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NATIONAL LABORATORY ASSOCIATION – SOUTH AFRICA (NLA-SA)

Introduction

The National Laboratory Association (NLA) evolved from the National Calibration Service (NCS), which was formed at the National Physical Research Laboratory (NPRL) of the CSIR. When the need presented itself that accreditation was not only required for laboratories but also had to be extended into other areas such as Inspection and Certification, the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) was established and has subsequently become a government organisation controlled by its own Act of Parliament.

With the assumption of overall responsibility for accreditation by SANAS during 1998, it was decided that a new independent body should be created to represent the interests of laboratories. This new non-profit organisation felt that it should retain some continuity with the past and therefore retained the NLA acronym, but renamed the organisation the National Laboratory Association – South Africa (NLA-SA).

 Membership

 The membership of the Association comprises of the following components:

  • Companies
  • Individuals

It was decided from the outset that the NLA-SA would target as broad a base as possible in order to draw on potential members and therefore membership is open to laboratories that are either accredited or not accredited. The only proviso is that members subscribe to the ethical principles of the association. This “Code of Conduct” has been designed with the view that all members need to adhere to the code and recognises that voluntary adherence is a very strong motivator when dealing with the market place. Furthermore, it supports the use of accreditation and enhances the credibility of the laboratory. The need for an ethically strong community is clear and forms the basis of South Africa’s strong international reputation. This approach is one that the Association via its members wishes to continue supporting.

While the vast majority of NLA-SA members are corporate structures, both large and small, the Association also has created two associate categories. One is for individuals, who for whatever reason are not employed permanently in a laboratory and the other for organisations, typically suppliers, who wish to be associated with the NLA-SA.

The latest fees can be obtained from the NLA-SA Office or the website.

What does the NLA-SA do?

The association is active in the following major areas:

  • Technical Training for Laboratory Personnel
  • Professional Recognition
  • Workshops & Conferences
  • Representation Locally & Internationally
  • Proficiency Testing Schemes for Testing and Calibration Laboratories
  • Subcommittees
  1. Technical Training

In the past the organisations mentioned above in the introductory paragraph actively provided and organised technical training for Calibration/Metrology Laboratories. The NLA-SA continues to provide this service.

Several courses are available to the laboratory community both in the areas of calibration/metrology as well as some specific testing areas:

Calibration / Metrology

  • General

Introduction to Measurement

Method Validation (Calibration)

Uncertainty of Measurement – GUM

(Physical Measurements)

  • Discipline-specific

Group One

Mass Metrology

Legal Metrology

Group Two

Electrical (DC LF) Metrology (Levels 1 & 2)

Time & Frequency Metrology

Radio Frequency Metrology

Power & Energy

Group Three

Dimensional Metrology (Levels 1 & 2)

Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) (Levels 1 & 2)

Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing (GD&T)

Group Four

Force, Torque & Hardness Metrology

Flow Metrology

Pressure Metrology (Levels 1 & 2)

Group Five

Temperature Metrology (Levels 1 & 2)

Humidity Metrology

Sterilizer and Autoclave

Analytical

  • General

Introduction to Measurement

Method Validation (Analytical Laboratories)

Uncertainty of Measurement – GUM (Analytical

Measurements): Chemical and Biological Laboratories

(refer below for Microbiology-specific course)

Basic Analytical Techniques

  • Discipline-specific

Aquatic Toxicity Testing – Practical

Microbiology Practical (Water and Food Analysis)

Microbiology Method Validation and Uncertainty

of Measurement: Practical Course for Testing

Laboratories

  • Other

Sterilizer and Autoclave

For the latest course schedule as well

as specific details on the above

courses, please visit the NLA-SA

website or contact the NLA-SA

Office.

  1. Professional Recognition for Metrologists

After extensive discussions with SANAS, the NLA-SA initiated a Professional Certification

Scheme for metrologists. The two tier scheme known as MetCert is based on the old SANAS

“Certificate of Competence” (CoC) requirements, as well as the Unit Standards that were developed for the Metrology Certificate.

Calibration laboratories are encouraged to consider assisting their staff to become certified. Further information, as well as the application documents, can be viewed/downloaded from the NLA-SA website or obtained by contacting the Office.

  1. Annual Test & Measurement Conference

The annual T&M Conference continues to be the highlight of the year for the Association. To date a number of papers submitted for the Conference have been published in international journals. Over the years the Conference has grown in size and stature substantially and many attendees, especially from outside the country, have remarked on the fact that this is an extremely professional and well run conference, equivalent to anything available elsewhere. The NLA-SA will continue to make every effort to attract and promote local academic talent by providing this platform.

  1. Representation

It is vital that the laboratory community is adequately represented at various forums both locally and internationally in order to, where necessary, provide a cohesive voice and input to matters which ultimately have a direct impact on the community.

Locally

The NLA-SA has therefore established a number of relationships in order to achieve this goal amongst which SANAS, NMISA and SABS Standards Division and the

NRCS are the most important locally. In addition a good working relationship with the Department of Trade and Industry, (the dti), exists, giving the association the opportunity to make issues raised by members known to government.

Regionally

In late 2009, it became apparent that a number of Member States within SADC has formed their own stakeholder bodies, notably South Africa, Zimbabwe and to a lesser degree Botswana. This led to a meeting being held at which all the Member States were present, including either newly formed or to be formed associations and a decision being taken to form a regional SADC association which has become known as the SADC Regional Laboratory Association (SRLA).

Over the past 10 years a number of meetings have been held at which the various SADC member body associations have gathered to identify and address common needs and problems. It is hoped that this initiative and the strengthening of the regional body will enable the SRLA to play an active and meaningful role in upgrading the capability of labs in the SADC Region.

Internationally

Internationally, the NLA-SA is directly represented on the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation, ILAC, via its committee known as the Laboratory Committee, LC. Through this committee, the NLASA is in a position to directly contribute to the technical issues being raised on an international level as well as accreditation policy and arrangement level issues. This role ensures that the opinions of the NLA-SA members are directly communicated to ILAC and helps to influence the various decisions taken.

In addition, the NLA-SA is an International Affiliate Member of the Eurolab Organisation. This also helps to provide the South African Laboratory Community with vital information regarding developments in Europe especially with regard to EU Legislation as it affects measurements.

Similarly the NLA-SA has a formal relationship with the US based NCSLI (National Conference for Standards Laboratories International). As one of the earliest associations that were formed specifically to address issues in the calibration field and with its history of more than 60 years, the NLA-SA is confident that this will help in furthering its aim of assisting South African laboratories to learn and improve.

For further information, please vist: www.nla.org.za