ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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To Cover and Protect: ISO Considers Proposal for "Umbrella" TC to Address Safety for Consumer Products

New York, Aug 16, 2002

Calling for an "umbrella" organization covering standardization activities impacting consumer product safety, the national standards body of Australia (Standards Australia International Ltd (SAI)) has floated a proposal to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) for a new technical committee on safety of household products.

Proposed at the COPOLCO meeting held in Trinidad earlier this year, an SAI spokesman noted that the current ISO Technical Committee structure takes a vertical, industry-sector type approach that does not respond adequately to the need to develop international benchmarks for safety for certain products. An accompanying Australian position paper provided numerous examples of common consumer products that fall outside the scope of an existing ISO TC and identified the need for a new TC whose scope could be limited to developing specification standards for any consumer products that are not covered by another ISO/TC but that would benefit from international standardization for trade reasons.

Because consumer products are often manufactured according to the specifications of large importers, which are not necessarily identical with those of small importers, the absence of international standards may result in higher costs to importing nations with small markets and particular specifications regarding safety of consumer products, the SAI representative explained.

The report calls for a market-driven, rather than a structural, basis for development of requirements governing safety for consumer products.

A former ISO Technical Committee (ISO/TC 73, Consumer questions) was disbanded after 33 years of existence; during which time the TC produced only one standard.

COPOLCO members agreed to form an ad hoc committee comprised of national body interests that would consider various aspects of the proposal in more detail. ANSI, as the U.S. member body to ISO, has been invited to comment on the proposal and to nominate experts to the aforementioned ad hoc group.

Comments are invited on the following topics/questions:

the desirability/feasibility for ISO to develop safety standards for household products such as backyard trampolines, strollers, kerosene cooking stoves, tampons, ladders, baby walkers, and other products in children's environments;

whether there is a need for ISO to develop safety standards for other consumer products not previously mentioned;

whether these or other proposed new work items should be allocated to existing ISO Technical Committees or if a new umbrella TC should be formed as proposed whether any ANSI members or constituents would be willing to participate actively in the resulting standardization activities;

whether any ANSI member or constituent wishes to be considered for nomination to the COPOLCO ad hoc group studying the issue.

Comments on this proposal or the above topics/questions should be submitted to James McCabe of ANSI staff (fax: 212-840-2298) by Friday, August 30, 2002. Comments will be provided to the ANSI Consumer Interest Forum with a view to developing an ANSI position to bring forward to ISO/COPOLCO.

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