Clear explanations for the complex world of standards

This year’s story series aims to offer a simple, clear explanation of the complex world of standards. The series focuses on the workings of the standardization process, the importance of standards in practice and the value added by the standards created in response to this. It revolves around people who play a crucial role in the standardization process. We are delighted to be using each monthly story to create a better understanding of standardization work and its many facets.

SNV Story No. 11: Saving people when everything goes dark

You're walking around a large building that you’re not familiar with. Suddenly, the light goes out and everything’s pitch black. What now? The emergency lighting switches on. It allows you to orientate yourself and leads you safely out of the building and away from any possible danger. In Switzerland, the legislation regarding emergency lighting is complex because it is dealt with in three different places: in labour law, fire safety and laws governing electricity. As a result, the interests, provisions and objectives are varied. For more than a decade, the Schweizer Licht Gesellschaft (SLG) has been involved in this conflicted field, uncovering discrepancies and making them transparent for everyone involved. By creating a Swiss standard, they are now taking their work to the next level. We spoke with Markus Christen, the head of the “Emergency lighting” professional group.

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SNV Story No. 10: What an extra two minutes mean for safety

With electrical discharge machining, safety is of the highest priority. That’s because there’s an invisible danger lurking for those who use the machines: electricity. It can be the cause of painful injuries for users. Unlike other economic regions, Europe has enshrined strict safety regulations in its laws for machine manufacturers. That's why the working group dedicated to updating ISO 28881:2022 “Machine tools – Safety – Electrical discharge machines” worked closely with harmonized standards (HAS) consultants. We spoke with Orio Sargenti, Chairperson of the “ISO/TC 39 – Machine Tools” committee, about the 2022 revision.

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SNV Story No. 9: A Swiss solution with Swiss quality – apprenticeships

Swiss apprenticeships are unique. They offer an ideal start in the world of work, enable young people to earn an income for the first time, promote independence, and leave every door open for continued theoretical or practical training in the future. It sounds like a real success story. At first glance, it absolutely is. But nowadays, apprenticeships are in competition with many alternative educational paths and have lost a bit of their original lustre. The “Charta Berufsbildung” (“Vocational Training Charter”) group has recognized the demands of the modern world and developed guidelines for improving the quality of apprenticeships. To mark the launch of this pragmatic work tool, we spoke with Adrian Krebs, who was involved in its planning.

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SNV Story No. 8: Quality is...

ISO 9001 is considered the mother of all management systems. Worldwide, it is still the most well-known standard by far. The system sustains itself by being updated regularly and adapting to the latest market conditions. In 2020, the most recent vote took place on whether ISO 9001:2015 should be changed and to what extent. During the review vote, something unexpected happened; there was no unanimous vote in favour of a revision. In an interview with Thomas Krähenmann, the chairman of the INB/NK 140 Quality Management and Quality Assurance (Swiss mirror committee), we spoke about the background for this, what will happen next, and the enduring importance of quality.

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SNV Story No. 7: How standards determine the sun protection factor (SPF)

Your bags are all packed for your holiday, including a couple of bottles of sun cream with SPF 30 or 50. But how is this factor tested? The most established test is the one known as the gold standard (ISO 24444:2019), which has been regularly criticised for years, mainly due to ethical concerns. In 2006 the EU recommended giving preference to in vitro test methods. This was the starting signal for intensifying research. However, implementing the recommendation for the in vitro SPF method was not at all easy. The first attempt failed after ten years. To continue giving different methods a chance, DSM launched the ALT-SPF (alternative SPF methods) initiative in 2018. Over the past two years, a remarkable ring trial that is unprecedented in its scope has been taking place under the leadership of the Cosmetics Europe industrial association. The results are expected this autumn. We spoke with Uli Osterwalder, Chairperson of ISO/TC 217 and co-initiator of ALT-SPF, about this impressive achievement.

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SNV Story No. 6: Developing the right ideas at the right moment

In our stories, there have been several instances in which we have gained insight into various ISO working groups and became acquainted with the work that they do. But what exactly are these ad hoc working groups? They constantly have their eyes and ears open in a specific market in order to pick up on needs that have changed or new developments. They propose topics to their technical committee (TC) that will be then be voted on and used to work out new standards. One of the more recent committees is TC322 Sustainable Finance, which began its work in 2018. Franz Knecht leads the associated ISO TC322 AHG 2 Future Standard Developments technical committee, and spoke to us about how they evaluate new topics.

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SNV Story No. 5: A standard that makes inclusion a reality

Recycling has long been a global business. Individuals who collect waste and global corporations that recycle the valuable raw materials are both involved in the value chain. In developing countries, a large part of this business takes place in the informal sector. The ISO 59014 standard to be developed bridges the gap between the informal and formal sectors, thereby improving the quality of life for many workers around the world. ISO working group convenor Dr Sonia Valdivia provided us with insight into the world of recycling and the new standard.

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SNV Story No. 4: Management system ahoy!

Inland waterway transport is becoming increasingly popular around the world. This is a development that can be traced to countries setting ambitious goals for shifting transport to water as well as to the general growth in demand for this form of travel. However, this trend is also facing challenges such as lower water levels, a new awareness of the need for sustainability, a shortage of licensed skippers and the absence of a joined up management system. All of this suggests that it’s high time for a change of course that would include adopting a uniform standard on all inland waterways and accelerating decarbonisation. The new draft standard Safety and Sustainability Management System ISO/CD 28701 is based on the ESG principles and unifies existing regional regulations in an international system that lends itself to a certification framework. We spoke with Sascha Gill, who is one of the initiators of the standard as well as convenor of the ISO/TC 8/SC 7/WG 1 working group.

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SNV Story No. 3: Circular economy: on everyone’s lips

ISO has its finger on the pulse of the most diverse issues and is often a step ahead of governments. Standards are created pragmatically where political frameworks drag their feet. The internationally composed working groups draw on an almost endless pool of theoretical and practical knowledge. This is also the case in the field of the circular economy. The technical committee ISO/TC 323 will publish an ambitious package combining three standards at the beginning of 2024. We spoke to René Wasmer, Chairman of the Swiss standardization committee INB/NK 174 Environment & Sustainability and co-creator of this package.

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SNV Story No. 2: How a DIN standard becomes a Swiss standard

What does aptitude testing do? It is used to assess whether employees are suitable for the position to be filled – a major responsibility with access to sensitive data. By using everything from the simplest interviews to assessments over several days, candidates are tested for ability, values or personality in a professional environment. But who assesses and controls aptitude diagnostics? Until today, no one. The professional title of aptitude diagnostician is not protected in this country and the professional field is an unregulated area except for federal data protection. For the Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen (FSP, Federation of Swiss Psychologists), it is high time to change this situation. The idea: To launch a common basis of standards and, based on this, a certification for the professional title. Annick de Buman, specialist leader of the working group “SN 33430 Requirements for job-related aptitude diagnostics”, has taken us along on the journey.

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SNV Story No. 1: What does it take to create a standard? Respect and an open ear

Today’s consumers care about more than just the end product. They view the entire supply chain with a critical eye. Sustainability is becoming a more important factor. Vegetarian, vegan, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian: the sheer variety of principles by which people consume is constantly becoming broader and more complex. Reading the labels at the supermarket is no longer seen as something eccentric, but an essential activity for many shoppers. The expectations for consistent, transparent and trustworthy communication are growing. Consumers look to vegetarian or vegan labels for guidance. It was about time to have a corresponding ISO standard.

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