ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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ANSI Conferences Illuminate Standards, the Law and the Globalization of Personnel

World Standards Week 2005

Washington DC, Oct 07, 2005

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) welcomed more than 200 members, constituents, consumers and standards executives for two conferences held on October 6 during World Standards Week 2005 in Washington, DC. The conferences highlighted the role of the law in the standardization process, and the relationship between certification organizations and the global economy’s trend toward labor offshoring and the mobility of workers.

[Conference proceedings and most presentations are available online by clicking here.]

“From A to Veeck: Standardization and the Law,” showcased four panels covering topics that explore the key relationships between standardization and the law.

The first panel provided a working understanding of the relevance of federal antitrust law to standards-setting and certification activities, as well as the pro- and anti-competitive effects of standards setting. Intellectual property rights concerns have been growing within the ANSI membership and across industries, and this first panel discussed the challenge of requiring participants to submit technology in standards development while protecting intellectual property rights.

The second panel tackled the elusive “open standard,” a phrase that has created some confusion among standards developers and users alike. Does “open” refer to a development model or a licensing model? This panel gave a history and voice to the multidimensional interpretations of the terms and discussed how these disparate kinds of documents coexist within and outside of the traditional standards-setting model.

The afternoon began with the third panel, addressing the tort law implications of voluntary standards activities, including whether standards developers owe a duty of care to implementers. Presenters covered cell phone litigation, welding rod litigation, legal claims against standards development organizations (SDOs) and statutory protection of SDO volunteers. Presenters discussed what types of standards might present a legal risk for SDOs and whether technical committee members need to be concerned about being sued when liability suits arise.

The final panel of the day covered critical copyright issues during standards-setting including SDO licensing and an update on the Veeck case and its lasting effects.

Finally, the NFPA’s Jim Shannon, leader of the financial and legal subgroup of the United States Standards Strategy Committee, gave an overview on the role of the Strategy in promoting the importance of standards in advance of its approval and release later this year.

Said ANSI president and CEO Mark W. Hurwitz, “Each year, ANSI brings together a remarkable number of experts and leaders in the standards community to share their insights with us on the topics of the day. Our thanks go to all of the participants who helped to illuminate the often complex but inherently critical role of the law in all standardization activities.”

Running concurrently with the legal-themed conference, the ANSI Accreditation of Personnel Certification Conference, “Facilitating Trade in Services around the World,” combined international perspectives and voices from across industries to portray the current landscape of challenges facing personnel certification bodies, and the trends that are influencing how and why certification is becoming global.

Dr. George Anastasopoulos, chairman of the newly formed International Personnel Certification Association (IPC), gave attendees an overview of the structure, requirements for membership, and benefits of joining this organization. The IPC helps to promote business improvement through the recognition of individuals who have demonstrated competence to internationally agreed industry criteria, and provide assurance of this competency worldwide.

The second presentation of the morning explored the impact of international trade agreements on personnel certification. Trade agreements like GATS and NAFTA are closely monitored as they often increase the mobility of personnel and support standards and regulation.

Accreditation initiatives in higher education and professional training are impacting the global workforce. The third panel of the morning identified the ways in which educational components and certification bodies can improve their collaboration.

Several of the afternoon speakers provided insight into how globalization is affecting retail operations and personnel certification approaches outside of the U.S. Presentations explained how standardized certification processes and testing become essential for licensing boards and credentialing agencies in determining equivalency of personnel that are moving across borders. Training materials must be based on globally accepted standards and systems, translated into local languages and dialects, and tailored to respective cultures.

The panel on the globalization needs of multinational corporations provided the broad perspectives of executives who are sending their employees around the world and gave examples of some credentialing challenges they face. Food and beverage safety and handling in the hospitality industry, for example, faces conflicts between the FDA Food Code and other recognized codes throughout the world. Speakers also emphasized the role that education is playing in preparing new entrants into the workforce; countries like China and India are producing three to five times the number of engineering graduates as the United States, threatening the global competitiveness of the U.S.

The afternoon concluded with overview on the international accreditation forum and closing remarks by ANSI’s chairman, Dr. George Arnold. “The expansive globalization of the service sector has led to increased competition and a new demand for professional uniformity. For many industries, ANSI provides the forum where subject matter experts from the private and public sectors work cooperatively toward the development of voluntary standards and conformity assessment programs that ultimately benefit the nation,” said Dr. Arnold. “By providing programs like today’s conference, we hope to expand awareness of these activities and inspire participation by those industries and organizations we have not yet reached.”

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