Around the world … COPOLCO member news
Timber framing code
Standards Australia has released a revised edition of the popular Australian Standard for Residential Timber Framed Construction, AS 1684, updating Parts 2, 3, and 4 in line with new research findings and current industry practice. AS 1684 is the backbone of Australia’s home building industry, ensuring homes are designed and constructed taking into account likely wind conditions and other loadings to which houses may be subjected through their expected life spans.
Organic and biodynamic products
The voluntary Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products, AS 6000-2009, sets out minimum requirements to be met by growers and manufacturers operating in the organic and biodynamic industry, and it is slowly changing the landscape of Australia’s domestic organic industry. Growers, manufacturers and consumers now have strict requirements defining what is, and is not, "organic".
The need for a national standard for the Australian organic industry had been present for a number of years. The concern stemmed from unscrupulous entrepreneurs labelling their domestic-bound products as "organic" or "free range". Australian consumers were looking to buy organic products which they could ensure were really "organic".
Prior to the introduction of the new Australian Standard, it was difficult for consumers, or for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the national consumer protection authority), to challenge the validity of organic claims. The new standard brings strict requirements into play for the domestic organic market. However, observance is voluntary, not compulsory, in contrast to a large number of overseas markets.
Standards Australia is continuing its leadership role in the electric vehicles space with the formation of an electric vehicle reference group comprising stakeholders from across relevant industries. This strategic stakeholder group will be responsible for identifying standards development priorities and work tasks to support the introduction of the electric vehicle infrastructure in Australia. The group met for the first time in June to begin discussions on priorities and task plans for the 18 topic areas under consideration.
New Australian standard for olive oil
Work has started on a new Australian Standard for the olive oil industry, so that consumers can be confident that when they buy top quality olive oil, that is what they will get. Standards Australia, in collaboration with the Australian Olive Association, is working with relevant stakeholders including retailers, consumer associations, government bodies and growers to develop the Australian Standard that will provide assurance of quality for consumers and a level playing field for growers.
See these and other recently-published standards from SAI Global at www.saiglobal.com/store.
AFNOR publishes a standard on accessibility in the workplace
Accessibility in the workplace for persons with disabilities has become a major concern for many social and economic actors. "Disability-friendly" workplaces have sprung up in response. On the other hand, what defines "good practice"? The new standard, NF X 50-783, Disability-friendly workplaces – Requirements and recommendations for taking disabilities into account in the workplaceasks the right questions and offers solutions.
Introduced in 2009, this standard was developed under AFNOR's auspices, with participation of concerned stakeholders: disabled persons' groups, public and private companies, government authorities, universities and high schools, training centers and labour unions.
The objective of this standard is to identify good practices in the workplace which are applicable to any organization regardless of its size or type of activity; whether it is public or private. The standard sets out minimum requirements for the organization to be recognized as "disability-friendly".
The standard helps the organization ask questions adapted to the disability and thereby facilitate the disabled person's integration into the workplace. It also makes recommendations on how to apply requirements, and provides additional guidance to organizations interested in finding out more.
Other elements addressed in the standard include: accessibility to information and to premises, raising awareness of employees and managers, organizing the workstation, recruitment, training, integration of the disabled person, and career planning.
AFNOR is now considering new projects for disability-friendly organizations, notably:
- Drafting of sector-based guides (e.g. for training centers)
- Introduction of the standard into the European system
- Developing a "disability-friendly" label to aid recognition.
AFNOR Standardisation is part of the AFNOR Group. AFNOR Standardisation is a public interest organization that acts as key operator of the French standardization system. It draws up the reference documents in response to stakeholder demand, to promote economic and strategic development. See www.afnor.org.
BSI holds a workshop on standards and higher education
Standards – Who needs them? Focus on Higher Education was the focus of a workshop taking place at Imperial College, London, on 27 July, under the auspices of the BSI Consumer & Public Interest Network (CPIN). The workshop chair, Lynn Faulds Wood, was formerly the presenter of the popular BBC consumer rights TV Programme, "Watchdog".
She opened the workshop with various photos and video clips to demonstrate serious consumer problems, such as exploding ovens and hot surfaces causing serious burns to children, all of which have been tackled in some way by standards.
After some lively presentations, the participants debated issues such as how to be a better consumer, introduction of education about standards into curricula, application of standards to improve educational programmes, and whether standards education should involve technical aspects, or processes only.
The participants concluded that standards education could contribute to a consumer’s ability to make more informed choices, and to be aware of influences or pressures such as advertising as well as relevant ethical and environmental issues. They felt that standards education should be introduced at various stages, starting with basic awareness.They cited as an example the very successful "Young Environmental Warriors" scheme in primary schools.
Finally, participants concluded that standards education made the most impact for voluntary standards rather than mandatory standards. For voluntary standards, educated consumers could choose products or services which provide greater assurance of satisfaction: for example, approved motor servicing standards. In contrast, for mandatory standards, consumers did not need to know the detail as they assumed standards were applied. One example of this was safety standards applicable to motor cars.
Work advances on streamlining of the legal and standardization frameworks for toy safety
Following the “summer of recalls” which exposed problems with toy safety caused by global supply chains, ANEC commissioned a research project in October 2008 aimed at comparing the requirements of toy legislation in certain markets with the provisions of the ISO/IEC, ASTM and CEN/CENELEC standards for toys. In November 2008, ANEC learned that a similar study was being conducted by the International Council of Toys Industries (ICTI). In order to avoid duplication of effort, ANEC and ICTI agreed that ANEC would carry out a “peer-review” of the ICTI study to identify gaps and make proposals for improvement as needed.
The ANEC study highlights that there are sufficient similarities among the standards – especially in requirements for mechanical and physical properties – for first steps towards a closer convergence to be possible. However, the report notes that the difficulties in achieving closer convergence beyond these first steps must not be underestimated. The convergence of the standards is dependent upon greater coherence of the legislation which governs the production and sale of toys. ANEC notes that not all countries accept the "precautionary principle" as a key element of their legislation, and sees deep-seated differences in the application and scope of chemicals legislation. However, in making the report of the study publicly available, ANEC (in association with ICTI) intends to provide a useful resource on the opportunities and challenges presented.
For more, follow this link.
Finding the way out – ANEC publishes study of visual accessibility of signs and signage for people with low vision
The layout of our built environment has become more complex, with the increasing use of signs and signage in and around public areas and buildings. As a result, a growing number of elderly people with low vision have difficulties finding their way. Enabling safe and independent mobility for people with low vision has become a basic need, especially as demographic trends worldwide show that the number of people with age-related low vision is rising.
A new ANEC study shows that the size of pictograms, symbols, icons and text used in public places should be at least 5% of the Critical Reading Distance (CRD) in order to be readable by the majority of consumers, including people with visual impairments.1 Optimal – but not maximal - contrast intensity should be approximately a value of 75% on the white-black axis.
The study also underlines the challenges posed by ensuring the localization and recognition of signs, both essential for independent travelling and mobility. However, while recognition is acceptable from 5% CRD on, and hardly increases beyond that threshold, localization still improves up to 9% CRD. Examples of good practice are given in the study. The results could constitute the starting point for guidelines. These guidelines could in time result in a standard on the legibility of signs and signage in public buildings or for public procurement.
For more, follow this link.
ANEC in brief
ANEC is the European consumer voice in standardization, defending consumer interests in the processes of technical standardization and conformity assessment as well as related legislation and public policies. ANEC was established in 1995 as an international non-profit association under Belgian law and represents consumer organizations from 31 countries. ANEC is funded by the European Union and EFTA, with national consumer organiations contributing in kind. Its Secretariat is based in Brussels. Also see: www.anec.eu.
1) Carried out by the University of Ghent (Belgium) (ANEC-R&T-2010-DFA-001)