National Association of Testing Authorities

By on July 30, 2015

NATA policy change and its adverse impact on smaller laboratories

Dr Elizabeth Gibson and Mark Wagner (Conundrum Holdings) had a meeting with the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) in June 2015. The opportunity was taken to inform NATA of the issues arising out of a NATA policy change in July 2013 which will adversely impact on small regional laboratories located at quarry sites. These laboratories undertake a limited range of simple analysis for production quality control purposes of construction material and do not normally accept external samples.

THE POLICY CHANGE WAS TWO-FOLD:
1. Persons issuing test reports. NATA would no longer determine NATA signatory status: this would become the responsibility of the facility (Quarry). However, at NATA accreditation and reaccreditation their competence must be demonstrated with written records. Such staff shall:

  • Demonstrate sound knowledge of the principles of the measurements and tests performed;
  • Understand the signifi cance of results generated;
  • Where necessary, initiate appropriate corrective action when test results and all supporting data are considered to be inadequate; and
  • Demonstrate sound knowledge of NATA’s accreditation criteria, particularly in relation to reporting test results and the use of NATA endorsement.

If it is determined by NATA at a site visit that a staff member of the facility who has been approved to authorise test reports is not competent then all reports issued by the staff for work covered
by the facility’s scope of accreditation will need to be reviewed. Note that: Those that became NATA signatories prior to the change in June 2013 retain their signatory status.

2. Supervision – Quality control facility and annex site.
Adequate technical control by a Level 4 or Level 5 over quality control or annex facilities must be demonstrated. Where the supervising Level 4 or 5 person is not based at the quality control facility or annex then, in general, adequate control is unlikely to be achieved with visits less frequent than:

  • Once every 3 months where testing is performed under the on-site supervision of a Level 3 person.
  • Once every month where testing is performed by under the on-site supervision of a Level 2 person.

Supervision of Level 1 staff
In the specific cases of production quality control facilities, where tests are unlikely to vary widely, direct supervision of a Level 1 staff by a Level 2 (or higher) supervisor may not be required provided that both of the following apply:

  • The testing is at a quality control facility performing only basic tests for which the training required to attain proficiency is not commensurate with the minimum duration of experience required for attainment of Level 2 and:
  • The Level 1 staff at the site demonstrate a satisfactory level of ongoing competence (for example regular comparison testing).

CMPA Issues with NATA policy change

NATA accreditation of quality control facilities is necessary to quarries due to their customer requirements such as for VicRoads. As such, the changes in policy made in July 2013 mean once current NATA signatories leave or retire from quarry production quality control facilities there must be a Level 4 or Level 5 person supervision of the Quality control facility Level 1. At present it is difficult if not impossible to find Level 4/5 persons who operate in regional Victoria and the CMPA believes not necessary for the purposes of laboratories which undertake a limited range of simple analysis for production quality control purposes of construction material and who do not normally accept external samples.

This issue may be resolved by the following proposed amendments.

CMPA PROPOSAL: Proposed changes (highlighted in blue) to Construction Materials Testing ISO/IEC 17025 Application Document

P.7 – QUALITY CONTROL FACILITY AND ANNEX SITE

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Where the quality control facility or annex site is conducting a limited range of field sampling and testing of construction materials then a Level 3 person may be the supervisor.

P.8 – STAFF QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE

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For the purposes of a production quality control facility or annex site then

  • Level 5 means a person who has a Degree or Advanced Diploma in Civil Engineering, Engineering Geology or similar relevant tertiary qualification with not less than 5 years full time experience in construction materials production and/or testing duties.
  • Level 4 means a person who has a Degree or Diploma in Civil Engineering, Engineering Geology, surface operations management or similar relevant tertiary qualification with not less than 3 years full time experience in construction materials production and/or testing duties.
  • Level 3 means a person who has a Certificate IV applicable to surface extraction operations with not less than 3 years full time experience in construction materials production and/or testing duties.

Additionally, the Level 3, 4 or 5 person would have to demonstrate experience/training in: 

  • Routine site samples (MSL952001)
  • Conduct laboratory acceptance tests for construction materials (MSL973010)
  • Identifying sources of variation in test results (uncertainty)
  • Understanding of how to produce a quality assurance program and
  • Sound understanding of NATA accreditation requirements.

The CMPA has sent a letter to NATA requesting the above changes.

SITE PHOTO: Laboratory testing

SITE PHOTO: Laboratory testing

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