (if only upon
request).
The advantage of using the " <" sign for values below the LLD or LLQ is that the value 0
(zero) and negative values can be avoided as they are usually either impossible or improbable.
A disadvantage of the " <" sign is that it is a non-numerical character and not suitable in
spreadsheet programs for further calculation and manipulation. In such cases the actually
found value will be required, but then the inherent confidence restrictions should be known to
the user.
Note 2. Because a normal distribution of data is assumed it can statistically be expected that
zero and negative values for analytical results occur when blank values are subtracted from
test values equal to or lower than the blank. Clearly, only in few cases are negative values
possible (e.g. for adsorption) but for concentrations such values should normally not be
reported. Exceptions to this rule are studies involving surveys of attributes or effects. Then it
might be necessary to report the actually obtained low results as otherwise the mean of the
survey would be biased.
2. Lower Limit of Detection derived from a calibration graph
We use the calibration graph of Figure 7-1. Then, noting that sbl = sx = 0.6097 and using
Equation (7.11) we obtain: LLD = 30.6097 = 1.829 mg/L.
It is noteworthy that "forcing the blank to zero" does not affect the Lower Limit of Detection.
Although a (= yb, see Fig. 7-1) may become zero, the uncertainty sy of the calibration graph,
and thus of sx and sbl, is not changed by this: the only change is that the "forced" calibration
line has moved up and now runs through the intersection of the axes (parallel to the "original"
line).

7.4 Types of sample material


7.4.1 Certified reference material (CRM)
7.4.2 Reference material (RM)

7.4.3 Control sample


7.4.4 Test sample
7.4.5 Spiked sample
7.4.6 Blind sample
7.4.7 Sequence-control sample

Although several terms for different sample types have already freely been used in the
previous sections, it seems appropriate to define the various types before the major Quality
Control operations are discussed.

7.4.1 Certified reference material (CRM)


A primary reference material or substance, accompanied by a certificate, one or more of
whose property values are accurately determined by a number of selected laboratories (with
a stated method), and for which each certified value is accompanied by an uncertainty at a
stated level of confidence.
These are usually very expensive materials and, particularly for soils, hard to come by or not
available. For the availability a computerized databank containing information on about
10,000 reference materials can be consulted (COMAR, see Appendix 4).

7.4.2 Reference material (RM)


A secondary reference material or substance, one or more of whose property values are
accurately determined by a number of laboratories (with a stated method), and which values
are accompanied by an uncertainty at a stated level of confidence. The origin of the material
and the data should be traceable.
In soil and plant analysis RMs are very important since for many analytes and attributes
certified reference materials (CRMs) are not (yet) available. For certain properties a "true"
value cannot even be established as the result is always method-dependent, e.g. CEC, and
particle-size distribution of soil material. A very useful source for RMs are interlaboratory
(round robin) sample and data exchange programmes. The material sent around is analyzed by
a number of laboratories and the resulting data offer an excellent reference base, particularly
if somehow there is a link with a primary reference material. Since this is often not the case,
the data must be handled with care: it may well be that the mean or median value of 50 or
more laboratories is "wrong" (e.g. because most use a method with an inadequate digestion
step).
In some cases different levels of analyte may be imitated by spiking a sample with the analyte
(see 7.4.5). However, this is certainly not always possible (e.g. CEC, exchangeable cations,
pH, particle-size distribution).

7.4.3 Control sample


An in-house reference sample for which one or more property values have been established by
the user laboratory, possibly in collaboration with other laboratories.

This is the material a laboratory needs to prepare for second-line (internal) control in each
batch and the obtained results of which are plotted on Control Charts. The sample should be
sufficiently stable and homogeneous for the properties concerned. The preparation of control
samples is discussed in Chapter 8.

7.4.4 Test sample


The material to be analyzed, the "unknown".

7.4.5 Spiked sample


A test material with a known addition of analyte.
The sample is analyzed with and without the spike to test recovery (see 7.5.6). It should be a
realistic surrogate with respect to matrix and concentration. The mixture should be well
homogenized.
The requirement "realistic surrogate" is the main problem with spikes. Often the analyte
cannot be integrated in the sample in the same manner as the original analyte, and then
treatments such as digestion or extraction may not necessarily reflect the behaviour of real
samples.

7.4.6 Blind sample


A sample with known content of the analyte. This sample is inserted by the Head of
Laboratory or the Quality Officer in batches at places and times unknown to the analyst. The
frequency may vary but as an indication one sample in every 10 batches is given.
Various types of sample material may serve as blind samples such as control samples or
sufficiently large leftovers of test samples (analyzed several times). In case of water analysis a
solution of the pure analyte, or combination of analytes, may do. Essential is that the analyst
is aware of the possible presence of a blind sample but that he does not recognize the material
as such.
Insertion of blind samples requires some attention regarding the administration and
camouflaging. The protocol will depend on the organization of the sample and data stream in
the laboratory.

7.4.7 Sequence-control sample


A sample with an extreme content of the analyte (but falling within the working range of the
method). It is inserted at random in a batch to verify the correct order of samples. This is
particularly useful for long batches in automated analyses. Very effective is the combination
of two such samples: one with a high and one with a low analyte content.

7.5 Validation of own procedures

7.5.1 Trueness (accuracy), bias


7.5.2 Precision
7.5.3 Sensitivity
7.5.4 Working range
7.5.5 Selectivity and specificity
7.5.6 Recovery
7.5.7 Ruggedness, robustness
7.5.8 Interferences
7.5.9 Practicability
7.5.10 Validation report

Validation is the process of determining the performance characteristics of a


method/procedure or process. It is a prerequisite for judgement of the suitability of produced
analytical data for the intended use. This implies that a method may be valid in one situation
and invalid in another. Consequently, the requirements for data may, or rather must, decide
which method is to be used. When this is ill-considered, the analysis can be unnecessarily
accurate (and expensive), inadequate if the method is less accurate than required, or useless if
the accuracy is unknown.
Two main types of validation may be distinguished:
1. Validation of standard procedures. The validation of new or existing methods or procedures
intended to be used in many laboratories, including procedures (to be) accepted by national or
international standardization organizations.
2. Validation of own procedures. The in-house validation of methods or procedures by
individual user-laboratories.
The first involves an interlaboratory programme of testing the method by a number ( 8) of
selected renown laboratories according to a protocol issued to all participants. The second
involves an in-house testing of a procedure to establish its performance characteristics or
more specifically its suitability for a purpose. Since the former is a specialist task, usually (but
not exclusively) performed by standardization organizations, the present discussion will be
restricted to the second type of validation which concerns every laboratory.
Validation is not only relevant when non-standard procedures are used but just as well when
validated standard procedures are used (to what extent does the laboratory meet the standard
validation?) and even more so when variants of standard procedures are introduced. Many
laboratories use their own versions of well-established methods or change a procedure for
reasons of efficiency or convenience.
Fundamentally, any change in a procedure (e.g. sample size, liquid:solid ratio in extractions,
shaking time) may affect the performance characteristics and should be validated. For
instance, in Section 7.3.2 we noticed that halving the sample size results in doubling the
Lower Limit of Detection.
Thus, inherent in generating quality analytical data is to support these with a quantification of
the parameters of confidence. As such it is part of the quality control.

To specify the performance characteristics of a procedure, a selection (so not necessarily all)
of the following basic parameters is determined:
- Trueness (accuracy), Bias
- Precision
- Recovery
- Sensitivity
- Specificity and selectivity
- Working range (including MDL)
- Interferences
- Ruggedness or robustness
- Practicability
Before validation can be carried out it is essential that the detailed procedure is available as a
SOP.

7.5.1 Trueness (accuracy), bias


One of the first characteristics one would like to know about a method is whether the results
reflect the "true" value for the analyte or property. And, if not, can the (un)trueness or bias be
quantified and possibly corrected for?
There are several ways to find this out but essentially they are all based on the same principle
which is the use of an outside reference, directly or indirectly.
The direct method is by carrying out replicate analyses (n 10) with the method on a
(certified) reference sample with a known content of the analyte.
The indirect method is by comparing the results of the method with those of a reference
method (or otherwise generally accepted method) both applied to the same sample(s). Another
indirect way to verify bias is by having (some) samples analyzed by another laboratory and by
participation in interlaboratory exchange programmes. This will be discussed in Chapter 9.
It should be noted that the trueness of an analytical result may be sensitive to varying
conditions (level of analyte, matrix, extract, temperature, etc.). If a method is applied to a
wide range of materials, for proper validation different samples at different levels of analyte
should be used.
Statistical comparison of results can be done in several ways some of which were described in
Section 6.4.
Numerically, the trueness (often less appropriately referred to as accuracy) can be expressed
using the equation:
7.14

where
x = mean of test results obtained for reference sample
= "true" value given for reference sample
Thus, the best trueness we can get is 100%.
Bias, more commonly used than trueness, can be expressed as an absolute value by:
bias = x -

(7.15)

or as a relative value by:


(7.16)

Thus, the best bias we can get is 0 (in units of the analyte) or 0 % respectively.
Example
The Cu content of a reference sample is 34.0 2.7 mg/kg (2.7 = s, n=12). The results of 15
replicates with the laboratory's own method are the following: 38.0; 34.6; 29.1; 27.8; 40.4;
33.1; 40.9; 28.5; 36.1; 26.8; 30.6; 24.3; 31.6; 22.3; 29.9 mg/kg.
With Equation (6.1) we calculate: x = 31.6. Using Equation (7.14) the trueness is
(31.6/34.0)100% = 93%. Using Equation (7.16), the bias is (31.6 - 34.0)100% / 34.0 = 7%.
These calculations suggests a systematic error. To see if this error is statistically significant a
t-test can be done. For this, with Equation (6.2) we first calculate s = 5.6. The F-test (see 6.4.2
and 7.5.2) indicates a significant difference in standard deviation and we have to use the
Cochran variant of the t-test (see 6.4.3). Using Equation (6.16) we find tcal = 1.46, and with
Eq. (6.17) the critical value ttab* = 2.16 indicating that the results obtained by the laboratory
are not significantly different from the reference value (with 95% confidence).
Although a laboratory could be satisfied with this result, the fact remains that the mean of the
test results is not equal to the "true" value but somewhat lower. As discussed in Sections 6.4.1
and 6.4.3 the one-sided t-test can be used to test if this result is statistically on one side (lower
or higher) of the reference value. In the present case the one-sided critical value is 1.77 (see
Appendix 1) which also exceeds the calculated value of 1.46 indicating that the laboratory
mean is not systematically lower than the reference value (with 95% confidence).
At first sight a bias of -7% does not seem to be insignificant. In this case, however, the wide
spread of the own data causes the uncertainty about this. If the standard deviation of the
results had been the same as that of the reference sample then, using

Equations (6.13) and (6.14), tcal were 2.58 and with ttab = 2.06 (App. 1) the difference would
have been significant according to the two-sided t-test, and with ttab =1.71 significantly lower
according to the one-sided t-test (at 95% confidence).

7.5.2 Precision

7.5.2.1 Reproducibility
7.5.2.2 Repeatability
7.5.2.3 Within-laboratory reproducibility

Replicate analyses performed on a reference sample yielding a mean to determine trueness or


bias, as described above, also yield a standard deviation of the mean as a measure for
precision. However, for precision alone also control samples and even test samples can be
used. The statistical test for comparison is done with the F-test which compares the obtained
standard deviation with the standard deviation given for the reference sample (in fact, the
variances are compared: Eq. 6.11).
Numerically, precision is either expressed by the absolute value of the standard deviation or,
more universally, by the relative standard deviation (RSD) or coefficient of variation (CV) (see
Equations 6.5 and 6.6,).
(7.17

where
x = mean of test results obtained for reference sample
s = standard deviation of x
If the attained precision is worse than given for the reference sample then it can still be
decided that the performance is acceptable for the purpose (which has to be reported as such),
otherwise it has to be investigated how the performance can be improved.
Like the bias, precision will not necessarily be the same at different concentration of the
analyte or in different kinds of materials. Comparison of precision at different levels of
analyte can be done with the F-test: if the variances at a few different levels are similar, then
precision is assumed to be constant over the range.
Example
The same example as above for bias is used. The standard deviation of the laboratory is 5.6
mg/kg which, according to Eq. (7.17), corresponds with a precision of (5.6/31.6)100% =
18%. (The precision of the reference sample can similarly be calculated as about 8%).

According to Equation (6.11) the calculated F-value is:

the critical value is 2.47 (App. 2, two-sided, df1 = 14, df2 =11) hence, the null hypothesis that
the two standard deviations belong to the same population is rejected: there is a significant
difference in precision (at 95% confidence level).
Types of precision
The above description of precision leaves some uncertainty about the actual execution of its
determination. Because particularly precision is sensitive to the way it is determined some
specific types of precision are distinguished and, therefore, it should always be reported what
type is involved.
7.5.2.1 Reproducibility
The measure of agreement between results obtained with the same method on identical test or
reference material under different conditions (execution by different persons, in different
laboratories, with different equipment and at different times). The measure of reproducibility
R is the standard deviation of these results sR, and for a not too small number of data (n 8) R
is defined by (with 95% confidence):
R = 2.8 sR

(where 2.8 = 2

(7.18)

and is derived from the normal or gaussian distribution; ISO 5725).

Thus, reproducibility is a measure of the spread of results when a sample is analyzed by


different laboratories. If a method is sensitive to different ways of execution or conditions
(low robustness, see 7.5.7), then the reproducibility will reflect this.
This parameter can obviously not be verified in daily practice. For that purpose the next two
parameters are used (repeatability and within-laboratory reproducibility).
7.5.2.2 Repeatability
The measure of agreement between results obtained with the same method on identical test or
reference material under the same conditions (job done by one person, in the same laboratory,
with the same equipment, at the same time or with only a short time interval). Thus, this is the
best precision a laboratory can obtain: the within-batch precision.
The measure for the repeatability r is the standard deviation of these results sr, and for a not
too small number of data ( 10) r is defined by (with 95% confidence):

r = 2.8 sr

(7.19)

7.5.2.3 Within-laboratory reproducibility


The measure of agreement between results obtained with the same method on identical test
material under different conditions (execution by different persons, with the same or different
equipment, in the same laboratory, at different times). This is a more realistic type of precision
for a method over a longer span of time when conditions are more variable than defined for
repeatability.
The measure is the standard deviation of these results sL (also called between-batch
precision). The within-laboratory reproducibility RL is calculated by:
RL = 2.8 sL

(7.20)

The between-batch precision can be estimated in three different ways:


1. As the standard deviation of a large number (n 50) of duplicate determinations carried out
by two analysts:
(7.21)

where
si, = the standard deviation of each pair of duplicates
k = number of pairs of duplicates
di = difference between duplicates within each pair
2. Empirically as 1.6 sr. Then:
RL = 2.8 1.6 sr
or:
RL = 1.6 r

(7.22)

where r is the repeatability as defined above.


3. The most practical and realistic expression of the within-laboratory reproducibility is the
one based on the standard deviation obtained for control samples during routine work. The
advantage is that no extra work is involved: control samples are analyzed in each batch, and
the within-laboratory standard deviation is calculated each time a control chart is completed
(or sooner if desired, say after 10 batches). The calculation is here:

RL = 2.8 scc

(7.23)

where scc is the standard deviation obtained from a Control Chart (see 8.3.2).
Clearly, the above three RL values are not identical and thus, whenever the within-laboratory
reproducibility is reported, the way by which it is obtained should always be stated.
Note: Naturally, instead or reporting the derived validation parameters for precision R, r, or
RL, one may prefer to report their primary measure: the standard deviation concerned.

7.5.3 Sensitivity
This is a measure for the response y of the instrument or of a whole method to the
concentration C of the analyte or property, e.g. the slope of the analytical calibration graph
(see Section 7.2.2). It is the value that is required to quantify the analyte on basis of the
analytical signal. The sensitivity for the analyte in the final sample extract may not necessarily
be equal to the sensitivity for the analyte in a simple standard solution. Matrix effects may
cause improper calibration of the measuring Step of the analytical method. As observed
earlier for calibration graphs, the sensitivity may not be constant over a long range. It usually
decreases at higher concentrations by saturation of the signal. This limits the working range
(see next Section 7.5.4). Some of the most typical situations are exemplified in Figure 7-2.
Fig. 7-2. Examples of some typical response graphs. 1. Constant sensitivity. 2. Sensitivity
constant over lower-range, then decreasing. 3. Sensitivity decreasing over whole range.
(See also 7.5.4.)

In general, on every point of the response graph the sensitivity can be expressed by
(7.24)

The dimension of S depends on the dimensions of y and C. In atomic absorption, for example,
y is expressed in absorbance units and C in mg/L. For pH and ion-selective electrodes the
response of the electrode is expressed in mV and the concentration in mg/L or moles (plotted
on log scale). Often, for convenience, the signal is conversed and amplified to a direct reading
in arbitrary units, e.g. concentration. However, for proper expression of the sensitivity, this
derived response should be converted back to the direct response. In practice, for instance,
this is simply done by making a calibration graph in the absorbance mode of the instrument as
exemplified in Figure 7-1, where slope b is the sensitivity of the P measurement on the
spectrophotometer. If measured in the absorption (or transmission) mode, plotting should be
done with a logarithmic y-axis.

7.5.4 Working range


For most analytical methods the working range is known from previous experience. When
introducing a new method or measuring technique this range may have to be determined. This
range can be determined during validation by attempting to span a (too) wide range. This can

for instance be done by using several sample sizes, liquid:sample ratios, or by spiking samples
(see 7.5.6, Recovery). This practice is particularly important to determine the upper limit of
the working range (the lower limit of a working range corresponds with the Method Detection
Limit and was discussed in Section 7.3.2). The upper limit is often determined by such factors
as saturation of the extract (e.g. the "free" iron or gypsum determinations) or by depletion of a
solution in case of adsorption procedures (e.g. phosphate adsorption; cobaltihexamine or
silver thiourea adsorption in single-extraction CEC methods). In such cases the liquid:sample
ratio has to be adapted.
To determine the measuring range of solutions the following procedure can be applied:
- Prepare a standard solution of the analyte in the relevant matrix (e.g. extractant) at a
concentration beyond the highest expected concentration.
- Measure this solution and determine the instrument response.
- Dilute this standard solution 10 with the matrix solution and measure again.
- Repeat dilution and measuring until the instrument gives no response.
- Plot the response vs. the concentration.
- Estimate the useful part of the response graph.
(If the dilution steps are too large to obtain a reliable graph, they need to be reduced, e.g. 5).
In Figure 7-2 the useful parts of graphs 1 and 2 are obviously the linear parts (and for graph 2
perhaps to concentration 8 if necessary). Sometimes a built-in curve corrector for the
linearization of curved calibration plots can extend the range of application (e.g. in AAS).
Graph 3 has no linear part but must and can still be used. A logarithmic plotting may be
considered and in some cases by non-linear (polynomial) regression an equation may be
calculated. It has to be decided on practical grounds what concentration can be accepted until
the decreasing sensitivity renders the method inappropriate (with the knowledge that flat or
even downward bending ranges are useless in any case).

7.5.5 Selectivity and specificity


The measurement of an analyte may be disturbed by the presence of other components. The
measurement is then non-specific for the analyte under investigation. An analytical method is
"fully specific" when it gives an analytical signal exclusively for one particular component,
but is "dead" for all other components in the sample, e.g. when a reagent forms a coloured
complex with only one analyte. A method is "fully selective" when it produces correct
analytical results for various components of a mixture without any mutual interaction of the
components, e.g. when a reagent forms several coloured complexes with components in the
matrix but with a different colour for each component. A selective method is composed of a
series of specific measurements.
Mutual influences are common in analytical techniques but can often easily be overcome. An
example is ionization interference reducing the specificity in flame spectrometric techniques
(FES, AAS). The selectivity is no problem as the useful spectral lines can be selected exactly

with a monochromator or filters. The mutual interference can be suppressed by adding an


excess of an easily ionizable element, such as cesium, which maintains the electron
concentration in the flame constant. In chromatographic techniques (GC, HPLC) specificity is
sometimes a problem in the analysis of complex compounds.
In the validation report, selectivity and specificity are usually described rather than
quantitatively expressed.

7.5.6 Recovery
To determine the effectiveness of a method (and also of the working range), recovery
experiments can be carried out. Recovery can be defined as the 'fraction of the analyte
determined after addition of a known amount of the analyte to a sample'. In practice, control
samples are most commonly used for spiking. The sample as well as the spikes are analyzed
at least 10 times, the results averaged and the relative standard deviation (RSD) calculated.
For in-house validation the repeatability (replicates in one batch, see 7.5.2.2) is determined,
whereas for quality control the within-laboratory reproducibility (replicates in different
batches, see 7.5.2.3) is determined and the data recorded on Control Charts. The concentration
level of the spikes depend on the purpose: for routine control work the level(s) will largely
correspond with those of the test samples (recoveries at different levels may differ): a
concentration midway the working range is a convenient choice. For the determination of a
working range a wide range may be necessary, at least to start with, see 7.5.4). An example is
the addition of ammonium sulphate in the Kjeldahl nitrogen determination. Recovery tests
may reveal a significant bias in the method used and may prompt a correction factor to be
applied to the analytical results.
The recovery is calculated with:
(7.25)

where
xs = mean result of spiked samples
x = mean result of unspiked samples
xadd = amount of added analyte
If a blank (sample) is used for spiking then the mean result of the unspiked sample will
generally be close to zero. In fact, such replicate analyses could be used to determine or verify
the method detection limit (MDL, see 7.3.2).
As has been mentioned before (Section 7.4.5) the recovery obtained with a spike may not be
the same as that obtained with real samples since the analyte may not be integrated in the
spiked sample in the same manner as in real samples. Also, the form of the analyte with which
the spike is made may present a problem as different compounds and grain sizes representing
the analyte may behave differently in an analysis.

7.5.7 Ruggedness, robustness


An analytical method is rugged or robust if results are not (very) sensitive to variations in the
experimental conditions. Such conditions can be temperature, extraction or shaking time,
shaking technique, pH, purity of reagents, moisture content of sample, sample size, etc.
Usually, when a new method is proposed, the ruggedness is first tested by the initiating
laboratory and subsequently in an interlaboratory trial. The ruggedness test is conveniently
done with the so-called "Youden and Steiner partial factorial design" where in only eight
replicate analyses seven factors can be varied and analyzed. This efficient technique can also
be used for within-laboratory validation. As an example the ammonium acetate CEC
determination of soil will be taken. The seven factors could be for instance:
A: With (+) and without (-) addition of 125 mg CaCO3 to the sample (corresponding with 5%
CaCO3 content)
B: Concentration of saturation solution: 1 M (+) and 0.5 M (-) NH4OAc
C: Extraction time: 4 hours (-) and 8 hours (+)
D: Admixture of sea-sand (or celite): with (+) and without (-) 1 teaspoon of sand
E: Washing procedure: 2 (-) or 3(+) with ethanol 80%
F: Concentration of washing ethanol: 70% (-) or 80% (+)
G: Purity of NH4OAc: technical grade (-) and analytical grade (+)
The matrix of the design looks as shown in Table 7-2. The eight subsamples are analyzed
basically according to the SOP of the method. The variations in the SOP are indicated by the +
or - signs denoting the high or low level, presence or absence of a factor or otherwise stated
conditions to be investigated. The eight obtained analytical results are Yi,. Thus, sample
(experiment) no. 1 receives all treatments A to G indicated with (+), sample no. 2 receives
treatments A, B and D indicated by (+) and C, E, F and G indicated by (-), etc.
Table 7-2. The partial factorial design (seven factors) for testing ruggedness of an analytical
method
Factors

Experiment

Results

Y1

Y2

Y3

Y4

Y5

Y6

Y7

Y8

The absolute effect (bias) of each factor A to G can be calculated as follows:


(7.26)

where
YA+ = sum of results Yi, where factor A has + sign (i.e. Y1, + Y2 + Y3 + Y4; n=4)
YA- = sum of results Yi, where factor A has - sign (i.e. Y5 + Y6 + Y7+ Y8; n=4)
The test for significance of the effect can be done in two ways:
1. With a t-test (6.4.3) using in principle the table with "two-sided" critical t values (App. 1,
n=4). When clearly an effect in one direction is to be expected, the one-sided test is
applicable.
2. By checking if the effect exceeds the precision of the original procedure (i.e. if the effect
exceeds the noise of the procedure). Most realistic and practical in this case would be to use
scc, the within-laboratory standard deviation taken from a control chart (see Sections 7.5.2.3
and 8.3.2). Now, the standard deviation of the mean of four measurements can be taken as
(see 6.3.4), and the standard deviation of the difference between two such means (i.e.
the standard deviation of the effect calculated with Eq. 7.26) as
. The
effect of a factor can be considered significant if it exceeds 2 the standard deviation of the
procedure, i.e.

Therefore, the effect is significant when:


Effect >1.4 scc

(7.27)

where scc is the standard deviation of the original procedure taken from the last complete
control chart.
Note. Obviously, when this standard deviation is not available such as in the case of a new
method, then an other type of precision has to be used, preferably the within-laboratory
reproducibility (see 7.5.2).
It is not always possible or desirable to vary seven factors. However, the discussed partial
factorial design does not allow a reduction of factors. At most, one (imaginary) factor can be
considered in advance to have a zero effect (e.g. the position of the moon). In that case, the
design is the same as given in Table 7-2 but omitting factor G.
For studying only three factors a design is also available. This is given in Table 7-3.
Table 7-3. The partial factorial design (three factors) for testing ruggedness of an analytical
method
Experiment

Factors

Results

Y1

Y2

Y3

Y4

The absolute effect of the factors A, B, and C can be calculated as follows:


(7.28)

where
YA+ = sum of results Yi, where factor A has + sign (i.e. Y1 + Y3; n=2)
YA- = sum of results Yi, where factor A has - sign (i.e. Y2 + Y4; n=2)

The test for significance of the effect can be done similarly as described above for the sevenfactor design, with the difference that here n = 2.
If the relative effect has to be calculated (for instance for use as a correction factor) this must
be done relative to the result of the original factor. Thus, in the above example of the CEC
determination, if one is interested in the effect of reducing the concentration of the saturating
solution (Factor B), the "reference" values are those obtained with the 1 M solution (denoted
with + in column B) and the relative effect can be calculated with:
(7.29)

The confidence of the results of partial factorial experiments can be increased by running
duplicates or triplicates as discussed in Section 6.3.4. This is particularly useful here since
possible outliers may erroneously be interpreted as a "strong effect".
Often a laboratory wants to check the influence of one factor only. Temperature is a factor
which is particularly difficult to control in some laboratories or sometimes needlessly
controlled at high costs simply because it is prescribed in the original method (but perhaps
never properly validated). The very recently published standard procedure for determining the
particle-size distribution (ISO 11277) has not been validated in an interlaboratory trial. The
procedure prescribes the use of an end-over-end shaker for dispersion. If up to now a
reciprocating shaker has been used and the laboratory decides to adopt the end-over-end
shaker then in-house validation is indicated and a comparison with the end-over-end shaker
must be made and documented. If it is decided, after all, to continue with the reciprocating
shaking technique (e.g. for practical reasons), then the laboratory must be able to show the
influence of this step to users of the data. Such validation must include all soil types to which
the method is applied.
The effect of a single factor can simply be determined by conducting a number of replicate
analyses (n>. 10) with and without the factor, or at two levels of the factor, and comparing the
results with the F-test and t-test (see 6.4). Such a single effect may thus be expressed in terms
of bias and precision.

7.5.8 Interferences
Many analytical methods are to a greater or lesser extent susceptible to interferences of
various kinds. Proper validation should include documentation of such influences. Most
prominent are matrix effects which may either reduce or enhance analytical results (and are
thus a form of reduced selectivity). Ideally, such interferences are quantified as bias and
corrected for, but often this is a tedious affair or even impossible. Matrix effects can be
quantified by conducting replicate analyses at various levels and with various compositions of
(spiked) samples or they can be nullified by imitating the test sample matrix in the standards,
e.g. in X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. However, the matrix of test samples is often
unknown beforehand. A practical qualitative check in such a case is to measure the analyte at
two levels of dilution: usually the signal of the analyte and of the interference are not
proportional.

Well-known other interferences are, for example, the dark colour of extracts in the
colorimetric determination of phosphate, and in the CEC determination the presence of salts,
lime, or gypsum. A colour interference may be avoided by measuring at an other wavelength
(in the case of phosphate: try 880 nm). Sometimes the only way to avoid interference is to use
an other method of analysis.
If it is thought that an interference can be singled out and determined, it can be quantified as
indicated for ruggedness in the previous section.

7.5.9 Practicability
When a new method is proposed or when there is a choice of methods for a determination, it
may be useful if an indication or description of the ease or tediousness of the application is
available. Usually the practicability can be derived from the detailed description of the
procedure. The problems are in most cases related to the availability and maintenance of
certain equipment and the required staff or skills. Also, the supply of required parts and
reagents is not always assured, nor the uninterrupted supply of stable power. In some
countries, for instance, high purity grades cannot always be obtained, some chemicals cannot
be kept (e.g. sodium pyrophosphate in a hot climate) and even the supply of a seemingly
common reagent such as ethanol can be a problem. If such limitations are known, it is useful
if they are mentioned in the relevant SOPs or validation report.

7.5.10 Validation report


The results of validation tests should be recorded in a validation report from which the
suitability of a method for a certain purpose can be deduced. If (legal) requirements for
specific analyses are known (e.g. in the case of toxic compounds) then such information may
be included.
Since validation is a kind of research project the report should have a comparable format. A
plan is usually initiated by the head of laboratory, drafted by the technician involved and
verified by the head. The general layout of the report should include:
- Parameters to be validated
- Description of the procedures (with reference to relevant SOPs)
- Results
A model for a validation SOP is given (VAL 09-2).

7.6 Drafting an analytical procedure


For drafting an analytical procedure the general instructions for drafting SOPs as given in
Chapter 2 apply. An example of an analytical procedure as it can be written in the form of a
SOP is METH 006. A laboratory manual of procedures, the "cookery book", can be made by
simply collecting the SOPs for all procedures in a ring binder. Because analytical procedures,
more than any other type of SOP, directly determine the product of a laboratory, some specific
aspects relating to them are discussed here.

As was outlined in Chapter 2, instructions in SOPs should be written in such a way that no
misunderstanding or ambiguity exists as to the execution of the procedure. Thus, much of the
responsibility (not all) lies with the author of the procedure. Even if the author and user are
one and the same person, which should normally be the case (see 2.2), such misunderstanding
may be propagated since the author usually draws on the literature or documents written by
someone else. Therefore, although instructions should be as brief as possible, they should at
the same time be as extensive as necessary.
As an example we take the weighing of a sample, a common instruction in many analytical
procedures. Such an instruction could read:
1. Weigh 5.0 g of sample into a 250 ml bottle.
2. Add 100 ml of extracting solution and close bottle.
3. Shake overnight.
4. Etc., etc.
Comment 1
According to general analytical practice the amount of 5.0 g means "an amount between and
including 4.95 g and 5.05 g" (4.95 weight 5.05) since less than 4.95 would round to 4.9 and
more than 5.05 would round to 5.1 (note that 5.05 rounds to 5.0 and not to 5.1).
Some analysts, particularly students and trainees, take the amount of 5.0 g too literally and set
out on a lengthy process of adding and subtracting sample material until the balance reads
"5.0" or perhaps even "5.00". Not only is this procedure tedious, the sample may become
biased as particles of different size tend to segregate during this process. To prevent such an
interpretation, often the prefixes "approximately", "approx." or "ca." (circa) are used, e.g.
"approx. 5.0 g". As this, in turn, introduces a seeming contradiction between "5.0" (with a
decimal, so quite accurate) and "approx." ('it doesn't matter all that much'), the desired
accuracy must be stated: "weigh approx. 5.0 g (accuracy 0.01 g) into a 250 ml bottle".
The notation 5.0 g can be replaced by 5 g when the sample size is less critical (in the present
case for instance if the ratio sample: liquid is not very critical). Sometimes it may even be
possible to use "weigh 3 - 5 g of sample (accuracy 0.1 g)". The accuracy needs to be stated
when the actual sample weight is used in the calculation of the final result, otherwise it may
be omitted.
Comment 2
The "sample" needs to be specified. A convenient and correct way is to make reference to a
SOP where the preparation of the sample material is described. This is the more formal
version of the common practice in many laboratories where the use of the sample is implied
of which the preparation is described elsewhere in the laboratory manual of analytical
procedures. In any case, there should be no doubt about the sample material to be used. When
other material than the usual "laboratory sample" or "test sample" is used, the preparation
must be described and the nature indicated e.g., "field-moist fine earth" or "fraction > 2 mm"
or "nodules".
When drafting a new procedure or an own version of a standard procedure, it must be
considered if the moisture content of the used sample is relevant for the final result. If so, a

moisture correction factor should be part of the calculation step. In certain cases where the
sample contains a considerable amount of water (moist highly humic samples; andic material)
this water will influence the soil: liquid ratio in certain extraction or equilibration procedures.
Validation of such procedures is then indicated.
Comment 3
The "250 ml bottle" needs to be specified also. This is usually done in the section "Apparatus
and glassware" of the SOP. If, in general, materials are not specified, then it is implied that the
type is unimportant for the procedure. However, in shaking procedures, the kind, size and
shape of bottles may have a significant influence on the results. In addition the kind
(composition) of glass is sometimes critical e.g., for the boron determination.
Comment 4
To the instruction "Add 100 ml of extracting solution" apply the same considerations as
discussed for the sample weighing. The accuracy needs to be specified, particularly when
automatic dispensers are used. The accuracy may be implicit if the equipment to be used is
stated e.g., "add 100 ml solution by graduated pipette" or "volumetric pipette" or "with a 100
ml measuring cylinder". If another means of adding the solution is preferred its accuracy
should equal or exceed that of the stated equipment.
Comment 5
The instruction "shake overnight" is ambiguous. It must be known that "overnight" is
equivalent to "approximately 16 hrs.", namely from 5 p.m. till 9 a.m. the next morning. It is
implied that this time-span is not critical but generally the deviation should not be more than,
say, two hours. In case of doubt, this should be validated with a ruggedness test. More critical
in many cases is the term "shake" as this can be done in many different ways. In the section
"Apparatus" of the SOP the type of shaking machine is stated e.g., reciprocating shaker or
end-over-end shaker. For the reciprocating shaker the instruction should include the shaking
frequency (in strokes per minute), the amplitude (in mm or cm) and the position of the bottles
(standing up, lying length-wise or perpendicular to the shaking direction). For an end-overend shaker usually only the frequency or speed (in rpm) is relevant.

7.7 Research plan


All laboratories, including those destined for routine work, carry out research in some form.
For many laboratories it constitutes the main activity. Research may range from a simple test
of an instrument or a change in procedure, to large projects involving many aspects, several
departments of an institute, much staff and money, often carried out by commission of third
parties (contract research, sponsors).
For any project of appreciable size, according to GLP the management of the institute must
appoint a study director before the study is initiated. This person is responsible for the
planning and execution of the job. He/she is responsible to a higher Inspecting Authority (IA)
which may be the institute's management, the Quality Assurance Unit, the Head of Research
or the like as established by the management.

A study project can be subdivided into four phases: preparation, execution, reporting,
filing/archiving.
1. Preparation
In this phase the purpose and plan are formulated and approved by the IA. Any subsequent
changes are documented and communicated to the IA. The plan must include:
- Descriptive title, purpose, and identification details Study director and further personnel
Sponsor or client
- Work plan with starting date and duration Materials and methods to be used Study protocol
and SOPs (including statistical treatments of data)
- Protocols for interim reporting and inspection Way of reporting and filing of results
Authorization by the management (i.e. signature)
- A work plan or subroutines can often be clarified by means of a flow diagram. Some of the
most used symbols in flow diagrams for procedures in general, including analytical
procedures, are given in Figure 7-3. An example of a flow sheet for a research plan is given in
Fig 7-4.
Fig. 7-3. Some common symbols for flow diagrams.

2. Execution of the work


The work must be carried out according to the plan, protocols and SOPs. All observations
must be recorded including errors and irregularities. Changes of plan have to be reported to
the IA and if there are budgetary implications also to the management. The study leader must
have control of and be informed about the progress of the work and, particularly in larger
projects, be prepared for inspection by the IA.
Fig. 7-4. Design of flow diagram for study project.

3. Reporting
As soon as possible after completion of the experimental work and verification of the quality
control data the results are calculated. Together with a verification statement of the IA,
possibly after corrections have been made, the results can be reported. The copyright and
authorship of a possible publication would have been arranged in the plan.
The report should contain all information relevant for the correct interpretation of the results.
To keep a report digestible, used procedures may be given in abbreviated form with reference
to the original protocols or SOPs. Sometimes, relevant information turns up afterwards (e.g.
calculation errors). Naturally, this should be reported, even if the results have already been
used.
It is useful and often rewarding if after completion of a study project an evaluation is carried
out by the study team. In this way a next job may be performed better.

SOPs
VAL 09-2 - Validation of CEC determination with NH4OAc
METH 006 - Determination of nitrogen in soil with micro-Kjeldahl

VAL 09-2 - Validation of CEC determination with NH4OAc


LOGO

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

No.: VAL 09-2

Version: 1

Title: Validation of CEC determination with NH4OAc (pH 7)

Page; 1 # 2

Date: 96-09-19

File:

1 PURPOSE
To determine the performance characteristics of the CEC determination with ammonium
acetate (pH 7) using the mechanical extractor.
The following parameters have been considered: Bias, precision, working range, ruggedness,
interferences, practicability.
2 REQUIREMENTS
See SOP METH 09-2 (Cation Exchange Capacity and Exchangeable Bases with ammonium
acetate and mechanical extractor).

3 PROCEDURES
3.1 Analytical procedure
The basic procedure followed is described in SOP METH 09-2 with variations and number of
replicates as indicated below. Two Control Samples have been used: LABEX 6, a Nitisol
(clay 65%, CEC 20 cmolc/kg) and LABEX 2, an Acrisol (clay 25%; CEC 7 cmolc/kg);
further details of these control samples in SOP RF 031 (List of Control Samples).
3.2 Bias
The CEC was determined 10 on both control samples. Reference is the mean value for the
CEC obtained on these samples by 19 laboratories in an interlaboratory study.
3.3 Precision
Obtained from the replicates of 3,2,
3.4 Working range
The Method Detection Limit (MDL) was calculated from 10 blank determinations.
Determination of the Upper Limit is not relevant (percolates beyond calibration range are rare
and can be brought within range by dilution).
3.5 Ruggedness
A partial factorial design with seven factors was used. The experiments were carried out in
duplicate and the factors varied are as follows:
A: With (+) and without (-) addition of 125 mg CaCO3 (corresponding with 5% CaCO3
content)

B: Concentration of saturating solution: 1 M (+) and 0.5 M (-) NH4OAc

C: Extraction time: 4 hours (-) and 8 hours (+)

D: Admixture of seasand (or celite): with (+) and without (-) 1 teaspoon of sand

E: Washing procedure: 2 (-) or 3 (+) with ethanol 80%

F: Concentration of ethanol for washing free of salt: 70% (-) or 80% (+)

G: Parity of NH4OAc: technical grade (-) and analytical grade (+)


3.6 Interferences
Two factors particularly interfere in this determination: 1. high clay content (problems with
efficiency of percolation) and 2. presence of CaCO3 (competing with saturating index cation).
The first was addressed by the difference in clay content of the two samples as well as by
Factor D in the ruggedness test, the second by factor A of the ruggedness test,
3.7 Practicability
The method is famous for its wide application and ill-famed for its limitations. Some of the
most prominent aspects in this respect are considered.
4 RESULTS
As results may have to be produced as a document accompanying analytical results (e.g. on
request of clients) they are presented here in a model format suiting this purpose.
In the present example where two different samples have been used the results for both
samples may be given on one form, or for each sample on a separate form.
For practical reasons, abbreviated reports may be released omitting irrelevant information.
{The full report should always be kept!)
LOGO

METHOD VALIDATION FORM

No.: VAL RES 09-2

Version: 1

Title: Validation data CEC-NH4OAc (METH 09-2)

Page: 1 # 1

Date: 96-11-23

File:

1 TITLE or DESCRIPTION
Validation of cation exchange capacity determination with NH4OAc pH 7 method as
described in VAL 09-2 dd. 96-09-19.
2 RESULTS
2.1 Bias
(Accuracy):

Result of calculation -with Eq. (7.14) or (7.16) of Guidelines.

2.2 Precision

Repeatability:

Result of calculation with Eq. (7.17) or (7.19).

Within-lab
reproducibility:

Result of calculation with Eq. (7.23) (if Control Charts are available).

2.3 Working
range:

Result of calculation as examplified by Table 7-1 in Section 7.3.2 of


Guidelines.

2.4 Ruggedness:

Results of calculations with Eq. (7.26) or (7.29),

2.5 Interferences: In this case mainly drawn from Ruggedness test

2.6 Practicability: Special equipment necessary: mechanical extractor substantial amounts


of ethanol required washing procedures not always complete,
particularly in high-clay samples, requiring thorough check.

2.7 General
observations:

Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

METH 006 - Determination of nitrogen in soil with micro-Kjeldahl


LOGO

METHOD VALIDATION FORM

Page: 1 # 1

No.: METH 006

Version: 2

Title: Determination of nitrogen in soil with micro-Kjeldahl

Date: 96-03-01

File:

1. SCOPE
This procedure describes the determination of nitrogen with the micro-Kjeldahl technique. It
is supposed to include all soil nitrogen (including adsorbed NH4+) except that in nitrates.
2. RELATED DOCUMENTS
2.1 Normative references
The following standards contain provisions referred to in the text.
ISO 3696 Water for analytical laboratory use. Specification and test methods,
ISO 11464 Soil quality Pretreatment of samples for physico-chemical analysis.
2.2 Related SOPs
F 001

Administration of SOPs

APP 066

Operation of Kjeltec 1009 digester

APP 067

Operation of ammonia distillation unit

APP 072

Operation of Autoburette ABU 13 and Titrator TTT 60 (facultative)

RF 008

Reagent Book

METH 002

Moisture content determination

3. PRINCIPLE
The micro-Kjeldahl procedure is followed. The sample is digested in sulphuric acid and
hydrogen peroxide with selenium as catalyst and whereby organic nitrogen is converted to
ammonium sulphate. The solution is then made alkaline and ammonia is distilled. The
evolved ammonia is trapped in boric acid and titrated with standard acid,

4. APPARATUS AND GLASSWARE


4.1 Digester (Kjeldahl digestion tubes in heating block)
4.2 Steam-distillation unit (Fitted to accept digestion tubes)
4.3 Burette 25 ml
5. REAGENTS
Use only reagents of analytical grade and deionized or distilled water (ISO 3696).
5.1 Sulphuric acid - selenium digestion mixture. Dissolve 3.5 g selenium powder in 1 L
concentrated (96%, density 1.84 g/ml) sulphuric acid by mixing and heating at approx. 350C.
on a hot plate. The dark colour of the suspension turns into clear light-yellow. When this is
reached, continue heating for 2 hour
5.2 Hydrogen peroxide, 30%.
5.3 Sodium hydroxide solution, 38%. Dissolve 1,90 kg NaOH pellets in 2 L water in a heavywalled 5 L flask. Cool the solution with the flask stoppered to prevent absorption of
atmospheric CO2. Make up the volume to 5 L with freshly boiled and cooled deionized water.
Mix well.
5.4 Mixed indicator solution. Dissolve 0.13 g methyl red and 0.20 g bromocresol green in 200
ml ethanol.
5.5 Boric acid-indicator solution, 1%. Dissolve 10 g H3BO3 in 900 ml hot water, cool and add
20 ml mixed indicator solution. Make to 1 L with water and mix thoroughly.
5.6 Hydrochloric acid, 0.010 M standard. Dilute standard analytical concentrate ampoule
according to instruction.
Author:

Sign.:

QA Officer (sign.):

Date of Expiry:

6. SAMPLE
Air-dry fine earth (<2 mm) obtained according to ISO 11464 (or refer to own procedure). Mill
approx. 15 g of this material to pass a 0.25 mm sieve. Use part of this material for a moisture
determination according to ISO 11465 and PROC 002.
7. PROCEDURE
7.1 Digestion

1. Weigh 1 g of sample (accuracy 0.01 g) into a digestion tube. Of soils, rich in organic matter
(>10%), 0.5 g is weighed in (see Remark 1). In each batch, include two blanks and a control
sample.
2. Add 2.5 ml digestion mixture.
3. Add successively 3 aliquots of 1 ml hydrogen peroxide. The next aliquot can be added
when frothing has subsided. If frothing is excessive, cool the tube in water.
Note:. In Steps 2 and 3 use a measuring pipette with balloon or a dispensing pipette,
4. Place the tubes on the heater and heat for about 1 hour at moderate temperature (200C).
5. Turn up the temperature to approx. 330C (just below boiling temp.) and continue heating
until mixture is transparent (this should take about two hours).
6. Remove tubes from heater, allow to cool and add approx., 10 ml water with a wash bottle
while swirling.
7.2 Distillation
1. Add 20 ml boric acid-indicator solution with measuring cylinder to a 250 ml beaker and
place beaker on stand beneath the condenser tip.
2. Add 20 ml NaOH 38% with measuring cylinder to digestion tube and distil for about 7
minutes during which approx. 75 ml distillate is produced.
Note: the distillation time and amount of distillate may need to be increased for complete
distillation (see Remark 2).
3. Remove beaker from distiller, rinse condenser tip, and titrate distillate with 0.01 M HCl
until colour changes from green to pink.
Note: When using automatic titrator: set end-point pH at 4.60.
Remarks
1. The described procedure is suitable for soil samples with a nitrogen content of up to 10 mg
N. This corresponds with a carbon content of roughly 10% C. Of soils with higher contents,
less sample material is weighed in. Sample sizes of less than 250 mg should not be used
because of sample bias.
2. The capacity of the procedure with respect to the amount of N that can be determined
depends to a large extent on the efficiency of the distillation assembly. This efficiency can be
checked, for instance, with a series of increasing amounts of (NH4)2SO4 or NH4Cl containing
0-50 mg N.
8. CALCULATION

where
a = ml HCl required for titration of sample
b = ml HCl required for titration of blank
s = air-dry sample weight in gram
M = molarity of HCl
1.4 = 14 10-3 100% (14 = atomic weight of nitrogen)
mcf = moisture correction factor
9. VALIDATION PARAMETERS
9.1 Bias:

-3.1% rel. (sample ISE 921, x=2.80 g/kg N, n=5)

9.2 Within-lab
reproducibility:

RL = 2.8scc = 2,5% rel. (sample LABEX 38,x =2.59 g/kg N,


n=30)

9.3 Method Detection Limit: 0.014 mg N or 0.0014% N


10. TEST REPORT
The report of analytical results shall contain the following information:
- the result(s) of the determination with identification of the corresponding sample(s);
- a reference to this SOP (if requested a brief outline such as given under clause 3: Principle);
- possible peculiarities observed during the test;
- all operations not mentioned in the SOP that can have affected the results.
11. REFERENCES
Hesse, P.R. (1971) A textbook of soil chemical analysis. John Murray, London.
Bremner, J.M. and C.S. Mulvaney (1982) Nitrogen Total. In: Page, A.L., R.H. Miller & D.R.
Keeney (eds.) Methods of soil analysis. Part 2. Chemical and microbiological properties, 2nd
ed. Agronomy Series 9 ASA, SSSA, Madison. ISO 11261 Soil quality - Determination of total
nitrogen - Modified Kjeldahl method.

8 INTERNAL QUALITY CONTROL OF


DATA

8.1 Introduction
8.2 Rounding and Significant figures
8.3 Control charts
8.4 Preparation of a Control Sample
8.5 Complaints
8.6 Trouble-shooting
8.7 LIMS
SOPs

8.1 Introduction
In the preceding chapters basic elements of quality assurance were discussed. All activities
associated with these aspects have one aim: the production of reliable data with a minimum of
errors. The present discussion is concerned with activities to verify that a laboratory produces
such reliable data consistently. To this end an appropriate programme of quality control (QC)
must be implemented. Quality control is the term used to describe the practical steps
undertaken to ensure that errors in the analytical data are of a magnitude appropriate for the
use to which the data will be put. This means that the (unavoidable) errors made are
quantified to enable a decision whether they are of an acceptable magnitude and that
unacceptable errors are discovered so that corrective action can be taken and erroneous data
are not released. In short, quality control must detect both random and systematic errors.
In principle, quality control for analytical performance consists of two complementary
activities: internal QC and external QC.
The internal QC involves the in-house procedures for continuous monitoring of operations
and systematic day-to-day checking of the produced data to decide whether these are reliable
enough to be released. The procedures primarily monitor the bias of data with the help of
control samples and the precision by means of duplicate analyses of test samples and/or of
control samples. These activities take place at batch level (second-line control).
The external QC involves reference help from other laboratories and participation in national
and/or international interlaboratory sample and data exchange programmes (proficiency
testing; third-line control).
The present chapter focuses mainly on the internal QC as this has to be organised by the
laboratory itself. External QC, just as indispensable as the internal QC, is dealt with in
Chapter 9.

8.2 Rounding and Significant figures


8.2.1 Rounding
8.2.2 Significant figures

At this point, before entering into actual treatment of data, it might be useful to enter into the
data themselves as they are treated and reported. Analytical data, either direct readings (e.g.
pH) or results of one or more calculation steps associated with most analytical methods, are
often reported with several numbers after the decimal point. In many cases this suggests a
higher significance than is warranted by the combination of procedure and test materials.
Since clear rules for rounding and for determining the number of significant decimals are
available these will be given here.

8.2.1 Rounding
To allow a better overview and interpretation, to conserve paper (more columns per page),
and to simplify subsequent calculations, figures should be rounded up or down leaving out
insignificant numbers.
- To produce minimal bias, by convention rounding is done as follows:
- If the last number is 4 or less, retain the preceding number;
- if it is 6 or more, increase the preceding number by 1;
- if the last number is 5, the preceding number is made even.
Examples:
pH =

5.72

rounds to

5.7

pH =

5.76

rounds to

5.8

pH =

5.75

rounds to

5.8

pH =

5.85

rounds to

5.8

When calculations and statistics have to be performed, rounding must be done at the end.
Remark: Traditionally, and by most computer calculation programs, when the last number is
5, the preceding number is raised by 1. There is no objection to this practice as long as it
causes no disturbing bias, e.g. in surveys of attributes or effects.

8.2.2 Significant figures

8.2.2.1 Rounding of test results


8.2.2.2 Rounding of means and standard deviations

8.2.2.1 Rounding of test results


The significance of the numbers of results is a function of the precision of the analytical
method. The most practical figures for precision are obtained from the own validation of the
procedure whereby the -within-laboratory standard deviation sL (between-batch precision) for
control samples is the most realistic parameter for routine procedures (see 7.5.2). For nonroutine studies, the sr (within-batch precision) might have to be determined.
To determine which number is still significant, the following rule is applied:
Calculate the upper boundary bt of the rounding interval a using the standard deviation s of
the results (n 10):
bt = s

(8.1)

Then choose a equal to the largest decimal unit (...;100; 10; 1; 0.1; 0.01; etc.) which does not
exceed the calculated bt
After having done this for each type of analysis at different concentration or intensity levels it
will become apparent what the last significant figure or decimal is which may be reported.
This exercise has to be repeated regularly but is certainly indicated when a new technique is
introduced or when analyses are performed in a nonroutine way or on non-routine test
materials.
Example
Table 8-1. A series of repeated CEC determinations (in cmolc/kg) on a control sample, each in
a different batch.
Data

Rounded

6.55

6.6

7.01

7.0

7.25

7.2

7.83

7.8

6.95

7.0

7.16

7.2

7.83

7.8

7.05

7.0

6.83

6.8

7.63

7.6

The standard deviation of this set of (unrounded) data is:


s =0.4298

hence:

bt = 0.2149

and:

a = 0.1

Therefore, these data should be reported with a maximum of one decimal.


8.2.2.2 Rounding of means and standard deviations
When values for means, standard deviations, and relative standard deviation (RSD and CV)
are to be rounded, b is calculated in a different way:
for x:

for s:

for RSD:

where

bx =

bs =

brsd =

(8.2)

(8.3)

(8.4)

x = mean of set of n results


s = standard deviation of set of results
RSD = relative standard deviation.

8.3 Control charts


8.3.1 Introduction
8.3.2 Control Chart of the Mean (Mean Chart)
8.3.3 Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates (Range Chart)
8.3.4 Automatic preparation of control charts

8.3.1 Introduction
As stated in Section 8.1, an internal system for quality control is needed to ensure that valid
data continue to be produced. This implies that systematic checks, e.g. per day or per batch,
must show that the test results remain reproducible and that the methodology is actually
measuring the analyte or attribute in each sample. An excellent and widely used system of
such quality control is the application of (Quality) Control Charts. In analytical laboratories
such as soil, plant and water laboratories separate control charts can be used for analytical
attributes, for instruments and for analysts. Although several types of control charts can be
applied, the present discussion will be restricted to the two most usual types:
1. Control Chart of the Mean for the control of bias;
2. Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates for the control of precision.
For the application of quality control charts it is essential that at least Control Samples are
available and preferably also (certified) Reference Samples. As the latter are very expensive
and, particularly in the case of soil samples, still hard to obtain, laboratories usually have to
rely largely on (home-made) control samples. The preparation of control samples is dealt with
in Section 8.4.

8.3.2 Control Chart of the Mean (Mean Chart)

8.3.2.1 Principle
8.3.2.2 Starting with Mean Charts
8.3.2.3 Using a Mean Chart

8.3.2.1 Principle
In each batch of test samples at least one control sample is analyzed and the result is plotted
on the control chart of the attribute and the control sample concerned. The basic construction

of this Control Chart of the Mean is presented in Fig. 8-1. (Other names are Mean Chart, xChart, Levey-Jennings, or Shewhart Control Chart). This shows the (assumed) relation with
the normal distribution of the data around the mean. The interpretation and practical use of
control charts is based on a number of rules derived from the probability statistics of the
normal distribution. These rules are discussed in 8.3.2.3 below. The basic assumption is that
when a control result falls within a distance of 2s from the mean, the system was under
control and the results of the batch as a whole can be accepted. A control result beyond the
distance of 2s from the mean (the "Warning Limit") signals that something may be wrong or
tends to go wrong, while a control result beyond 3s (the "Control Limit" or "Action Limit")
indicates that the system was statistically out of control and that the results have to be
rejected: the batch has to be repeated after sorting out what went wrong and after correcting
the system.
Fig. 8-1. The principle of a Control Chart of the Mean. UCL = Upper Control Limit (or
Upper Action Limit). LCL = Lower Control Limit (or Lower Action Limit). UWL = Upper
Warning Limit. LWL = Lower Warning Limit.

Apart from test results of control samples, control charts can be used for quite a number of
other types of data that need to be controlled on a regular basis, e.g. blanks, recoveries,
standard deviations, instrument response. A model for a Mean Chart is given.
Note. The limits at 2s and 3s may be too strict or not strict enough for particular analyses used
for particular purposes. A laboratory is free to choose other limits for analyses. Whatever the
choice, this should always be identifiable on the control chart (and stated in the SOP or
protocol for the use of control charts and consequent actions).
Fig. 8-2. A filled-out control chart of the mean of a control sample.
8.3.2.2 Starting with Mean Charts

A control chart can be started when a sufficient number of data of an attribute of the control
sample is available (or data of the performance of an analyst in analyzing an attribute, or of
the performance of an instrument on an analyte). Since we want the control chart to reflect the
actual analytical practice, the data should be collected in the same manner. This is usually
done by analyzing a control sample in each batch. Statistically, a sufficient number of data
would be 7, but the more data available the better. It is generally recommended to start with at
least 10 replicates.
Note: If duplicate determinations of the control sample are used in each batch to control
within-batch precision (see 8.3.3), the mean of the duplicates can be used as entry. Although
the principle of such a Mean Chart (called x-Chart, as opposed to x-Chart) is the same as for
single values, the statistical background of the parameters obviously is not. These two systems
may, therefore, not be mixed.
Example
In ten consecutive batches of test samples the CEC of a control sample is determined. The
results are: 10.4; 11.6; 10.8; 9.6; 11.2; 11.9; 9.1; 10.4; 10.3; 11.6 cmolc/kg respectively. Using
the equations the following parameters for this set of data are obtained: Mean x = 10.7
cmolc/kg, and standard deviation s = 0.91. These are the initial parameters for a new control
chart (see Fig. 8-2) and are recorded in the second upper right box of this chart ("data
previous chart"). The Mean is drawn as a dashed (nearly) central line. The Warning and
Action Limits are calculated in the left lower box, and the corresponding lines drawn as
dashed and continuous lines respectively (the Action Line may be drawn in red). The vertical
scale is chosen such that the range x 3s is roughly 2.5 to 4 cm.
It may turn out, in retrospect, that one (or more) of the initial data lies beyond an initial Action
Limit. This result should not have been used for the initial calculations. The calculations then
have to be repeated without this result. Therefore, it is advisable to have a few more than ten
initial data.
The procedure for starting a control chart should be laid down in a SOP.
8.3.2.3 Using a Mean Chart
After calculating the mean and the standard deviation of the previous chart (or of the initial
data set) five lines are drawn on the next control chart: one for the Mean, two Warning Limits
and two Action Limits (see Fig. 8-2). Each time a result for the control sample is obtained in a
batch of test samples, this result is recorded on the control chart of the attribute concerned. No
rules are laid down for the size of a "batch" as this usually depends on the methods and
equipment used. Some laboratories use one control sample in every 20 test samples, others
use a minimum of 1 in 50.
Note. The level of the analyte in the control sample should as much as possible match the
level in the test samples. For this reason it is often necessary to have more than one control
sample available for an attribute. To cope with the (expected) variation of the concentration of
the analyte in the test samples the use of more than one control sample in a batch must be
considered. This would indeed increase the reliability of the obtained results but at a price: an
extra analysis is carried out and the chance of false rejection of a batch is increased also.

Quality control rules have been developed to detect excess bias and imprecision as well as
shift and drift in the analysis. These rules are used to determine whether or not results of a
batch are to be accepted.
Ideally, the quality control rules chosen should provide a high rate of error detection with a
low rate of false rejection. The rules for quality control are not uniform: they may vary from
laboratory to laboratory, and even within laboratories from analysis to analysis. The rules for
the interpretation of quality control charts are not uniform either. Very detailed rules are
sometimes applied, particularly when more than one control sample per batch is used.
However, it should be realized that stricter rules generally result in (s)lower output of data and
higher costs of analysis. The most convenient and commonly applied main rules are the
following:
Warning rule (if occurring, then data require farther inspection):
- One control result beyond Warning Limit.
Rejection rules (if occurring, then data are rejected):
- 1. One control result beyond Action Limit.
- 2. Two successive control results beyond same Warning Limit.
- 3. Ten successive control results are on the same side of the Mean. (Some laboratories apply
six results.)
- 4. Whenever results seem unlikely (plausibility check).
The Warning Rule is exceeded by mere chance in less than 5% of the cases. The chance that
the Rejection Rules are violated on purely statistical grounds can be calculated as follows:
Rule 1:

0.3 %

Rule 2:

0.5(0.05)2100% = 0.1%

Rule 3:

(0.5)10100% = 0.1%

Thus, only less than 0.5% of the results will be rejected by mere chance. (This increases to
2% if in Rule 3 'six results on the same side of the mean' is applied.)
If any of the four rejection rules is violated the following actions should be taken:
- Repeat the analysis, if the next point is satisfactory, continue the analysis. If not, then
- Investigate the cause of the exceeding.

- Do not use the results of the batch, run, day or period concerned until the cause is trailed.
Only use the results if rectification is justified (e.g. when a calculation error was made).
- If no rectification is possible, after elimination of the source of the error, repeat the analysis
of the batch(es) concerned. If this next point is satisfactory, the analysis can be continued.
Commonly, outliers are caused by simple errors such as calculation or dilution errors, use of
wrong standard solutions or dirty glassware. If there is evidence of such a cause, then this
outlier can be put on the chart but may not be used in calculating the statistical parameters of
the control chart. These events should be recorded on the chart in the box "Remarks". If the
parameters are calculated automatically, the outlier value is not entered.
Rejection Rule 3 may pose a particular problem. If after the 10th successive result on one side
of the mean it appears that a systematic error has entered the process, the acceptance of the
previous batches has to be reconsidered. If they cannot be corrected they may have to be
repeated (if this is still possible: samples may have deteriorated). Also, the customer(s) may
have to be informed. Most probably, however, problems of this type are discovered at an
earlier stage by other Quality Control tools such as excessive blank readings, the use of
independent standard solutions, instrument calibrations, etc. In addition, by consistent
inspection of the control chart three or four consecutive control results at the same side of the
mean will attract attention and a shift (see below) may already then be suspected.
Rejection Rule 4 is a special case. Unlike the other rules this is a subjective rule based on
personal judgement of the analyst and the officer charged with the final screening of the
results before release to the customer. Both general and specific knowledge about a sample
and the attribute(s) may ring a bell when certain test results are thought to be unexpectedly or
impossibly high or low. Also, results may be contradictive, sometimes only noticed by a
complaining client. Obviously, much of the success of the application of this rule depends on
the available expertise.
Note. A very useful aspect of Quality Control of Data falling under Rejection Rule 4 is the
cross-checking of analytical results obtained for one sample (or, sometimes, for a sequence or
a group of samples belonging together, e.g. a soil profile or parts of one plant). Certain
combinations of data can be considered impossible or highly suspect. For instance, a pH value
of 8 and a carbonate content of zero is a highly unlikely combination in soils and should
arouse enough suspicion for closer examination and possibly for rejection of either or both
results. A number of such contradictions or improbabilities can be built into computer
programs and used in automatic cross-checking routines after results are entered into a
database. Ideally, these cross-checks are built into a LIMS (Laboratory Information
Management System) used by the laboratory. While all LIMSes have options to set ranges
within which results of attributes are acceptable, cross-checks of attributes is not a common
feature. An example of a LIMS with cross-checks for soil attributes is SOILIMS.
Most models of control charts accommodate 30 entries. When a chart is fall a new chart must
be started. On the new chart the parameters of the just completed old chart need to be filled in.
This is shown on Fig. 8-2. Calculate the "Data this chart" of the old chart and fill these in on
the old chart. Perform the two-sided F-test and t-test (see right, to check if the completed
chart agrees with the previous data. If this is the case, calculate "Data all charts" by adding the
"Data this chart" to the "Data previous charts". These newly calculated "Data all charts" of the

completed old chart are the "Data previous charts" of the new chart. Using these data, the new
chart can now be initiated by drawing the new control lines as described in 8.3.2.2.
Shift
In the rare case that the F-test and/or the t-test will not allow the data of a completed control
chart to be incorporated in the set of previous data, there is a problem. This has to be resolved
before the analysis of the attribute in question can be continued. As indicated above, such a
change or shift may have various causes, e.g. introduction of new equipment, instability of the
control sample, use of a wrong standard, wrong execution of the method by a substitute
analyst. Also, when there is a considerable time interval between batches such a shift may
occur (mind the expiry date of reagents!). However, when the control chart is inspected in a
proper and consistent manner, usually such errors are discovered before they are revealed by
the F and t-test.
Drift
A less conspicuous and therefore perhaps greater danger than incidental errors or shifts is a
gradual change in accuracy or precision of the results. An upward or downward trend or drift
of the mean or a gradual increase in the standard deviation may be too small to be revealed by
the F or t-test but may be substantial over time. Such a drift could be discovered if a control
chart were much longer, say some hundreds of observations. A way to imitate this extension
of the horizontal scale is to make a "master" control chart with the values of x and s of the
normal control charts. Such a compressed control chart could be referred to as "Control Chart
of the Trend" and is particularly suitable for a visual inspection of the trend. An upward trend
can be suspected in Figure 8-2. Indeed, the mean of the first fifteen entries is 10.59 vs. 10.97
cmolc/kg for the last fifteen entries, implying a relative increase of about 3.5%. This indicates
that the further trend has to be watched closely.
The main cause of drift is often instability of the control sample, but other causes such as
deterioration of reagents and equipment must taken into account. Whatever the cause, when
discovered, it should be traced and rectified. And here too, if necessary, already released
results may have to be corrected.
New Control Sample
When a control sample is about to run out, or must be replaced because of instability, or for
any other reason, a new control sample must be timely prepared so that it can be run
concurrently with the old control sample for some time. This allows to make a smooth start
without interrupting the analytical programme. As indicated previously, the more initial data
are obtained the better (with a minimum of 10) but ideally a complete control chart should be
made.

8.3.3 Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates (Range Chart)

8.3.3.1 Principle
8.3.3.2 Range chart of Control Sample

8.3.3.3 Starting the first chart


8.3.3.4 R-chart of Test Samples

Between-batch precision (within-laboratory reproducibility, see 7.5.2.3) can be inspected


visually on the Control Chart of the Mean; a "noisy" graph with frequent and large
fluctuations indicates a lower precision than a smooth graph.
Information about the within-batch precision (repeatability, see 7.5.2.2) can only be obtained
by running duplicate analyses in the same batch. For this purpose both test samples and
control samples can be used but the latter are somewhat more convenient. The obtained data
are plotted on a Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates (also called Range Chart or Rchart).
8.3.3.1 Principle
In each batch of test samples at least one sample is analyzed in duplicate and the difference
between the results is plotted on the control chart of the attribute concerned. The basic
construction of such a Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates is given in Figure 8-3. It
shows similarities with the Control Chart of the Mean in that now a mean of differences is
calculated with corresponding standard deviation. The warning line and control line can be
drawn at Is and 3s distance from the mean of differences. The graph is single-sided as the
lowest observable value of the difference is zero.
Fig. 8-3. Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates. R = mean of the range of duplicates.
WL = Warning Limit. CL = Control Limit (or Action Limit).

8.3.3.2 Range chart of Control Sample


The simplest way of controlling precision is by running duplicates of a control sample in each
batch. The advantage is that this can be directly connected to the use of single values as

applied for the Control Chart of the Mean by simply simultaneously running two subsamples
of the same control sample. A disadvantage is that precision is measured at one concentration
level only (unless more than one control samples are used). The duplicates should be placed at
random positions in the batch, not adjacent to each other. The necessary statistical parameters
for the Range Chart, R and sR, can be determined as follows:
(8.5)

where
R = mean difference between duplicates
Ri = sum of (absolute) differences between duplicates
m == number of pairs of duplicates
and
(8.6)

where
sR = standard deviation of the range of all pairs of duplicates.
Fig. 8-4. A filled-out control chart of the range of duplicates of a control sample.
Note 1. Equation (8.6) is equivalent to Equation (7.21). This standard deviation is somewhat
different from the common standard deviation of a set of data (Eq. 6.2) and results from
pooling the standard deviation of each pair: namely, the duplicates of the pairs have the same
population standard deviation.
Note 2. If it is decided to routinely run the control sample in duplicate in each batch as
described here, a different situation arises with respect to the Mean Chart since now two
values for the control sample are obtained instead of one. These values are of equal weight
and, therefore, their mean must be used as an entry. It is important to note that the parameters
of the thus obtained Mean Chart, particularly the standard deviation, are not the same as those
obtained using single values. Hence, these two types should not be mixed up and not be
compared by means of the F-test!.
8.3.3.3 Starting the first chart
Initiating a Control Chart of the Range of Duplicates is identical to initiating a Control Chart
of the Mean as discussed in Section 8.3.2.2. Also the model of the chart is virtually identical
with only x replaced by R. The parameters R and sR are determined for at least 10 initial

pairs of duplicates as given in Table 8-2 as an example. A control chart with these initial
parameters is given in Fig. 8-4.
The interpretation rules of the Range Chart are very similar to those of the Mean Chart:
Warning rule:
- One control observation beyond Warning Limit
Rejection rules:
- One control observation beyond Control (or Action) Limit
- Two successive control observations beyond Warning Limit
- Ten successive control observations beyond R. (Some apply six.)
The response to violation of the rejection rules is also similar: repeat the analysis and
investigate the problem if the repeat is not satisfactory.
The procedure to initiate a new chart when the present one is full is identical to that described
for the Control Chart of the Mean.
Example
Table 8-2. CEC values (in cmolc/kg) of a control sample determined in duplicate to calculate
initial values of R and sR of the control chart of duplicates.
1

10.1

9.7

0.4

10.7

10.2

0.5

10.5

11.1

0.6

9.8

10.3

0.5

9.0

10.1

1.1

11.0

10.6

0.5

11.5

10.7

0.8

10.9

9.5

1.4

8.9

9.4

0.5

10.0

9.6

0.4

Mean:

10.24

10.13

R:

0.66

s:

0.85

0.74

sR:

0.52

8.3.3.4 R-chart of Test Samples


A limitation of the use of duplicates of a control sample to verify precision is that this may not
fully reflect the precision of the analysis of test samples as these may appreciably deviate
from the control sample both in matrix and in concentration or capacity of the attribute
concerned. The most convenient way to meet this problem is to use more than one control
sample with different concentrations of the attribute, each with their own control chart as
described above. Another way is to use test samples instead of control samples. However, also
in this case duplicates may be chosen at non-representative analyte levels unless the level per
batch is rather uniform. Alternatively, all samples are run in duplicate but this is not
commonly done in routine analysis and is usually only affordable in special research cases.
When test sample duplicates are preferred two situations can be distinguished:
1. Analyses with a (near-)constant relative standard deviation;
2. Analyses with a non-constant relative standard deviation.
Although commonly occurring, the second case is rather complicated for routine work and
will therefore not be treated here.
Constant Relative Standard Deviation
If a constant relative standard deviation (CV or RSD) can be assumed, which may often be the
case over certain limited working ranges of concentration, one (or more) test sample(s) in a
batch can be analyzed in duplicate instead of a control sample. A constant RSD would result in
a control chart as schematically given in Figure 8-5 which is very similar to Fig. 8-3. Because
the standard deviation is assumed proportional to the analytical result this applies to the

difference between duplicates as well. Therefore, the vertical scale must be the normalized,
i.e. the (absolute) value found for R of each pair of duplicates has to be divided by the mean
of the two duplicates (and multiplied by 100% if a % scale is used rather than a fraction
scale). The interpretation rules and calculations of parameters when a chart is full are again
identical to those discussed above for the Control Chart of the Mean.
Fig. 8-5. Control Chart of the Normalized Range of Duplicates. CV = coeff. of variation;
other symbols as in Fig. 8-3.

8.3.4 Automatic preparation of control charts


Obviously, in large laboratories with hundreds of analyses per day, much (if not all) of the
above discussed control work is usually done automatically by computer. This can be
programmed by the laboratory personnel but commercial programs are available which are
usually connected to or incorporated in the LIMS (Laboratory Information Management
System, see 8.7). For small and medium-sized laboratories (and also for large laboratories
starting with control work of new tests or analyses), the manual use of charts, where possible
with computerized calculations, is recommended.

8.4 Preparation of a Control Sample


8.4.1 Collection and treatment of soil material
8.4.2 Collection and treatment of plant material
8.4.3 Stability
8.4.4 Homogeneity

In the previous sections reference was frequently made to the "Control Sample". It was
defined as:
"An in-house reference sample for which one or more property values have been established
by the user laboratory, possibly in collaboration with other laboratories."
This is the material a laboratory needs to prepare for second-line (internal) control in each
batch and the obtained results of which are plotted on Control Charts. The sample should be
sufficiently stable and homogeneous for the properties concerned.
From the foregoing it must have become clear that the control sample has a crucial function in
quality control activities. For most analyses a control sample is indispensable. In principle, its
place can be taken by a (certified) reference sample, but these are expensive and for many soil
and plant analyses not even available. Therefore, laboratories have to prepare control samples
themselves or obtain them from other laboratories.
Because the quality control systems rely so heavily on these control samples their preparation
should be done with great care so that the samples meet a number of criteria. The main criteria
are:
1. The sample is homogeneous
2. The material is stable
3. The material has the correct particle size (i.e. passed a prescribed sieve)
4. The relevant information on properties and composition of the matrix, and the
concentration of the analyte or attribute concerned is available.
The preparation of a control sample is usually fairly easy and straightforward. As an example
it will be described here for a "normal" soil sample (so-called "fine earth") and for a ground
plant sample.

8.4.1 Collection and treatment of soil material


Select a location for the collection of suitable and sufficient material. The amount of material
to be collected depends on the turn-over of the sample material, the expected stability and the
amount that can be handled during preparation. Thus, amounts may range from a few kilos to
a hundred kilo or more.
The material is collected in plastic bags and spread out on plastic foil or in large plastic trays
in the institute for air-drying (do not expose to direct sunlight; forced drying up to 40C is
permitted). Remove large plant residues. After drying, pass the sample through a 2 mm sieve.
Clods, not passing through the sieve are carefully crushed (not ground!) by a pestle and
mortar or in a mechanical breaker. Gravel, rock fragments etc. not passing through the sieve
are removed and discarded. The material passing through the sieve is collected in a bin or
vessel for mechanical homogenization. If the whole sample has to be ground to a finer particle
size this can be done at this stage. If only a part has to be ground finer, this should be done
after homogenization. Homogenization may be done with a shovel or any other instrument
suitable for this purpose. Some laboratories use a concrete mixer. Mixing should be intensive

and complete. After that, the bulk sample is divided into subsamples of 0.5 to 1 kg to be used
in the laboratory. For this, riffle samplers and sample splitters may be used.
The subsamples can be kept in glass or plastic containers. The latter have the advantage that
they are unbreakable. Both have the disadvantage is that fine particles may be electrostatically
attracted to the container walls thus causing segregation. The rule about labelling is that it
should preferably be done on both the container and the lid. If only one label is used this
should always be stuck on the container and not on the lid!
Note. In a note the suggestion is made to have a useful control sample prepared by an
interlaboratory sample exchange organization.

8.4.2 Collection and treatment of plant material


Select plant material with the desired or expected composition. Realize that the composition
of different parts of a plant (leaf, stem, flower, fruit) may differ considerably and that, in
general, the control sample should match the test samples as much as possible.
If the fresh material is contaminated (e.g. by soil, salts, dust) it needs to be washed with tap
water or dilute (0.1 M) hydrochloric acid followed by deionized water. For test samples, to
minimize the change of concentration of components, this washing should be done in a
minimum of time, say within half a minute. For the preparation of a control sample this is less
critical.
The sample is dried at 70C in a ventilated drying oven for 24 hours. The sample is then cut
and ground to pass a 1 mm sieve. Storage can be done as described for soil samples.
Note. During the pretreatment (drying, milling, sieving) both soil and plant material may be
contaminated by the tools used. In this way the concentration of certain elements (Cu, Fe, Al,
etc., see 9.4) may be increased. Like the washing procedure, this problem is less critical for
control samples than for test samples (unless the contamination is present as large particles).

8.4.3 Stability
No general statement can be given about the stability of the material. Although dried soil and
plant material can be kept for a very long time or even, in practice, indefinitely under
favourable conditions, it must be realized that some natural attributes may still (slowly)
change, that samples for certain analyses may not be dried and that certainly many "foreign"
components such as petroleum products, pesticides or other pollutants change with time or
disappear at varying unknown rates. Each sample and attribute has to be judged on this aspect
individually. Control charts may give useful information about possible changes during
storage (trends, shifts).

8.4.4 Homogeneity
For quality control it is essential that a control sample is homogeneous so that subsamples
used in the batches are "identical". In practice this is impossible (except for solutions), and the
requirement can be reduced to the condition that the (sub)samples statistically belong to the
same population. This implies a test for homogeneity to prove that the daily-use sample
containers (the laboratory control samples) into which the bulk sample was split up represent

one and the same sample. This can be done in various ways. A relatively simple procedure is
described here.
Check for homogeneity by duplicate analysis
For the check for homogeneity the statistical principles of the two control charts discussed in
Section 8.3, i.e. for the Mean and for the Range of Duplicates, are used. The laboratory
control samples, prepared by splitting the bulk sample, are analyzed in duplicate in one batch.
The analysis used is arbitrary. Usually a rapid, easy and/or cheap analysis suffices. Suitable
analyses for soil material are, for example, carbon content, total nitrogen, and loss-onignition. For plant samples total nitrogen, phosphorus, or a metal (e.g. Zn) can be used.
The organization of the test is schematically given in Fig. 8-6. As stated before, statistically
this test only makes sense when a sufficient number of sample containers are involved (n 7).
Do not use too small samples for the analysis as this will adversely affect the
representativeness resulting in an unnecessary high standard deviation.
Note. A sample may prove to be homogeneous for one attribute but not for another. Therefore,
fundamentally, homogeneity of control samples should be tested with an analysis for each
attribute for which the control sample is used. This is done for certified reference samples but
is often considered too cumbersome for laboratory control samples. On the other hand, such
an effort would have the additional advantage that useful information about the procedure and
laboratory performance is obtained (repeatability). Also, such values can be used as initial
values of control charts.
Check on the Mean (sample bias)
This is a check to establish if all samples belong to the same population. The means of the
duplicates are calculated and treated as single values (xi) for the samples 1 to n. Then, using
Equations (6.1) and (6.2), calculate x and s of the data set consisting of the means of
duplicates (include all data, i.e. do not exclude outliers).
Fig. 8-6. Scheme for the preparation and homogeneity test of control samples.

The rules for interpretation may vary from one laboratory to another and from one attribute to
another. In general, values beyond 2s from the mean are considered outliers and rejected.
The sample container concerned may be discarded or analyzed again after which the result
may well fall within x 2s and be accepted or, otherwise, the subsample may now definitely
be discarded.
Check on the Range (sample homogeneity)
This is a check to establish if all samples are homogeneous. The differences R between
duplicates of each pair are calculated (include all data, i.e. do not exclude outliers). Then
calculate R and sR of the data set using Equations (8.5) and (8.6) respectively. The
interpretation is identical to that for the Check on the Mean as given in the previous
paragraph.
Thus, a laboratory control sample container may have to be discarded on two grounds:
1. because it does not sufficiently represent the level of the attribute in the control sample and
2. because it is internally too heterogeneous.
The preparation of a control sample including a test for homogeneity should be laid down in a
SOP.
Example
In Table 8-3 an example is given of a check for homogeneity of a soil control sample of 5 kg
which was split into ten equal laboratory control samples of which the loss-on-ignition was
determined in duplicate.

The loss-on-ignition can be determined as follows:


1. Weigh approx. 5 g sample into a tared 30 mL porcelain crucible and dry overnight at
105C.
2. Transfer crucible to desiccator to cool; then weigh crucible (accuracy 0.001 g).
3. Place crucibles in furnace and heat at 900C for 4 hours.
4. Allow furnace to cool to about 100C, transfer crucible to desiccator to cool, then weigh
crucible with residue (accuracy 0.001 g).
Now, the weight loss between 110 and 900C can be calculated and expressed in mass % or in
g/kg (weight basis: material dried at 105 C).
Table 8-3. Results (in mass/mass %) of duplicate Loss-on-Ignition determinations (A and B)
on representative subsamples of ten 500 g laboratory samples of a soil control sample.
Sample

MeanAB

9.10

8.42

8.760

0.68

9.65

8.66

9.155

0.99

9.63

9.18

9.405

0.45

8.65

8.89

8.770

0.24

8.71

9.19

8.950

0.48

9.14

8.93

9.040

0.22

8.71

8.97

8.840

0.26

8.59

8.78

8.685

0.19

8.86

9.12

8.990

0.26

10

9.04

8.75

8.895

Mean:

8.949

0406

s:

0.214*

SR: 0.334**

0.29

(* using Eq. 6.2; ** using Eq. 8.6)


Tolerance range for mean of duplicates (x 2s):
8.949 2 0.214 = 8.52-9.38%
Tolerance range for difference R between duplicates:

In this example it appears that only the mean result of sample no. 3 (= 9.405%) falls outside
the permissible range. However, since this is only marginally so (less than 0.3% relative) we
may still decide to accept the sample without repeating the analysis.
The measure R for internal homogeneity falls for all samples within the permissible range.
(Should an R be found beyond the range we may opt for repeating the duplicate analysis
before deciding to discard that sample.)

8.5 Complaints
Errors that escaped detection by the laboratory may be detected or suspected by the customer.
Although this particular type of quality control may not be popular, it should in no case be
ignored and can sometimes even be useful. For the dealing with complaints a protocol must
be made with an accompanying Registration Form with at least the following items:
- name client, and date the complaint was received
- work order number
- description of complaint
- name of person who received the complaint (usually the head of laboratory)
- person charged with investigation
- result of investigation
- name of person(s) who dealt with the complaint
- an evaluation and possible action
- date when report was sent to client
A record of complaints should be kept, the documents involved may be kept in the work order
file. The trailing of events (audit trailing) may sometimes not be easy and particularly in such
cases the proper registration of all laboratory procedures involved will show to be of great
value.

Note. Registration of procedures formally also applies to work that has been put out to
contract to other laboratories. When work is put out, the quality standards of the subcontractor
should be (demonstrably) satisfactory since the final responsibility towards the client lies with
the laboratory that put out the work. If the credibility needs to be verified this is usually done
by inserting duplicate and blind samples.

8.6 Trouble-shooting
Whenever the quality control detects an error, corrective measures must be taken. As
mentioned earlier, the error may be readily recognized as a simple calculation or typing error
(decimal point!) which can easily be corrected. If this is not the case, then a systematic
investigation must take place. This includes the checking of sample identification, standards,
chemicals, pipettes, dispensers, glassware, calibration procedure, and equipment. Standards
may be old or wrongly prepared, adjustable pipettes may indicate a wrong volume, glassware
may not be cleaned properly, equipment may be dirty (e.g. clogged burner in AAS), or faulty.
Particularly electrodes can be a source of error: they may be dirty and their life-time must be
observed closely. A pH-electrode may seemingly respond well to calibration buffer solutions
but still be faulty.
Clearly, every analytical procedure and instrument has its own characteristic weakness, by
experience these become known and it is useful to make a list of such relevant check points
for each procedure and adhere this to the corresponding SOP or maintenance logbook if it
concerns an instrument. Update this list when a new flaw is discovered.
Trouble-shooting is further discussed in Section 9.4.

8.7 LIMS
8.7.1 Introduction
8.7.2 What is a LIMS?
8.7.3 How to select a LIMS

8.7.1 Introduction
The various activities in a laboratory produce a large number of data streams which have to be
recorded and processed. Some of the main streams are:
- Sample registration
- Desired analytical programme
- Work planning and progress monitoring
- Calibration
- Raw data
- Data processing
- Data quality control
- Reporting

- Invoicing
- Archiving
Each of these aspects requires its own typical paperwork most of which is done with the help
of computers. As discussed in previous chapters, it is the responsibility of the laboratory
manager to keep track of all aspects and tie them up for proper functioning of the laboratory
as a whole. To assist him in this task, the manager will have to develop a working system of
records and journals. In laboratories of any appreciable size, but even with more than two
analysts, this can be a tedious and error-sensitive job. Consequently, from about 1980,
computer programs appeared on the market that could take over much of this work.
Subsequently, the capability of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) has
been further developed and their price has increased likewise.
The main benefit of a LIMS is a drastic reduction of the paperwork and improved data
recording, leading to higher efficiency and increased quality of reported analytical results.
Thus, a LIMS can be a very important tool in Quality Management.

8.7.2 What is a LIMS?


The essential element of a LIMS is a relational database in which laboratory data are logically
organized for rapid storage and retrieval. In principle, a LIMS plans, guides and records the
passage of a sample through the laboratory, from its registration, through the programme of
analyses, the validation of data (acceptance or rejection), before the presentation and/or filing
of the analytical results.
Hardware
Originally, LIMSes were installed on mainframe and minicomputers in combination with
terminals. However, with the advent of stronger PCs, programs were developed that could run
on a single PC (single-user system) or on several PCs with a central one acting as server
(network, multi-user system). The more expensive systems allow advanced automation of a
laboratory by direct coupling of analytical instruments to the system. Printers are essential
parts of the system for label and bar code printing as well as for graphs and reports.
Software
The LIMS software consists of two elements: the routines for the functional parts, and the
database. For the latter usually a standard database program is used (e.g. dBase, Oracle,)
which can also be done for certain functional parts such as production of graphs and report
generation.
The database is subdivided into a static and a dynamic part. The static part comprises the
elements that change only little with time such as the definition of analytical methods,
whereas the dynamic part relate to clients, samples, planning, and results.
Function features
- A number of common main features of a LIMS are the following:

- Registration of samples and assigned jobs with unique numbers and automatic label
production.
- Production of work lists for daily and long-term planning.
- Allows rapid insight in status of work (pending jobs, back-log).
- Informs about laboratory productivity (per analysis, whole laboratory).
- Production of control charts and signalling of violation of control rules (results beyond
Action Limit, etc.).
- Flagging results beyond preset specifications.
- Generates reports and invoices.
- Archiving facility.
- Allows audit trailing (search for data, errors, etc.).
Data collection and subsequent calculations are usually done "outside" the LIMS. Either with
a pocket calculator but more commonly on a PC with a standard type spreadsheet program
(such as Lotus 123) or with one supplied with the analytical instrument. The data are then
transferred manually or, preferably, by wire or diskette to the LIMS. The larger LIM systems
usually have an internal module for this processing.
A major problem with the application of a LIMS is the installation and the involved
customizing to the specific needs of a laboratory. One of the first asked questions (after asking
for the price) is: 'can I directly connect my equipment to the LIMS?'. Invariably the answer of
the vendor is positive but the problems involved are usually concealed or unjustly trivialized.
It is not uncommon that installations take more than a year before the systems are operational
(not to speak of complete failures), and sometimes the performance falls short of the
expectations because the operational complexity was underestimated.
Mentioning these problems is certainly not meant to discourage the purchase of a LIMS. On
the contrary, the use of a LIMS in general can be very rewarding. It is rather intended as a
warning that the choice for a system must be very carefully considered.

8.7.3 How to select a LIMS


When it is considered that a computerized system might improve the management of the
laboratory information data flow, a plan for its procurement must be made. The most
important activities prior to the introduction of a
LIMS are the following:
- Set up LIMS project team. Include a senior laboratory technician, the future system manager
and someone from the computer department.
- Review present procedures and workload.

- Consider if a LIMS can be useful.


Define what the system must do and may cost (make cost/benefit assessment). The
cost/benefit assessment is not always straightforward as certain benefits are difficult to assess
or to express in money (e.g. improved data quality; changing work attitude). Also, a LIMS
may be needed as a training facility for students.
When a decision is made that a LIMS project is viable, the team must define the requirements
and consider the two ways to acquire a LIMS: either by in-house building a system or by
purchasing one.
Many in-house systems are not premeditated but result from a gradual build-up of small
programs written for specific laboratory tasks such as the preparation of work lists or data
reports. The advantage is that these programs are fully customized. The disadvantage is that,
lacking an initial master plan, they are often not coupled or integrated into an overall system
which then takes extra effort. Yet, many laboratories employ such "systems". If a system has
to be built from scratch then the general rule is that if a suitable commercial package can be
found, it is not economical to build a system as it is both a complicated and time-consuming
process.
The purchase of a commercial LIMS should be a well structured exercise, particularly if a
large and expensive system is considered. Depending on the capabilities, prices for
commercial systems range from roughly USD 25,000 to 100,000 or even higher. The next
steps to be taken are:
- Identify LIMS vendors.
- Compare requirements with available systems.
- Identify suitable systems and make shortlist of vendors.
- Ask vendors for demonstration and discuss requirements, possible customization,
installation problems, training, and after-sales support.
- If possible, contact user(s) of candidate-systems.
After comparing the systems on the shortlist the choice can be made. By way of precaution, it
may be wise to start with a "pilot" LIMS, a relatively cheap single-user system in part of the
laboratory in order to gain experience and make a more considered decision for a larger
system later.
It is essential that all laboratory staff are involved and informed right from the start as a LIMS
may be considered meddlesome ('big brother is watching me') possibly arousing a negative
attitude. Like Quality Management, the success of a LIMS depends to a large extent on the
acceptance by the technical staff.
Remark: Useful information can be obtained from discussions by an active LIMS working
group of several hundreds of members on Internet. To subscribe to the (free) mailing list send
an E-mail message to: listproc@govonca2.gov.on.ca stating after Subject: subscribe
lims ............ (fill in your name).

Another site one may try is: http://www.limsource.com.


SOILIMS
An example of a low-budget and simple stand-alone LIMS specially built for small to
medium-sized soil, plant and water laboratories is SOILIMS. It is a user-friendly system
which is easily installed and learned (the manual contains a Tutor) and can be used
immediately after installation. Although the system has about 100 analyses in the standard
configuration, it can be farther customized (and re-customized later) by the supplier. A unique
feature is that more than a dozen different cross-checks can automatically be performed in
order to screen soil data for internal inconsistencies: when "anomalities" occur, the data
concerned are flagged for closer inspection before they are released (anomalities do not
necessarily imply errors in all cases). An attractive feature is its price which is comparable to
that of a bench-top pH meter. The main features are the following while the system's main
menu is given below*.
- Unambiguous registration by automatic assignment of unique work order and laboratory
sample numbers.
- Possibility of priority assignments by deadline definition.
- Flexibility to alter work order requests and deadlines.
- Time-saving routine for sample label production.
- Protection of data against non-authorized users.
- Backlog reporting.
- Detailed information regarding the status of pending work orders.
- Production of work lists provides the manager with complete and accurate information for
fast decision making.
- Allows for many control samples.
- Manual or automatic data input (direct ASCII file reading).
- Second-line control by automatic verification of control sample results in Control Charts,
- Unique capabilities for cross-checking data ("artificial intelligence").
- Increased efficiency by easy production of reports and invoices.
- Data export facilities to LOTUS 123 or text editors.
- Easy-to-use automatic archival procedures.

- Audit trail capabilities for specified samples, clients, work orders, or laboratory personnel.
- Stand-alone and single-user network version.
- Option for plant and water analysis included.
- Millennium proof.
*

For more information contact: ISRIC, P.O. Box 353, 6700 AJ Wageningen, the Netherlands.
E-mail: laboratory@isric.nl
Minimum required hardware: IBM PC (or compatible) 386 SX with 4Mb RAM.
Figure

SOPs
Model: Mean Chart
Model: Range Chart
Model: Combined Mean Chart and Range Chart

Model: Mean Chart


Model: Mean Chart

Model: Range Chart


Model: Range Chart

Model: Combined Mean Chart and Range Chart


Model: Combined Mean Chart and Range Chart

9 EXTERNAL QUALITY CONTROL OF


DATA

by L.P. van Reeuwijk and V.J.G. Houba*


* Part of the information in this chapter was drawn from: V.J.G. Houba and J.J. van der Lee
(1995) and Houba et al. (1996).
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Check-analyses by another laboratory
9.3 Interlaboratory sample and data exchange programmes
9.4 Trouble-shooting
9.5 Organization of interlaboratory test programmes
9.6 Quality audit

9.1 Introduction
The quality control of data discussed in the preceding chapter is restricted to internal control.
The processes should be monitored closely to see if any unacceptable deviations occur with
respect to the situation in the previous period(s) where everything was considered to be under
control. However, this is often only relative to own data and may lead to serious bias of the
analytical results.
There are several ways to avoid or to discover systematic errors:
1. Use of spikes or pure analytes, e.g. calcium carbonate, gypsum, solutions of pure chemicals
(see 7.5.6).
2. Use of independent standards or standard solutions (see 7.2.4).
3. Analyzing (certified) reference samples (see 7.5.1).
4. Exchange of samples with another laboratory or having some own samples analyzed by
another laboratory.
5. Participation in interlaboratory sample exchange programmes (round robin tests).
The first three items have been discussed in Chapter 7, and in the ensuing paragraphs
attention will be focused on the latter two means of quality control.

9.2 Check-analyses by another laboratory


9.2.1 Single value - single value check
9.2.2 Replicate data - single value check
9.2.3 Replicate data - replicate data check

If an error in a procedure is suspected and the uncertainty cannot readily be solved, it is not
uncommon to have one or more samples analyzed by another laboratory for comparison. This
is usually a related laboratory in the neighbourhood ("neighbourly help") or one belonging to
the same umbrella organization as the laboratory itself. Sometimes, reputable laboratories
elsewhere need to be consulted.
An inherent disadvantage of this procedure is that the results of the other laboratory may
themselves be biased. To eliminate this, the check may have to be extended to more
laboratories and has then, in fact, become a comparative interlaboratory study (see 9.3).
Three types of data comparison may be distinguished:
1. A single value of a laboratory is compared with a single value of another laboratory.
2. Replicate values of a laboratory are compared with a single value of another.
3. Replicate values of a laboratory are compared with replicate values of another.

9.2.1 Single value - single value check


If the test entails a simple comparison of two single values then the bias can easily be
calculated with Equation (7.15) or (7.16). However, it should be realized that each single
value carries a confidence range of 2s (s = standard deviation of the method; see 6.3.4) so
that there is a considerable chance of a false conclusion both in a positive and a negative way.
Thus, although such a test may be informative in some cases, it can hardly be qualified as
GLP.

9.2.2 Replicate data - single value check


This is a situation where replicate results are compared with a single value from another
laboratory or with a target value not accompanied by a (meaningful) standard deviation, e.g. a
median value from different labs with different methods ("consensus value") derived from a
proficiency test. For the test for significance, the two-sided t-test can be used as expressed in
Equation (6.12):
(6.12; 9.1)

where
x = mean of own results of a sample
= target value
s = standard deviation of own results
n = number of own results
Example:

We use a variant of the example previously given to calculate bias with Eq. (7.16).
The target value of the Cu content of a sample is 34.0 mg/kg (the standard deviation of is
unknown here, otherwise 9.2.3.1 below is applicable). The results from 15 replicates with the
laboratory's own method are: x= 31.6 mg/kg, and s = 5.6. Using Equation (6.12) we
calculate t = 1.66 which is less than the critical t-value (2.14, two-sided, df = 14; see App. 1)
so we accept the null hypothesis and conclude that no significant difference is found between
the target value and the results obtained by the laboratory (at the 95% significance level and
with the number of replicates used).

9.2.3 Replicate data - replicate data check

9.2.3.1 Comparison of replicate results on one sample


9.2.3.2 Comparison of replicate results on multiple samples

Statistically, the most reliable comparison for bias is made between data resulting from
replicate determinations. Now, two different kinds of check can be distinguished:
1. Comparison of replicate results on one sample.
2. Comparison of replicate results on multiple samples.
9.2.3.1 Comparison of replicate results on one sample
The message from the previous sections is clearly that if another laboratory is asked to
perform a bias check, one should preferably ask for at least a duplicate determination. More
replicates would further increase the confidence but to a decreasing extent (see 6.3.4). The test
for significance of the bias is again a two-sided t-test as discussed with examples in Section
6.4.3.
9.2.3.2 Comparison of replicate results on multiple samples
This kind of data comparison cannot be considered a "quick check" as considerable work in
both laboratories is involved. If the check is limited to a determination on two or three
samples, for comparison the two-sided t-test can be used for each sample individually (as
above in 9.2.3.1). If more than three samples are involved, the paired t-test can be considered
(for examples see 6.4.3.4) and for more than six samples linear regression is indicated (for
example see 6.4.4.2).
If, less commonly, precision of an analysis needs to be checked with another laboratory, at
least seven replicates by both laboratories are recommended to allow for a reliable F-test (see
6.4.2).

9.3 Interlaboratory sample and data exchange


programmes

9.3.1 Types of interlaboratory programmes


9.3.2 Proficiency testing
9.3.3 Examples: ISE and IPE

A laboratory which claims that it produces quality data should participate in at least one
interlaboratory exchange programme. Accredited laboratories have to provide evidence that
they are successfully participating in such a scheme of good national or international repute
(these schemes themselves may be accredited).

9.3.1 Types of interlaboratory programmes


Various types of programmes are in operation among laboratories locally, regionally,
nationally and internationally, as well as within umbrella organizations. Before joining a
scheme the purpose of participation must be clear in order to make a sound choice. The
following operational types can be distinguished:
1. Method-performance studies
1.1 Collaborative study: establishing the performance characteristics of an analytical method.
1.2 Comparative study: comparing analytical methods by comparing the results they yield.
2. Laboratory-performance studies
2.1 Proficiency test (one method): comparing the performance of laboratories on the basis of
the same analytical method.
2.2 Proficiency test (different methods): comparing the performance of laboratories by
comparing the results of their own methods.
3. Material-certification studies
3.1 Certification study: establishing benchmark values for components or properties of a
material.
3.2 Consensus study: establishing characteristic values for components or properties of a
material, for quality control.
The most common type in which laboratories participate for quality control is Type 2.2, the
proficiency test where laboratories receive samples to be analyzed according to their normal
procedures. Type 2.1 can run concurrently with Type 2.2 if sufficient participants employ the
same analytical method. The same applies to Type 3.2 where a sample after having been
analyzed by a large number of laboratories may be used as a "reference" sample. This is
valuable material particularly for attributes for which no certified reference material (CRM)
exists.
Note: This aspect may offer an attractive opportunity for laboratories to obtain a useful
control sample: Arrange with the organizers of a round robin test programme to have a

laboratory's own bulk sample used in a proficiency test. Part of the sample is used and the
remainder is returned. This opportunity is offered by the WEPAL programmes (see 9.3.3).
Most other study types are usually executed by invitation: the organizing body select a
number of laboratories to participate in a study, the results of which are made available to the
whole laboratory community. For instance. Type 1.1 is aimed at validation of a method and
may form the basis of an official national or international standard procedure. Type 3.1 is
aimed at the preparation of CRMs.

9.3.2 Proficiency testing


Participation in interlaboratory exchange programmes allows an evaluation of the analytical
performance of a laboratory by comparison with the results of other laboratories. Both
accuracy and precision can be tested with statistical parameters such as means, standard
deviations, repeatability and reproducibility emanating from the collected data. In addition,
these schemes can be a useful source of reference samples which can be put to good use
internally by participating laboratories.
The usual procedure is that subsamples of a large sample are sent to participating laboratories
at regular intervals. Often, subsamples of certain large samples are sent repeatedly without the
participants knowing this.
Depending on the material to be analyzed, the laboratories can follow their own analytical
procedures (Type 3.2) or can perform the analyses according to a detailed
extraction/destruction and measuring technique (Type 3.1). For example, to determine the
inorganic chemical composition of dried, ground crop material, one is interested in total
contents of components. In that case the laboratory results should tally, regardless of the
preprocessing and/or measuring techniques. If that is not the case, the analytical procedures
are incorrect. By contrast, determining total contents is rarely important when analyzing the
inorganic chemical composition of soils and sediments, except for geological studies. For
environmental and agronomic research one is much more interested in certain fractions of
these total contents. For most elements, for example, aqua regia digestion yields only a part of
the total contents. The magnitude of this part depends on the nature of the samples and on the
form in which the elements occur (adsorbed, occluded, in minerals, etc.). In addition, there is
a large choice of extractants which range from strong acids to unbuffered weak electrolyte
solutions or just water. Accordingly, one can find very divergent values for the content of an
element in the soil or sediment, depending on the extraction potential of the solution used.
The conditions for digestion and extraction procedures must therefore always be stipulated in
detail in a SOP.
When subsamples have been analyzed by participants for one or more attributes the results are
sent to the scheme's bureau. Here the data are processed and reports of each round are sent to
participants. After a number of rounds usually a more extensive report is made since more
data allow more and better statistical conclusions. Participants can inspect their results and,
when significant and/or systematic deviations are noticed, they may take corrective action in
the laboratory.
Although the samples usually are analyzed by a large number of laboratories, the results
should still be interpreted with caution. The analytical procedures used by participants may
differ considerably which may lead to bias and imprecision (also in the consensus value).

Even "true" values of certified reference samples, which were determined by a number of
selected renowned laboratories, have occasionally been proven to be wrong. It may even be
that some outliers are right and all other laboratories wrong. However, these are exceptional
cases which, in fact, only underscore the usefulness of interlaboratory exchange programmes.

9.3.3 Examples: ISE and IPE

9.3.3.1 Data processing


9.3.3.2 Rating with t-value
9.3.3.3 Proficiency control chart
9.3.3.4 Rating with Z-score

As an example of schemes with good international reputation we mention the International


Plant Analytical Exchange and International Soil Analytical Exchange (IPE and ISE)
programmes. These are the oldest parts of WEPAL, the Wageningen Evaluating Programmes
for Analytical Laboratories of the Wageningen Agricultural University. IPE, having over 250
participants from some 80 countries, is in operation since 1956. ISE, with more than 300
participants, was started in 1988. The operational procedures of WEPAL are given.
9.3.3.1 Data processing
For each round, data are collected for attributes analyzed by participants. The "normal" way
of data treatment would be to calculate the mean and standard deviation and to repeat this
leaving out the data beyond 2s. However, in proficiency tests and consensus studies there is
a preference for using the median value rather than the mean. The median is the middle
observation of the sorted array of observations in the case of an odd number of observations.
In case of an even number it is the mean of the two middle observations. Using the median
rather than the mean reduces the influence of extreme data.
9.3.3.2 Rating with t-value
For each attribute the median value ( 1) and the median of absolute deviations (MAD, 1) are
calculated. The MAD (like the standard deviation, a measure for the spread of the data) is the
median of the differences between each observation and the median.
When more than seven observations for a certain attribute are reported by participants, the
following rating procedure can be performed: All values x for which:
(9.2)

are flagged with a double asterisk (**). The factor f is aimed at flagging 5% of the data and,
assuming a normal distribution, is approximated by (0.7722 +1.604/n) t, where t is the t-

value in the two-sided 95% probability table with df = n -1 (see Section 6.4.1, Fig. 6-2, and
App. 1). This procedure is repeated leaving out the data flagged with ** which then yields a
second median ( 2) and a second MAD ( 2). These values are then substituted in Equation
(9.2) and all results x now falling in the range delineated by that equation are flagged with a
single asterisk (*). An example of such a data set is given in Table 9-1.
In this table there is a column for the MIC, the Method Indicating Code. With a maximum of
four characters, the analytical procedures used by the individual participants are indicated to
allow a better evaluation of the results. In this way, for instance, bias resulting from a
particular digestion procedure may be revealed. Also, the reproducibility (see 7.5.2.1) of a
particular method used by different participants can be calculated.
9.3.3.3 Proficiency control chart
When results do not significantly differ from the consensus mean, this does not necessarily
imply that the analytical process is perfect. The observations may systematically lie above or
below the mean or median. A kind of "proficiency control chart" can be constructed to reveal
this. When using the relative deviation of the results from the median (or mean), i.e. the
difference between the observation and the median is expressed as a percentage of this median
(cf. CV, RSD). Plotting this against time and drawing the values of 2 relative MAD in the
graph (in Fig. 9-1: lengths of vertical bars; comparable to the Warning Limits of the Control
Chart of the Mean, see 8.3.2), allows a laboratory to obtain an indication of the position of its
own values and to see if there is a trend. In fact, the same quality control rules as used for the
control chart of the mean can be applied.
Fig. 9-1. Proficiency control chart for the determination of boron in a crop as found by a
participant in IPE during 1994 (six samples per two-months' round). The length of the
vertical bars equals 2 MAD (as % of median) and can be considered the Warning
Limit. Two values appear to be beyond this Limit.

Table 9-1. Example of data presentation: results for the Al content in crop samples from IPE
in Round 5, 1994 (in mg/kg).
Laboratory

Sample

MIC

White
Cabbage

White
Cabbage

Amaryllis
(bulb)

Maize Potato

32.8

30.6

293

67.0*

76.0**

678**

1051** 38.0

69.1**

71.0**

441**

776**

31.3

27.5

196

9.0

41.0

34.6

36.4

351

29.1

Broadbeans

278

AA|E

544**

DE|CB

39.0

343

AC|CB

311

24.7

260

EE|BF

284

352

34.0

306

EE|CB

290

336

30.3

309

DG|CB

36.8

36.0

176

262

32.0

166

86.5**

101.0**

354

353

43.0

353

DE|AB

30.2

47.7

DA|CB

42.0

36.9

178

288

32.2

202

AA|CB

41.3

45.5

208

319

44.9

227

33.0

35.0

160

220

32.0

166

EE|CB

172.7**

154.2**

274

254

80.1**

206

G|CB

76.5**

152.0**

190

281

57.4*

192

DG|CB

45.0

36.0

172

293

24.0

204

DB|CB

36.2

38.1

133

291

34.5

AA|CB

47.3

45.8

252

293

46.5

221

37.0

36.0

195

220

77.9**

203

AB|AE

46.1

49.4

270

340

51.4*

294

AA|CB

26.1

26.7

274

332

21.9

274

89.0**

123.0**

382

406*

DA|CB

459** 119.0**

35.3

35.6

119

284

45.8

150

G|AE

49.5

45.6

326

346

41.6

322

DG|CB

67.0*

70.0**

683**

500**

48.5

36.5

158

267

36.6

178

DB|CB

22.1

21.3

112

184

27.9

123

AA|AA

AA

30.2

28.6

142

234

32.7

142

BB

67.1*

593**

713**

549**

G|L

CC

23.0

32.0

134

243

30.0

138

DB|CB

DD

34.0

35.0

210

280

31.0

165

DC|CB

EE

46.4

27.4

280

253

37.9

213

FF

24.4

23.4

106

184

26.8

109

G|CB

GG

32.3

31.8

196

295

31.3

203

DB|CB

Median: (1)

40.2

36.2

209

293

35.5

213

(2)

36.8

35.6

196

288

34.0

205

MAD: (1)

8.10

8.15

69.0

45.0

6.95

63.0

(2)

6.59

5.00

62.5

35.0

5.00

55.0

993** 56.0*

9.3.3.4 Rating with Z-score


Individual rating of the proficiency of a laboratory can also be done with the normal deviate
or so-called "Z-score" which is based on the bias relative to the mean of all laboratories:
(9.3)

where
x = individual result
x = mean of all results
s = standard deviation of x
Before the mean is calculated, outliers flagged with ** and * as described above are removed.
For easy visualization of Z, Figure 6-2 (p. 74) can be used: assuming a normally distributed
collection of data, 5% of the Z-scores would fall outside the range -2<Z<2 (where x is more
than 2s off from x) and only 0.3% outside the range -3<Z<3 (see also Note 2 below).
Hence, the following rating is usually employed:
:satisfactory

2<

:questionable

:unsatisfactory

This origin of Z allows the Z-score for each attribute to be recorded on a kind of control chart
derived from the Control Chart of the Mean as discussed in Section 8.3.2. A model is given in
Figure 9-2.
Note 1. Here, again, individual ratings should be used cautiously as the system is relative to a
consensus mean, outliers are not considered, and the data collection may not be normally
distributed.
Note 2. The value of Z equals the value of ttab when n is large, and is approx. 2 at 95%
confidence (two-sided).
Fig. 9-2. Model for a Z-score control chart for one attribute in six interlaboratory
control samples per round. The value with the arrow indicates an outlier off the scale.

9.4 Trouble-shooting
Action must be taken when statistically significant deviations are scored, or when results are
consistently above or below the mean (see Rejection Rules). This holds both for the internal
control with control charts and for external control with round robin tests. The difference is
that the results of the round robin tests always come with a time-lag: you cannot immediately
repeat a batch or correct a problem. Clearly, corrective action must be taken as soon as
problems are spotted, be it by internal or external control. Therefore, the ensuing discussion is
not limited to problems emanating from third-line control only, but applies to all cases where
problems are encountered.
One of the first actions must be to inspect whether the deviation occurs for only one control
sample or round-robin sample, or whether several samples in one batch/round/period deviate
(possibly without exceeding the Action Line or scoring asterisks). Earlier reports must be
consulted to see if there have been problems previously with that specific attribute. If an
extreme value is scored only once for a certain sample, this may indicate that this one
measurement is wrong or that there is an unexpected matrix interference. It may be necessary
to go back to the measurements in the archives to check this (audit trailing). This will include
a re-check of the second-line (batch) control: was the result of the control sample correct? If
no mistakes are found, the sample in question must be reanalyzed and in this analysis, for
instance, the sample: liquid ratio may be varied. If anomalies in an attribute occur in several
samples, the entire analytical procedure should be scrutinized critically. The following should
then be inspected:
1. The results of the first-line check (calibration of equipment, etc., see also Chapter 5).

2. The results of measurements: these should be checked on the basis of the original signals,
counts, absorbances, etc. (and not on the basis of the final results of software procedures).
3. The standard solutions used. This involves checking whether the manufacturer's values for
standard solutions are correct, or whether the salts used are indeed primary standards and have
indeed been pretreated correctly. These salts can lose or attract water. Standard solutions that
have been kept for too long or in unsuitable bottles can change in concentration, e.g. because
the bottle was not stoppered properly, allowing water to evaporate (see also 5.3).
4. The correctness of the pipettes and other volumetric glassware used. It is known that
sometimes the volume of the adjustable pipettes, commonly used in laboratories, deviates
from the guaranteed volume. Therefore all such pipettes should be tested regularly (see also
5.2.2.4).
5. The automatic pipetting of measuring equipment. Table 9-2 gives an example of deviations
in the automatic pipetting equipment of a flameless atomic absorption spectrometer. This
deviation from the given value may have great consequences for the standard series which is
prepared by dilution of a standard solution with an injector and by standard addition.
6. In round robin programmes: the digestion and detection techniques followed. Information
on this can be found in the MIC.
Table 9-2. Volume of the automatic injector of a sample changer of a flameless AAS (in mL).
Pump setting

Volume measured

Difference

absolute

relative

Old pump

6.3

+ 1.3

+ 26 %

10

13.0

+3.0

+ 30 %

20

20.7

+0.7

+ 3.5 %

25

25.6

+0.6

+ 2.5 %

New pump

6.5

+ 1.5

+ 30 %

10

11.1

+ 1.1

+11%

20

20.6

+0.6

+3%

25

26.2

+ 1.2

+5%

Some other sources of error are:


1. General
- Filter paper washed in acid can cause secondary reactions when soil suspensions prepared
with unbuffered salt solutions are being filtered. This is particularly likely if the first portion
of the filtrate is not removed.
- Old hollow cathode lamps can impair calibration graphs.
- Voltage fluctuations of electricity mains.
- Portable telephones can disturb the functioning of sampling machines causing them, for
example, to skip a sample.
2. Contaminations
- Filter paper that has been taken out of its wrapping can absorb substances, particularly
ammonia.
- NH3 can be produced in demineralized water by the slow breakdown of the resins used.
- Boron contamination can arise from laundered laboratory coats, through the release of
perborate from the detergent.
- The paint from logos on certain new glassware may dissolve in the acid used for cleaning
(and enter the glassware).
- The cooling circuit of GF-AAS can become clogged with rust after being washed out with
tap water under high pressure.
- Zinc contamination may arise by dandruff from persons using anti-dandruff shampoo.
- Grinding can lead to contamination from the grinding apparatus. An example of this source
of error is given in Table 9-3. Mill A has a cast iron casing; in mill B the casing is made of
aluminium.

- Sieves may give off unwanted elements (e.g. brass: copper, zinc).
- Glassware may be contaminated by inadequate cleaning and rinsing. This may particularly
occur when glassware is used for different analyses. Blank determinations may reveal such
problems.
Table 9-3. Influence of grinding on the results of analyzing barley (in mg/kg). Mill A: cast
iron casing; Mill B: aluminium casing.
Mill

Run

Al

Cu

Fe

Pb

Zn

12

5.32

420

0.03

25.4

11

5.36

454

0.01

25.8

24

5.31

487

0.08

26.1

102

7.13

94

0.14

26.1

112

6.45

91

0.19

26.3

104

6.46

74

0.14

25.7

9.5 Organization of interlaboratory test programmes


Although it is considered beyond the scope of the present discussion, for those who
contemplate to organize an interlaboratory test programme, be it locally or wider, a few
general remarks may be useful.
It was mentioned in the Preface that more and more governments are requiring accreditation
from laboratories that carry out, for instance, environmental and ecological analyses for
particular studies or for the establishment of data bases. This implies that accreditation bodies
have been set up or are to be set up. Furthermore, it may become strategically useful that such
accreditation bodies are recognized internationally to facilitate cross border acceptance of
analytical results of an accredited laboratory should the occasion arise, e.g. by foreign or
international organizations.
Note. Information on this aspect can be obtained from the International Laboratory
Accreditation Conference (ILAC), P.O. Box 29152, 3001 GD Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

An accreditation body may delegate to a renowned laboratory the organization of a regional or


national or even international interlaboratory test programme as part of a larger external
quality assurance programme. This could also be executed by a cooperative organization of
laboratories such as SPALNA (see note in Section 5.2.2.2). Numerous papers describe the
organization of interlaboratory tests, e.g. International Standard ISO 5725 (latest ed.), Horwitz
(1988), Funk et al. (1995), and Houba et al. (1996), and the reader is referred to such papers
for further information.
Meanwhile, the assistance of such a cooperative organization or network need not be limited
to round robin tests but can be extended to other essential aspects of quality assurance such
as:
- Preparation of control samples
- Testing of methods
- Organization of Training Workshops (SPALNA does this, among others, for Equipment
Maintenance, Analytical Methodology, and for Quality Management and Data Handling, both
in the English and French language).
- Making available consultants for trouble shooting and quality audits.
Particularly for individual laboratories, but also for groups of laboratories, there are clearly
organizational and budgetary advantages to join an existing laboratory network with these
aims. If still the need for a local or regional network is felt, one laboratory (or group of
laboratories) interested in improving the quality of their output could take the initiative to set
up one. Some kind of cross-link with an established scheme elsewhere would be beneficial,
particularly in the initial stage.

9.6 Quality audit


As stated in Chapter 1, when the desired quality level of the output of the laboratory is
reached, it must be maintained and, where necessary, improved. To achieve this, the Quality
Manual should contain a plan for regular checking of all quality assurance measures as they
have been discussed so far. Such a plan would include a regular reporting to the management
of the institute or company.
This is usually done by the head of laboratory and/or, if applicable, by the quality assurance
officer.
In addition to such a continuous internal inspection, particularly for larger laboratories it is
very useful to have the quality system reviewed by an independent external auditor. For
accreditation this is even an inherent part of the process.
An external audit can assist the organization to recognize bottlenecks and flaws. Such
shortcomings often result from insufficient and inefficient measures and activities which
remain unnoticed or are ignored.
An audit can be requested by the laboratory itself or by the management of the institute and
involves basically the inspection of the Quality Manual, i.e. all the protocols, procedures,

registration forms, logbooks, control charts, and other documents related to the laboratory
work. Attention is not only given to the contents of the documents, but also to the practical
implementation ('say what you do, do what you say, and be able to show what you have
done'). Laboratory staff sometimes see these audits as a sign of suspicion about their
performance, and sometimes audits may be (mis)used to get things organized or changed
under the guise of quality. Yet, the auditor should not be seen as a policeman but as someone
who was asked to help. Therefore, good cooperation with the auditor is essential for the
effectiveness of the audit. Conversely, the auditor should be selected carefully for the same
reason.
In large laboratories it may be advisable to have the audit done by more than one person, for
instance an organization specialist and an analytical expert.
The audit should result in a report of findings and recommendations to improve possible
shortcomings. Subsequently, the management which will have to decide to what extent the
report will remain confidential, and if and what actions will have to be taken.
Wageningen Evaluating Programmes for Analytical Laboratories (WEPAL)
The world's largest laboratory-performance study schemes for the analysis of soils,
sediments, crops, manures and refuse materials are included in the Wageningen Evaluating
Programmes for Analytical Laboratories (WEPAL), organized by the Department of Soil
Science and Plant Nutrition of the Wageningen Agricultural University, the Netherlands.
These programmes are:
International Plant-analytical Exchange (IPE)
A laboratory-performance study on me inorganic chemical analysis of crop material. Every
two months the participants receive six dried, ground, crop samples in coded plastic sample
bags. The participants analyze these crop samples according to their own usual techniques
(extraction and/or destruction, measurements). At the end of the test period the results are sent
to Wageningen on pre-printed forms supplied by WEPAL. where they are processed. The
participants are informed of the outcome within three weeks of the end of the test period. The
results are accompanied by information about fee digestion and detection technique, given via
a four-letter code. The programme was initiated some 40 years ago (in 1956) and has
currently about 250 participants from 80 countries.
International Soil-analytical Exchange (ISE)
A laboratory-performance study on (mainly) chemical analysis of soils. Initiated in 1988, this
programme has at present almost 300 participants from 80 countries who receive four dried,
ground, soil samples every three months. These samples can be analyzed to determine fee
total content of many elements, hut can also be submitted to a variety of extraction
procedures, as well as to the determination of soil properties such as pH, conductivity, cation
exchange capacity, clay content. The further organization and processing of data, including
fee denotation of fee digestion and detection techniques followed, are similar to those of IPE.
International Sediment Exchange for Tests on Organic Contaminants (SETOC)

A laboratory-performance study dealing wife organic substances in soils and sediments. This
study started in 1992 and has currently 90 participants. The organization, frequency of
rounds, and reporting are as for ISE. The participants in this programme can report contents
for 16 PAHs, 12 PCBs, 27 organochlorine pesticides and several heavy metals. This test is
organized jointly wife fee Institute for Environmental Studies at the Free University of
Amsterdam, fee Netherlands.
International Manure and Refuse Sample Exchange Programme (MARSEP)
A laboratory-performance study on chemical composition of manures, composts and sludges.
This programme was started in 1994 and has currently 75 participants. The samples can be
analyzed on real total and "total" contents of many elements. The organization, frequency of
rounds, reporting, as well as fee coding of fee digestion and detection techniques followed,
are similar to those of ISE.
For reasons of confidentiality of fee results, participants may opt for a code name in the
reports. The organization has equipment which can automatically divide large amounts of
sample material into representative subsamples for all programmes.
Reference materials
WEPAL offers participants fee opportunity to send dry bulk samples (50 kg of soil or 6 kg of
plant material) for use as sample in a test round. The remainder of fee material (about 1/4)
will be returned to sender and can then act as a valuable internal reference sample wife
consensus values.
For more information contact:
WEPAL, Dept. of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition
Wageningen Agricultural University
P.O. Box 8005
6700 EC Wageningen, the Netherlands.
E-mail: wepal@mail.benp.wau.nl
Internet: http://www.benp.wau.nl/wepal