TBS gears up to establish zonal laboratories

PLANS are afoot for the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) to establish zonal laboratories in the country to lessen dependence on the nine laboratories based at the head office in Dar es Salaam.

The nation’s standards watchdog will also employ 70 technicians and officers as part of its expansion programme, according to the bureau’s Director of Testing, Calibration and Packing Services Ms Edna Ndumbaro.

TBS boasts of nine laboratories equipped with modern equipment that cater for various sectors of the national economy.

The laboratories were established in 1982 to assist industries and entrepreneurs to produce top quality products.

These labs help manufacturers to improve the quality of their products, provide facilities for the testing of products to ensure their suitability for their intended use and to verify pre-export and pre-import product quality.

The TBS Test House also provides quick, accurate and confidential test facilities for type testing, audit testing, technical guidance and advice on test methods and training of laboratory personnel.

The Chemistry Laboratory provides testing of all chemicals, allied products and environmental samples;  training in product testing related to chemicals and Laboratory Quality Management Systems; collaborative environmental research work;  consultancy to industrialists; coordination for Tanzania Proficiency Testing Scheme (TPTS); provision of Edible Salt Proficiency Testing at National and East Africa Community level;  provision of Drinking Water Proficiency Testing Scheme at National level; coordination of Southern Africa Proficiency Testing Scheme and air quality monitoring.

The Food Laboratory deals with test facilities for all food and agricultural commodities; chemical analysis of food including proximate composition such as moisture content, oil content, protein, mineral ash and acid insoluble ash and mineral contaminants;  checks to ensure that food products are manufactured with due regard to good manufacturing practices, and national technical assistance and consultation with regard to ISO 17025 implementation on the testing laboratories, method validation and uncertainty of measurements and internal audit for microbiology laboratories.

According to Ms Ndumbaro, the Material Testing Laboratory MTL) is designed to perform vigorous testing and competent assessment of components and equipment to meet relevant safety requirements.

MTL offers type-testing to any national or international standards as well as testing for certification for the purpose of approving products which are manufactured in accordance with established Tanzania standards.

MTL has three sections: Building and Construction Section designed for the testing of building materials as well as building components for properties such as strength and deformation properties, tightness, composition and dimensional changes, and performs field investigations for various load tests and drilling of concrete cores from completed constructions for testing of strength.

The Mechanical Engineering Section is equipped with facilities for testing metallic materials with a wide range of tests being carried out to determine different properties of metals and it offers consultancy services such as suitability for use of products needing general mechanical tests using local, national and international standards.

The Electrical Engineering Section is designed for testing households and similar electrical appliances as well as electrical materials and accessories and equipped with a modern multiple Earth Loop impedance’s prospective short circuit currents and for earth leakage circuit currents and for earth leakage circuit breaker testing in buildings. Ms Ndumbaro says the Textile, Leather and Condom Laboratory provides test facilities for both textiles, leather and condom industries and trains textiles, leather and condom analysts in good laboratory techniques.

For textile testing, it is equipped with fibro-graph, pressley strength tester, cotton trash analyser, ulster yarn evenness tester, xenon arc for testing colour fastness to artificial light, exposure rack for testing colour fastness to daylight, perspirometer and washing machine.

For leather testing, it is equipped with tensometer, lastometer, permeometer, flexometer, rub fastness tester, wrinklometer, water vapour permeability tester, leather shrinkage tester, penetrometer, adhesion tester. As for condom testing, the lab is equipped with the condom dimensions tester, bursting volume and pressure tester, package seal integrity tester, freedom from holes tester and quantity of lubricant tester.

Ms Ndumbaro says in its efforts to support a coordinated development of the packaging industry by strengthening the existing standardisation and testing capability in the area of packaging, the government established the Packaging Technology Centre (PTC) at TBS.

The packaging services provided by the Packaging Technology Centre include testing packages and packaging materials to ensure quality; providing training to the industries and small and medium enterprises on matters concerning quality packaging designs; conducting research and consultancy work on issues pertaining to quality packaging.

Other functions are providing third party certification for packaging materials and packages produced according to acceptable standards; providing testing services for packages and packaging materials; developing national standards on packages and packaging materials; facilitations of import and export of the packaging materials against relevant standards and providing information on packaging standards, requirements and technology.

The Cotton Laboratory is the Regional Technical Centre (RTC) for East and Central Africa under the Commercial Standardisation of Instrument Testing of Cotton Project, co-founded by the European Union and the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC).

The overall objective of the project is to assist the cotton producing countries in East and Central Africa to meet emerging quality assessment demands of the global cotton market so as to strengthen or at least maintain their competitive position in the world market. Main services offered by the centre include conducting training for laboratories and stakeholders in the region; conducting regional round trials; conducting retests on regional laboratory samples; providing expertise for cotton testing laboratories; collection and dissemination of technical information and facilitating the cooperation between cotton testing laboratories.

Ms Ndumbaro says one major challenge is the high price of the imported laboratory equipment.

“These equipment are too expensive and sometimes we have problems in acquiring imported spare parts,” she says.

She says as the demand for laboratory services increases to cater for the growing number of customers, the price of the imported equipment stands as stumbling-block to bureau’s performance.

Another key problem, Ms Ndumbaro explains, is the shortage of personnel to man the existing laboratories.

However, the government has promised to help the Bureau perform its functions efficiently, she says.