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Government Shutdown Hits NIST, Impacting on Calibrations Worldwide
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9 January, 2019 - 4:58 PM
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The US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) is shuttered as an effect of the Trump Shutdown of the US Federal government. The President and Congress are in their third week of shutdown over a demand by President Trump to build a massive wall between the US and Mexico.

NIST is responsible for calibration of “master devices” against its national master standards. Most companies must certify their tools to NIST-traceable standards, which requires laboratories to submit their devices to NIST for periodic checks. As of now, any devices received or in transit to NIST will be frozen and not returned, since there is no staff to process the calibrations nor return them to their owners.

A laboratory in Medina MN reported to Oxebridge the impact will cascade to other industries, including healthcare and aerospace:

We have some master load cells stuck there now and as our fleet goes down we will have problems certifying product. Industry will start seeing problems as this shutdown ripples down the calibration chain. This could start shutting down the medical and aerospace industries in as little as a month. The effect is cumulative and promises to put a serious kink in anything that originates from NIST the longer this goes on – backed up work and all that.

ISO 9001 and the standards that rely on it, such as AS9100, require that certified companies use calibrated devices ensure “measuring equipment shall be: calibrated or verified, or both, at specified intervals, or prior to use, against measurement standards traceable to international or national measurement standards.” The most common method to meet this requirement is through NIST. While most standards users simply rely on third-party calibration or test laboratories to conduct calibration, those labs then rely on NIST to calibrate their “master gauges” used to provide their services.

Accredited certification bodies working under ABs such as ANAB or UKAS would be forced to write nonconformities against clients whose calibration certificates lapsed, regardless of the reason. For those operating under the AS9100 scheme, these would likely be graded as “major” nonconformities, resulting in the suspension of AS9100 certifications, since the IAQG interprets the use of out-of-calibration devices as being likely to ship defective products.

Oxebridge reached out to ANAB to see if it would allow its accredited CBs to waive nonconformities brought on by the shutdown, but ANAB did not respond.

Previously, the IAQG and IAF refused to extend certification deadlines even in the event of natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes.

President Trump has threatened to extend the shutdown “for years.”

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