Technical Assessor News November 2019

Technical Assessor News Nov 2019

In this Issue;

- Decision Rules Document Published
- NATA Launches New Rewards Program
- NATA Stalwart Passes Away
- Annual General Meeting
- Taiwan Accreditation Foundation (TAF) Visit
- Technical Assessors Honoured
- Liquid and/or Solid Phase Analysis Dilemma for Environmental Water Samples


As a result of the recent ballot, ILAC G8:09/2019 Guidelines on Decision Rules and Statements of Conformity has been published and is now available from

This publication was revised by the ILAC Accreditation Issues Committee with extensive input from the ILAC Laboratory Committee to reflect the requirements of the 2017 version of ISO/IEC 17025, in particular the introduction of decision rules.

This document aims to provide an overview for laboratory staff, assessors, regulators and customers when considering decision rules and statements of conformity with specifications and standards.

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One of the primary focusses in NATA’s Strategic Plan is to ensure that our volunteers and committee members are recognised for their technical expertise and valuable contributions to NATA and the community.

With this in mind, we have launched a discount program as another way to thank our volunteers for their assistance and support.

Under the Exceed (XCD) program, volunteers are able to access discounts on everyday items such as groceries, petrol, travel, clothing and entertainment.

We hope that our volunteers will find this a valuable resource and enjoy the savings they receive through the Rewards Gateway platform. 

If you have any questions about this program, don't hesitate to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Mr Cliff Baker AM, former NATA Chair, passed away on 13 August 2019 aged 91.

Cliff held many roles with NATA in an association which began in 1953 - as Technical Assessor, Signatory, Authorised Representative, AAC Chair, member of the NATA Council, Board Member and Board Chair.

He joined the NATA Council in 1983 as one of the three nominees of the Confederation of Australian Industry. In 1985, he was elected to NATA’s Executive Committee, became Vice-Chairman of Council in 1986 and served as Chairman of Council and the Board from 1989 to 1995.

He also joined the inaugural Board of NCSI after its formation as a subsidiary company as well as the inaugural Chair of Proficiency Testing Australia.

During his time as Chair, Cliff was instrumental in negotiating arrangements for the purchase of NATA’s head office building at Rhodes.

Cliff was made an Honorary Member of NATA in 1997 and was awarded an AM for services to Australia’s technical infrastructure in 1999.

He is remembered by NATA staff as one of nature’s gentlemen - he was extremely knowledgeable, quiet, courteous, thoughtful, respectful of peoples’ opinions and very generous in sharing his expertise.

On behalf of our staff, NATA sent our condolences to his family along with our gratitude for his enormous contributions.

Cliff Baker Cliff Baker Cliff Baker

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NATA’s 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held in our Sydney office on Wednesday 16 October.

Members attended in person and also took advantage of the webinar option.

The AGM considered reports from the Directors and Auditor including the Financial Statements all of which were contained in the Annual Report.

NATA Chair, Dr Geoff Hogg noted that this was the first AGM for new Directors Mrs Agnes Tan and Dr Sanmarie Schlebusch and paid tribute to retiring director Mr Matt Callanan. Mr Callanan stepped down from the Board after 21 years, the last eight as Vice Chair and his valuable contributions were gratefully acknowledged.

A copy of CEO Jennifer Evans’ presentation is available on the website and the meeting Minutes will also be available in due course.

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Taiwan Accreditation FoundationRecently Mr Ho-Hsun Chin (Angus) from the Taiwan Accreditation Foundation visited NATA to observe how Point of Care Testing (PoCT) accreditation is managed and assessed in Australia.

NATA arranged for Angus to accompany the assessment team to assess sites managed by NSW Health Pathology.

The NSW Health Pathology Managed PoCT service is a cooperation between NSW Health Pathology (NSWHP) and NSW Health Clinical Services through their Local Health Districts.

Due to the remote location of many of the sites, the assessments are performed by both on-site and remote activities. The use of remote activity allows the Technical Assessor and NATA Lead Assessor to view all the components that would be assessable if an on-site visit were to be conducted.

NATA thanks the assessment team and NSW Health Pathology for taking the time to share their PoCT knowledge freely with our visitor.

During his visit, Angus took some time out to experience Australiana by enjoying a visit to Taronga Zoo, seeing the life and cuisine available in rural NSW, shopping in Melbourne and visiting the NATA Melbourne office. 

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Each year, NATA staff are asked to nominate outstanding Technical Assessors to be profiled in our Annual Report. These Technical Assessors are representative of the calibre and professionalism of our volunteers and we’d like to share their stories with you.


Bob Kimmins has been part of the Australian Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) industry for many many years, beginning with his role as a trainee metallurgist at the Port Kembla Steelworks.

Bob started carrying out NATA assessments at the age of 23. It is estimated that during his more than 50 years as a Technical Assessor, Bob has carried out in excess of 600 assessments.

As an NDT practitioner, Bob began using one of the earliest ultrasonics sets in Australia and by 1971 he was teaching Australia’s first ultrasonics course at Sydney Tech College.  Over the next 10 years, while holding his day-job at BHP, he made an important contribution as an educator at both Sydney and Wollongong Tech Colleges.

His career has also included being part of the first platforms in Bass Straight as a BHP advisor; part of the inspection team on the post-tow inspection of the Maui ‘A’ (the first NZ offshore platform) and as Senior NDT Engineer with Woodside he was in charge of the first North West Shelf Project. In this role, his insistence that all NDT work carried out on the project be done by qualified (AINDT or CSWIP) engineers saw the percentage of qualitied technicians rise from less than 10% to over 80% within two years.

He has been a member of NATA’s NDT Accreditation Advisory Committee (AAC) for the past 40 years (the past five as Chairman) and was on the Inspection AAC for 20 years and Vice-Chairman for 12 of those. Bob recently stepped down from his role as Chair.

In addition to his support of NATA, Bob was Chair of the Standards Australia Ultrasonics Committee for seven years.

In acknowledgement of his tireless efforts and commitment, Bob has been presented with most of the awards offered by the Australian Institute for Non-Destructive Testing (AINDT) including its highest accolades, The JH Cole Award and Honorary Membership.

Nominees all mentioned his invaluable support and their gratitude for his mentoring and excellent advice.


When Catherine Harris graduated from the University of NSW with an MBBS degree, she had originally intended to work in the area of food and biotechnology.

However, she secured a role at the Royal North Shore blood bank when they opened their new building and the rest, as they say, is history.

Catherine spent 18 years with Sydney Diagnostic Services (SDS) during which time she saw significant changes in pathology practice. She spent over 10 years at The Children’s Hospital Westmead and became Head of Department and Laboratory Director.

She has now moved to a new challenge with 4Cyte Pathology, developing a general laboratory covering all disciplines from scratch. This has been a steep learning curve as it has occurred at a time when significant changes in NPAAC supervision requirements have been released.

In addition this role, Catherine regularly speaks at training courses and conferences, lectures at the University of Western Sydney and contributes to publications.

Catherine became a Technical Assessor in 2009 and views assessments as a way of learning and improving practice in her own laboratories both by observation of the laboratory being assessed and by discussing issues with other technical assessors.

Nominees mentioned their gratitude for her generosity and always making time for assessments, especially considering her heavy schedule of commitments.


Lee became a NATA assessor in 1994 and has carried out over 100 activities for NATA in that time.

Lee’s career journey to Senior Chemist with DTS Food Laboratories took a rather circuitous route.

Although his initial training was in plastics, after graduating from the University of Melbourne his first job was in a steel mill.

From there he travelled to Libya to oversee the building of a plastics factory (although he didn’t make any plastics). He moved back to Australia to work in a chemistry lab, then to the Coroner’s Court doing post-mortem drug analysis before settling into food testing as a partner in Dun, Son & Stone for almost 20 years.

When the lab was sold, Lee decided to take a break to travel and do his Honours in Psychology before taking on his current role with DTS.

Nominees all mentioned Lee’s composed, pleasant and non-confrontational demeanour on assessment. His calm manner puts new and less experienced lab staff at ease and he is generous with sharing his experience and knowledge.

Lee advises that he has yet to use his plastics degree.

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Liquid and/or Solid Phase Analysis Dilemma for Environmental Water Samples

The following article was drafted by Simon Mills, Chair of the Life Sciences Accreditation Advisory Committee (AAC) and AAC Member Bob Symons and is provided for information purposes. 

Environmental water samples often present a challenge for laboratories when supplied with visible turbidity (or even non-visible particulates for some analytes) i.e. which phase is required for analysis or are both required?

Historically for trace metals, we have a clear requirement for sample preparation and the analysis of water samples. Trace metals data is clearly separated as dissolved metals (sample is filtered through a 0.45µm filter and typically preserved with mineral acids) OR total recoverable (also known as acid extractable) where the unfiltered sample is mixed and mineral acid digested i.e. the particulate/sediment phase is also effectively included in the extraction prior to analysis. There are currently no hard and fast rules applied for Organic (SVOCs) and Inorganic (e.g. nutrients/anions) analyses.

For (Volatile Organic Compound) VOC analyses of water samples, the laboratory will always analyse the samples as received i.e. from zero headspace vials. Filtering of samples for VOC analysis would potentially cause significant losses of analytes with low boiling points and is therefore avoided. However, for SVOCs the options and outcomes are less clear.

The preparation for analysis for water samples is typically a solvent extraction, be it a liquid/liquid extraction in a separatory funnel, continuous liquid/liquid extraction or even supercritical fluid extraction. For any of the aforementioned processes the phase or phases chosen for preparation can have significant impact on the measured concentrations of the target analytes.

For example, the table below shows the variation between the same water sample A filtered (0.45µm) and unfiltered prior to solvent extraction. This sample was turbid and had visible particulate, the unfiltered sample was gently mixed prior to sub-sampling and analysis.

    Sample A Filtered Sample A Unfiltered RPD%
Naphthalene mg/L 0.014 1.8 197%
Acenaphthylene mg/L 0.003 1.1 199%
Acenaphthene mg/L 0.013 0.52 190%
Fluorene mg/L 0.007 0.56 195%
Phenanthrene mg/L 0.019 0.77 190%
Anthracene mg/L 0.004 0.21 193%
Fluoranthene mg/L 0.003 0.33 196%
Pyrene mg/L 0.003 0.34 197%
Benzo(a)anthracene mg/L <0.001 0.056 --
Chrysene mg/L <0.001 0.045 --
Benzo(b,j,k)fluoranthene mg/L <0.002 0.11 --
Benzo(a)pyrene mg/L <0.001 0.010 --
Indeno(1,2,3-c,d)pyrene mg/L <0.001 0.006 --
Dibenzo(a,h)anthracene mg/L <0.001 0.001 --
Benzo(g,h,i)perylene mg/L <0.001 0.005 --

Clearly from the results above, the particulate can cause significant differences in the analytical results. In the above circumstance, the PAHs are likely strongly adhered to the particulate phase (also there is potential for loss of the more volatile PAHs i.e. Naphthalene during filtering). The solubility of PAHs is limited, particularly as the molecule increases in size (elevating hydrophobicity), for example Benzo(a)pyrene has a maximum theoretical solubility of 3.8µg/L (0.0038mg/L) in water. The more hydrophobic the analyte, the more likely the analyte will preferentially adhere to particulate that is amenable to adsorption of relatively non-polar compounds.

USEPA guidance recommends using the whole liquid sample (particularly where oily residue can adhere to the inside of the bottle), however, this limits the ability to carry out QA/QC and perform confirmatory analysis unless additional sample containers/volumes are provided (given the drive to minimise sample volumes, this can be a challenge, additionally retrieving water from dry wells can limit sample volumes significantly). There is also the environmental consultant debate relating to using the supernatant phase only (letting samples settle out prior to sub-sampling and/or filtering) where the whole sample isn’t extracted. Hence there are pros and cons for whole bottle analysis for SVOCs.

Note 1, whole bottle/sample analysis is mandated for PFAS in QSM 5.3 Table B-15 and the recent draft SW846 USEPA 8327 method.
Note 2, centrifugation is allowed in QSM 5.3 where the liquid and solid phases are analysed separately.

No matter which approach is taken by the laboratory, it is clear that the specifics of the preparation should be clear to the data end user in order to improve their decision making, potentially highlight the difference between the adsorbed and soluble phase and compare interlab data where turbid samples are supplied to laboratories.

Therefore the laboratories should make a statement on the phase or phases of a water sample used for analysis. Ideally, laboratories are given clear instruction on preparation requirements (e.g. in lab filtering, pore size and material) to suit the goals of the environmental project unless the sample has been field filtered or sampled in order to minimise the need for filtering – see VIC EPA GROUND WATER SAMPLING GUIDELINES 2000 section 4.8. Also worthy of a mention is the adsorption characteristics of PFOS, considered to be potentially the most harmful of the PFASs. PFOS has been observed to adsorb to certain clay materials (reversibly potentially) and therefore the phase chosen for analysis can be significant, see sample B below (note, the filters used do not adsorb PFAS).

    Sample B Filtered Sample B Unfiltered RPD%
PFHxS µg/L 0.014 0.018 25%
PFOS µg/L 0.036 0.15 123%
PFOA µg/L 0.033 0.032 3%

Hence, for sample B in the table above, the PFOS in the liquid phase is very significant and therefore the phase analysed could have a large bearing on the environmental assessment outcomes!

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