Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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Program requirements

Background | Program requirements | Sampling and testing capabilities | Leadership and organization | Personnel certification | Manual requirements | Maintenance, verification and calibration | Internal inspection and control | Proficiency testing | Test records | Removal of qualification recognition | Attachments

Introduction to the program

Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 637, dated June 1995, charges all states with developing a procedure for qualifying all testing personnel and laboratories used in acceptance decisions for federal aid projects on the National Highway System. This procedure is expected to assure that the equipment used and personnel doing the sampling and testing are capable of performing them properly and that consistent, reproducible test results are achieved. The federal regulation covers all satellite labs used for acceptance testing. This includes all contractor and consultant labs as well as state labs if they are involved in acceptance sampling and testing.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) determined that it would be too difficult and potentially confusing to identify only federal aid projects on the National Highway System as the sole recipient of the procedure. Therefore, WisDOT developed a procedure (program) that could be applied to all highway improvement projects. This series of documents contains the program criteria by which contractors and consultants doing acceptance sampling and testing on improvement projects must function.

Background

An 11-member committee consisting of WisDOT, along with contractor, consultant and industry representatives, was formed to develop the contractor/consultant portion of the Laboratory Qualification Program. The committee combined experience, logic and business principles in assembling a strong centrally-controlled Satellite Laboratory Qualification Program that it felt best suited state, contractor and consultant material quality objectives as well as satisfied the federal regulation directive. The committee's goals were to keep the program as simple as possible by avoiding unnecessary complexity, assure uniformity of application statewide and minimize sampling and testing variability through qualified labs and personnel. The committee identified the following as desirable characteristics for any laboratory:

  1. Highly organized with leadership dedicated to accurate sampling and testing.
  2. Well trained and certified personnel.
  3. A complete technical manual to assure uniformity of operation.
  4. Capable, permanent staffing to quickly train new employees and ease turnover problems.
  5. Effective calibration and verification of equipment.
  6. Well-supervised personnel with periodic internal review of methods and procedures.
  7. Individual characteristics conducive to the development of good sampling and testing abilities in prospective employees.
  8. A desire to meet customer needs and provide accurate and timely sampling and testing results.
  9. Proper equipment and good working conditions for personnel.

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Program requirements

The program is administered by the Division of Transportation System Development, Bureau of Technical Services, Materials Management Section (MMS). All applications for recognition of qualification, granting of recognition, renewals, inspections, evaluation of inspection results, removal of recognition for cause and all other duties related to administration shall be the responsibility of MMS. All laboratories doing acceptance sampling and testing for highway improvement projects in this state must be recognized as qualified through the program before they may be considered for acceptance sampling and testing on any such project.

A laboratory or industry wishing to be recognized as qualified under the program shall submit a letter to the MMS requesting that it be recognized for specific sampling and testing activities. The letter should include a contact person, phone number, fax number and email address. The letter must certify that they are qualified per Wisconsin laboratory qualification requirements. Specifically it must state:

  1. Those general testing categories they are requesting qualification recognition for such as: fresh concrete; hardened concrete; concrete aggregate; asphalt cement; asphalt aggregate; asphalt mix analysis; asphalt mix design; soils laboratory testing; and soils field testing, etc.
  2. All personnel doing acceptance sampling and/or testing are certified.
  3. It has a complete laboratory manual.
  4. It has well maintained and calibrated equipment.
  5. It is capable of performing the listed sampling and testing.
  6. Documentation of all material test results at project labs will be neat, accurate and made readily accessible to all authorized WisDOT individuals.

In addition to the letter, a Laboratory Application form must be submitted to the MMS that provides specific sampling and testing activities for which the laboratory is seeking qualification recognition.

This form is available online or in a hard copy format.

The online form is housed on a secured server. It can be accessed by first self-registering for a user ID and password at the State of Wisconsin self-registration site.

If you already have a user ID and password for WisDOT's secured (extranet) sites you may go directly to the online Laboratory Qualification Application Form.

If you're experiencing difficulties in accessing the above links please read the user's guide and troubleshooting document.

The hard copy of the Laboratory Qualification Application Form is available here.

The specific sampling and testing activities will then be listed on the Certificate of Qualification that is issued by the MMS. No submittal of a fee is required. However, submittal of documents to support the qualification of your laboratory may be requested. The MMS reserves the right to later verify the accuracy of the lab certifying statements during routine inspections of the applicant's facilities in connection with work on any highway construction project. Proficiency testing may be conducted by the laboratory in question and is encouraged, but it is not currently a part of the certification process requirements.

Qualification recognition will be granted by the MMS on the basis of the above application forms. A letter and a certificate identifying the requesting laboratory as qualified will be provided by return mail. The qualified laboratory will then be placed on an Internet statewide list of qualified laboratories for access by anyone needing the information. If access to the Internet is not available, copies of the list and information may be obtained by contacting the office of MMS listed below.

A laboratory may find it desirable to become American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) accredited to demonstrate its ability to function at an even higher level. These laboratories must also request recognition under the program. This will be granted without certifying to the above six items as long as accreditation is in the acceptance sampling and testing areas that the lab proposes to operate in for WisDOT highway projects. If there are sampling and testing areas required for WisDOT highway projects for which an otherwise accredited lab does not hold accreditation, the lab will have to apply for qualification recognition under this program for those items.

Renewal of qualification recognition must be carried out for every registered laboratory on an annual basis. A notice will be sent by the MMS to every registered laboratory in about 90 days preceding the yearly renewal date offering the opportunity for renewal and update of registration. Regardless of when the original request for qualification recognition is granted, the first Monday in January will be used as the anniversary date for most renewals. To avoid confusion, each lab will be told what its first renewal date is when the initial qualification recognition is granted. The laboratory will be given 60 days prior to its anniversary date to reply with the necessary certification information. Failure to comply in the allotted time will result in the loss of recognition. Recognition may also be lost by the laboratory seeking renewal if the records show that it has not resolved outstanding deficiencies found during formal inspections by the MMS.

The address of the MMS to which correspondence or inquiries must be directed is:

Chief Materials Management Engineer
Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Materials Management Section
3502 Kinsman Blvd.
Madison, WI 53704-2507
Phone: (608) 246-7930
Fax: (608) 246-4669
Email: Steve Krebs steve.krebs@dot.state.wi.us

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Sampling and testing capabilities

All laboratory personnel performing acceptance sampling and testing for laboratories requesting first-time or seeking renewal of qualification recognition must be capable of performing highway project related sampling and testing as specified by WisDOT. Qualified laboratories wanting to maintain their skills in performing specific sampling and testing activities must assure that they have access to the correct detailed procedures. Scheduled inspections of laboratories and personnel during the life of a highway project will include reviewing the capabilities of laboratories to sample and test in accordance with accepted practice. The MMS will carefully review lab testing procedures as part of its periodic inspection process.

Laboratory leadership and organization 

AASHTO R-18 provides effective general guidance in the creation of a laboratory as part of a total quality system including the basic leadership and organizational structure required. The MMS will usually look for the indicators of good organization and leadership and then use this as a determinant during its inspections. Contact AASHTO Materials Reference Laboratory (AMRL) and request Accreditation information and copies of AASHTO R18. Phone: (240) 436-4900; Fax: (240) 436-4899 or visit their web page at http://www.amrl.net for more information.

Mailing address:
AASHTO Materials Reference Laboratory (AMRL)
4441 Buckeystown Pike, Suite A
Frederick, MD 21704

For information on AASHTO publications:
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
444 North Capitol Street, NW
Suite 249
Washington DC 20001

Phone: (202) 624-5800
FAX: (202) 624-5806
Web address: http://www.transportation.org

For information on ASTM and publications:
ASTM
100 Barr Harbor Drive
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2959

Phone: (610) 832-9585
Fax: (610) 832-9555
Web address: http://www.astm.org/

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Laboratory personnel certification

All laboratory personnel performing acceptance sampling and/or testing for laboratories requesting or seeking renewal of qualification recognition shall be certified through the Wisconsin Highway Technician Certification Program (HTCP). A listing of tasks requiring certification PDF relates all tasks currently being performed by WisDOT to the certification level required. Consideration for other nationally recognized programs which result in the same or similar levels of capabilities may be reviewed for full or partial acceptance upon request. Final determination for any such requests will be made by the University of Wisconsin Platteville which administers the HTCP Program.

Further details are available by writing to or calling:

Director or Program Assistant
Highway Technician Certification Program
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
049 Ottensman Hall
1 University Plaza
Platteville, WI 53818-3099
Phone: (608) 342-1545/1580
Fax: (608) 342-1982
Email: Raymond G. Spellman spellmar@uwplatt.edu
Office hours - 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday

Laboratory manual requirements

The laboratory manual is a significant element of this program and the implementation of an effective quality system. The manual serves as a ready reference document for lab personnel so that they do not have to resort to memory and risk mistakes related to forgotten items. The MMS wants each lab to develop its manual very carefully and assure that it is complete in every respect. Each laboratory can structure the contents as it sees fit as long as the general categories recommended by AASHTO R-18 (proficiency testing is optional) are addressed.

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Maintenance, verification and calibration of lab equipment 

In addition to the information provided in AASHTO R-18, WisDOT feels that proper lab equipment maintenance, verification and calibration is essential to the success of all laboratories. Normally, following the manufacturer's recommendations for care and cleaning that accompany the equipment is a good way to keep the equipment in good working order. Periodic verification and calibration of the dimensional and/or measurement aspects of the equipment will assure that accurate results can be achieved when in use. A schedule similar to "Equipment Inspection and Calibration Schedule" with minimum intervals should be created to assure that minimum standards are met.

Common sense must also be applied to determine when additional evaluations of lab equipment should be made. Such things as moving, dropping, bumping and any other traumatic events that might change the ability of the equipment to provide accurate service to the user should be grounds for re-verifying and/or re-calibrating. Directions provided in the manufacturer's manuals, WisDOT Construction and Materials Manual, the Standard Specifications, QMP documents or other appropriate accuracy requirements defined in the highway project testing procedures should be applied to achieve the specified accuracy.

Keep in mind that the intent of verification and calibration is to be able to achieve a degree of accuracy such as that spelled out in the AASHTO or ASTM tests prescribed for the various materials tested on a project. The selection of lab equipment, such as balances for use in labs, is based on the accuracy, readability, sensitivity and capacity required for the tests being performed. Analytical masses used for verification and calibration purposes of these balances should be appropriate to meet the accuracy requirements of the balance for which they are to be used. Masses accurate to one place beyond that required for the most accurately-measured test done by the lab is sufficient. This is true of the matching of calibration or verification equipment with any lab equipment.

If an outside agency is to be used to provide verification and calibration services for the lab, care should be taken to assure that it uses the appropriate equipment and procedure for that service. The lab must be careful to hold any outside agency to the same levels of accuracy in performing the service as that lab would use if it was carrying out the task itself. In addition, if a lab uses the service, it must still have sufficient equipment to run periodic calibration/verification checks of its equipment as mentioned above.

Laboratory internal inspection and control

The MMS will conduct periodic inspections of all laboratories to verify that those things that the lab certified to, have, in fact, all been accomplished. Laboratories will be expected to conduct their own periodic inspections and evaluations to assure that their labs do not have lapses in conformance. Evidence that these internal inspections are being conducted should be recorded by the laboratory and will be verified by the MMS in their inspections.

Since MMS inspections will follow this outline, internal inspections should also normally consist of:

  1. Ensuring the laboratory manual meets reasonable standards, is up-to-date and available to lab personnel in all labs.
  2. Verifying all personnel doing sampling and testing are certified.
  3. Ensuring the equipment is well-maintained and calibrated and that the calibration records are up-to-date.
  4. Verifying the correct test procedures are available. Personnel are performing the test properly. If optional proficiency tests were run, evaluated and recorded.
  5. Validating the lab responds to failed test results in an effective manner.
  6. Ensuring samples are processed effectively and test results are recorded and filed properly.
  7. Examining the effectiveness of the laboratory qualification program for this particular lab.
  8. Checking the availability of a lab chief for every permanent and field lab.

Laboratories should have no major problems passing the MMS inspections if all the above requirements are met.

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Proficiency testing (optional)

A laboratory may decide that the periodic use of proficiency testing is necessary to assure that the laboratory is capable of achieving accurate results. Proficiency testing may be conducted to give lab personnel a sense of confidence that they can perform testing with sufficient skill to meet the standards of upcoming highway construction projects. A convenient source of proficiency testing programs for laboratories is the AASHTO Materials Reference Laboratory (AMRL) and the Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory (CCRL). Information is available at http://www.amrl.net and http://www.ccrl.us respectively, or by contacting:

AASHTO Material Reference Laboratory or
Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8622
Building 226, Room A365
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8622
Phone: (301) 975-6704
Fax: (301) 330-1956

Test records

All laboratories are expected to maintain test records in a manner similar to the direction provided in AASHTO R-18. Proper record storage and ready accessibility for any inspections by the MMS or their representatives will be an important factor as well.

All project test records shall be retained for a period of not less than five years.

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Removal of qualification recognition

Qualification recognition (totally or in part) can be removed from a laboratory by MMS on the basis of failure to comply with or maintain the prerequisites. Inspections by or for the MMS will occur after qualification is granted and when laboratories are performing acceptance sampling and testing for highway improvement projects including federal aid projects on the National Highway System. If major deficiencies are found, the MMS will determine what affect the deficiencies have on the overall capability of the laboratory and its personnel to meet program objectives before reaching a decision as to whether qualification recognition can be retained. Examples of potentially major deficiencies are:

  1. Repeated use of non-certified personnel for sampling and testing.
  2. Non-completion of any of the six requirements (see Program Requirements) after certifying to them.
  3. Falsifying records of any type.
  4. Repeated failure to follow prescribed sampling or test methods.
  5. Repeated failure to keep lab manual up to date.
  6. Repeated failure to correct previous errors and omissions.

If a determination is made by the MMS that a laboratory shall be removed from the List of Qualified Laboratories, the affected laboratory shall be informed in writing of such a decision. The affected laboratory will be given 30 days in which to contest the decision. The affected laboratory has the right to request a hearing before the MMS and a panel of peers (representatives of other qualified labs) and provide any further pertinent evidence supporting non-removal. The MMS/panel will then decide whether removal is appropriate by majority vote. If no such request for a hearing is received within the 30 day period, the laboratory shall be removed from the List of Qualified Laboratories. Removal will occur without delay at the time that a certified letter notice is sent to the affected laboratory. The time of removal will not be related to its impact on any highway project sampling and testing involvement. Reinstatement to the List of Qualified Laboratories can be achieved by certifying in writing that the deficiencies that caused the removal have been remedied. The MMS will verify through an unannounced inspection of the affected laboratory whether remedial action has been effectively carried out. Removal is demonstrated by removal from the master List of Qualified Laboratories maintained by the MMS both in hard copy and on the WisDOT Internet Web site.

Minor deficiencies usually consist of minor errors or omissions in fulfilling the program requirements. It may be obvious, however, to the inspector that the laboratory being inspected intends to and is trying to meet and maintain qualification requirements. The primary focus is assurance that the laboratory in question is operationally effective. If minor deficiencies are found then a specific time frame will usually be specified in which the deficiencies must be corrected.

Attachments

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Questions about the content of this page:
Kenneth Nwankwo, kenneth.nwankwo@dot.state.wi.us
Last modified: December 4, 2012

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