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International standards have a significant impact on our daily lives. They help ensure you are able to withdraw money from an ATM, that the food you eat meets quality standards, and that the batteries you purchase actually fit into your electronic devices. One of the important goals of international standards is compatibility and interoperability of devices and systems across the world. Standards make life easier, safer, and more convenient. International standards also have a significant, but often unacknowledged, impact on the practice of industrial hygiene. As business and commerce has become increasingly global, standard development initiatives have become global as well. There are an increasing number of international standards dealing with OHS topics such as fire prevention, chemical safety, hearing protection, indoor air quality, ergonomics, machine safety, and environmental sustainability. International standards play an important role in defining societal expectations and in establishing the standard of care expected of OHS professionals. INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS The most recognized international standards development organization (SDO) is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ISO is made up of 162 member bodies that are nationally recognized SDOs. ISO’s mission is “to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating the international exchange of goods and services.” The ISO member body for the United States is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). According to the ISO website, ANSI participates in 618 ISO Technical Committees. ANSI accomplishes its standards development mission by accrediting other organizations within the U.S. to act as standards developers. These SDOs are approved by ANSI as the administrator of a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for a particular ISO standards development activity. For example, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is the TAG administrator for the development of the ISO 45001 standard, Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use. Once a standard is finalized and published as an ISO standard, a determination is made by the relevant TAG whether the standard should be adopted by ANSI as an American National Standard. In this way, ISO standards become ANSI standards. ISO has published more than 20,000 standards covering a wide range of subjects from acoustics to zinc alloys. ISO standards are typically developed by either a Technical Committee, which has a portfolio of related standards, or a Project Committee, which is authorized to develop a single standard. For example, TC 207 manages 33 different standards, whereas PC 283, the committee tasked with developing the occupational health and safety management system standard, has only a single standard under development. There are more than 250 Technical Committees within ISO, each working within a defined subject matter area. Another international organization that develops documents with a direct impact on the practice of industrial hygiene is the International Labor Organization (ILO). Also headquartered in Geneva, ILO’s mission is “to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.” As part of this mission, ILO develops a variety of documents focused on occupational health and safety (or occupational safety and health, as ILO prefers). These documents include conventions, recommendations, guidelines, codes of practice, and other informative documents and pamphlets. ILO’s primary standards development effort is the drafting of conventions, which are intended to be ratified by the member states of ILO. ILO tracks the ratifications of its various conventions on its website. (The ILO website has additional information about ILO’s OHS conventions and the countries that have ratified them.) ISO and ILO are very different organizations (see Table 1). They have very different missions, standards development processes, and methods of decision-making. In recent years, an increasing number of organizations have characterized themselves as international SDOs. Some of these are U.S.-based organizations, such as ASTM International and Underwriters Laboratory (UL), that have expanded into international standards development. Also, some newly formed organizations have been established specifically to have an international impact. For example, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) develops sustainability reporting guidelines that are intended for international use.
How Standards Affect the Practice of Industrial Hygiene
BY THEA DUNMIRE
International Standards:
A PRIMER
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