Preparing for your NATA audit: Tips to help you show off how good you are

When you have done hundreds of NATA audits, you get to know what the issues are that get laboratories stuck. One question a NATA auditor asks is, what evidence do you have that your staff are competent? Here are some helpful tips for how to respond!

 

The scenario: You have just hired someone with a fantastic resume filled with years of experience. So, what else would you need to prove? Show the auditor you have considered their background (obviously, otherwise you wouldn’t have hired them!) and that you have made sure they are familiar with your procedures and processes. Your laboratory might do things a bit differently to how they are used to. When they start in the lab, have them perform the test/s or tasks under the supervision of someone who is experienced; it may be that you only need to do this once to satisfy yourself they know what they are doing. You may already be doing this informally – but an auditor will want to see evidence, so make it part of your processes and keep a record. It couldn’t get much easier than that! By the way, this applies not only to technical procedures, but quality procedures too. And if you want your staff to review NATA endorsed reports, it also includes accreditation requirements.

Now you have a competent staff member and the records to show it. Done? Not quite. You need to also have some plans to assess the staff’s continued competence. That is, in 1, 2, 5 years, will they still be doing the test correctly and according to procedure? It’s possible after months and years of doing the same test, people develop variations that have been more convenient and these variations have become habit. Maybe these variations are better ways of doing something and you need to make a change in your procedures, or maybe you need to correct the habit. Either way, you are not going to pick it up unless you conduct some kind of a periodic assessment.

Simply put, show the NATA auditor records that demonstrate you have watched or assessed your staff’s ability to perform the test/s successfully. Depending on the work, you may also do a short quiz to test the staff’s technical knowledge. Do this with new staff, and periodically with experienced staff.

What does this all add up to? For each employee, you should have a file including their:

  • Resume;
  • Copies of relevant qualifications/certificates;
  • Record of induction into your organisation;
  • Training records from internal courses, on-the-job training, and any supervised working period and when/how you assessed they were competent (verbal/written quiz, assessed on-the-job, reviewed the records/report they prepared);
  • Records to demonstrate continued competence (some kind of periodic assessment for each activity they perform).

If all this sounds overwhelming, enlist some experts to help! We can work with you to develop:

  • Simple and relevant training modules and assessments;
  • Proformas that would make it easier to keep records;
  • Efficient schedules outlining frequencies for on-going assessments based on type of test and associated risk.

We aim to help you be self-sufficient with this process, but can conduct assessments of your staff if you are finding your resources stretched. We can also attend your NATA assessments, prepare your responses… deal with all things NATA!

Contact MAS Management Systems for help maintaining your accreditation.

Abigail Nackash, Senior Consultant in Victoria: abigail@masmanagementsystems.com.au or

Maree Stuart, Principal Consultant: maree@masmanagementsystems.com.au