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Understanding NATA Accreditation (and how to avoid a common mistake)

Nata Accreditation logo

If you use sensitive equipment in your work, you’ll need to ensure it’s regularly calibrated so you can trust the results.

But some industries must go a step further: they need their calibration activities to be NATA-accredited.

If so, you simply find a NATA-accredited organisation that calibrates equipment and you’re off and running, right?

Not exactly. It’s a little more complex than that. In fact, if you don’t fully understand what’s required, you might end up making a serious compliance mistake.

Let’s explore why.

What is NATA accreditation?

To understand what NATA accreditation means, let’s get technical for a moment. After all, calibration is all about ensuring technical accuracy. In NATA’s vocabulary, the word “accreditation” has the following very specific meaning:

A procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body is competent to carry out specific tasks.

Put simply, NATA Accreditation is a process of recognising competencies. And, at its core, it’s a third party, objective, peer assessment process at a scientific and technical level that provides assurance of the laboratory’s capability to produce reliable data from particular measurements.

Why bother?

At its essence, NATA Accreditation is really about confidence: both yours and your customers or stakeholders. If you rely on technical data to make important decisions, you’ll need to trust the results you’re using. NATA Accreditation is intended to enhance your trust in the activities that produce your technical data and information. That is, you can trust that the calibrations have been performed by competent staff using sound procedures as verified by NATA’s peer assessment processes.

But that’s not the only purpose of accreditation. It also means you can outsource to an independent, objective authority (read: don’t have to worry about) the monitoring of laboratory performance. It means there can be global recognition of data produced by laboratories. And it means you have a resource to resolve disputes regarding accredited laboratory services.

What activities does NATA-accreditation cover?

NATA accredits calibration activities undertaken in across a range of disciplines, such as:

  • Dimension metrology (Length)
  • Speed Mass & weighing equipment
  • Electrical low frequency metrology
  • Volume and Density Magnetism
  • Flow
  • Time and frequency
  • Pressure Communications, EMR and EMC
  • Force
  • Temperature metrology
  • Torque
  • Acoustics
  • Optics
  • Ultrasonics
  • Chemical metrology
  • Biological metrology

Avoiding Mistakes: NATA Accreditation vs NATA-Accredited Calibration

Here’s where some organisations can get tripped up: there’s an important distinction between NATA accreditation vs NATA calibration.

Some organisations have quality systems that simply require their equipment to be calibrated by a calibration company that holds a NATA accreditation. Which means that the calibration company’s quality system must of course meet ISO17025 standards.

However, this is different from a NATA-accredited calibration. Just because a company holds NATA accreditation does not necessarily mean all their calibrations are NATA-accredited calibrations. NATA Calibrations can only be undertaken by companies who hold NATA Accreditation AND have been accredited to carry out NATA calibrations for a particular accredited scope. Which is why only accredited calibrations can use the NATA emblem on calibration reports.

Practically, this means you need to be clear on what you actually need: NATA Accreditation vs NATA-Accredited Calibration? There’s often a significant difference, so understand your required carefully and don’t get tripped up.

What next?

If you would like to discuss your calibration requirements with us, let us know. We’d love to help.

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