The NATA equipment tables might be on their way out! Who will tell me how often to check my gizmo?
You’ve been minding your own business and just doing as NATA says to do for equipment calibrations for years. Now they tell you that you might have to work out your own calibration frequencies and ‘prove’ that they are suitable. To add insult to injury, those equipment calibrations on things like pipettes that you’ve been doing since starting work in a lab, NATA is now telling you that you never did know how to do them properly and you have to pay someone else to do them. It’s overwhelming. Are lab staff suddenly incompetent when it comes to performing something as simple as a pipette calibration? Did you know that boring old Measurement Uncertainty can help you out?
A good understanding of the sources of uncertainty in your methods (including your calibration methods) will help you to make decisions about which equipment can be calibrated in-house and which ones really do need an expert hand. One lab calculated the uncertainty budget for their pipette checks and it was better than the external calibration that NATA was demanding. And it was traceable.
Getting to know your methods intimately in this way will help you stand your ground and explain how your laboratory does meet the requirements for traceability in measurements. You will also have the evidence to back your decisions on:
- competency assessments and training programs
- conducting equipment checks in-house or sending out for calibration
- purchasing new equipment
- improving method performance
So pull out the GUM, the Eurachem/CITAC Guide, the instructions from your professional body, or the notes from that course you went to and give it a go. If you need a little more help, MAS Management Systems provides excellent workshops on Measurement Uncertainty and Traceability.