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Profile: GAP EnviroMicrobial Services

GAP EnviroMicrobial Services Ltd (GAP), located in London, Ontario is an environmental microbiology laboratory offering services in testing, analysis, and […]

GAP EnviroMicrobial Services Ltd (GAP), located in London, Ontario is an environmental microbiology laboratory offering services in testing, analysis, and research in the areas of surface water and wastewater treatment. Their specialty is disinfection efficacy using culture-based bioassays. This can determine how well a disinfectant sterilizes, how efficient a filter is, or how well a device performs. GAP maintains a state-of-the-art, level 2 microbiology laboratory and is capable of analyzing a wide range of samples associated with environmental systems.

Throughout 2020, the media focused largely on the globally devasting effects of COVID-19 and companies worldwide pivoted their business operations and services. With an influx of COVID-19 cases across Canada, GAP saw an opportunity to pivot as well, seeking to meet the need for reliable personal protective equipment (PPE). In particular, the need for reliable face masks. Face masks were quickly becoming a standard item used by the general public, thanks to their proven abilities to reduce the airborne spread of COVID-19. Large and small organizations alike began selling masks, including home-based businesses and DIY-sites. Many touted the ‘safest’ design for personal protection and minimizing virus transmission. Amidst this, GAP was fielding repeated inquiries about mask testing to verify effectiveness, which led to further discussion about Bacteria Filtration Efficiency (BFE) testing of face masks. GAP’s team considered the opportunity of BFE mask testing and accepted the challenge.

Although BFE testing was new for GAP, they did have all the tools and expertise necessary. It was a natural extension of their business. In their inventory, they held an array of decommissioned equipment. By quickly cobbling this together and running some test experiments, GAP soon achieved favourable results and the business opportunity strengthened. They promptly acquired what was needed for a proper testing system. Furthermore, to ensure no interruption in delivering results to their clients, GAP procured everything in duplicate — if one component failed, another was immediately available.

In July of 2020, GAP applied to CALA to extend the scope of their accreditation. Already a CALA-accredited laboratory, GAP would be the first laboratory accredited by CALA for the BFE scope of testing.

“GAP Laboratories is a pioneer in this testing area”, remarked Andrew Adams, CALA President & CEO. “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was very limited testing capacity in this field in Canada.”

Laboratory accreditation is highly regarded both nationally and internationally as a reliable indicator of technical competence, reliability, and integrity. A key step in the accreditation process is the onsite laboratory assessment. As the accrediting body, a CALA assessor would normally be on-site at GAP’s premises checking conformity and compliance with the ISO/IEC 17025 standard. However, a new hurdle for both CALA and GAP presented itself during this global pandemic —the inability to conduct regular on-site assessments due to health and safety concerns. On-site assessments had been halted months earlier by CALA in the interests of protecting their staff and volunteer assessors. The CALA team had also been rethinking the delivery of their services and were gauging the effectiveness and risks of doing remote assessments. GAP became an opportunity for CALA to adapt its delivery. Ultimately this made GAP a pioneer on two fronts — not only in the BFE field of testing but also as one of CALA’s first clients for a remote assessment.

To support this assessment in particular, CALA solicited the help of a technical expert with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) who was versed in the testing of face masks. Together with Colleen Cotter (former CALA Accreditation Manager) and a combination of laptop computers and cell phone cameras, the remote assessment was smoothly conducted in one day with the same level of rigour as an onsite assessment. By December 2020, GAP was accredited to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard to include the testing of BFE for face mask materials.

GAP’s client base includes material testers and mask manufacturers. They have tested a variety of masks including surgical, N95, athletic, and child-sizes masks, along with a variety of prototypes. GAP sees its accreditation as a competitive advantage,

“The BFE test itself is not easy. By combining accreditation, specialized equipment, skilled people and a level 2 laboratory, we are in a prime position”, says Conrad Odegaard, Owner, GAP EnviroMicrobial. “Our customers also see the value of using an accredited laboratory. They know that we have been assessed by an independent and objective 3rd party and [we] can be trusted to deliver reliable results.”

GAP will proudly reference their accreditation when seeking out new business with manufacturers.   For more information on GAP EnviroMicrobial Services, visit their website at www.gaplab.com.   Find out more about CALA’s accreditation services.

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