Machinery Safety 101

5 Things You Need to Know About ANSI

If you are design­ing products for the US mar­ket, you will undoubtedly have at least heard of the Amer­ic­an Nation­al Stand­ards Insti­tute (ANSI), if not used one or more of their stand­ards or ser­vices. Some of their stand­ards, like the ANSI/NEMA Z535 fam­ily of stand­ards cov­er­ing safety signs and labels and related top­ics, are also used in Canada and else­where around the world. But what do you know about ANSI? Read on to learn more about this import­ant organization!

1.  ANSI is 100 years old in 2018

Image: ANSI
ANSI was foun­ded in 1918 as the Amer­ic­an Engin­eer­ing Stand­ards Com­mit­tee (AESC). Its name changed sev­er­al times since its found­ing even­tu­ally becom­ing the Amer­ic­an Nation­al Stand­ards Insti­tute (ANSI) in 1969. 

2.  What is ANSI, anyway?

ANSI is the Nation­al Stand­ards body for the United States of Amer­ica. They exist by the author­ity gran­ted by the US Nation­al Insti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy (NIST). ANSI over­sees stand­ards devel­op­ment activ­it­ies by 237 stand­ards devel­op­ment organ­iz­a­tions (SDO). The top 20 largest SDOs are respons­ible for 90% of the stand­ards cur­rently under development.  ANSI is also respons­ible inter­na­tion­ally, rep­res­ent­ing US interests in the ISO and IEC aren­as. ANSI’s inter­na­tion­al activ­it­ies help to enhance the glob­al com­pet­it­ive­ness of U.S. busi­ness and the Amer­ic­an qual­ity of life by pro­mot­ing and facil­it­at­ing vol­un­tary con­sensus stand­ards and con­form­ity assess­ment sys­tems and pro­mot­ing their integ­rity. ANSI’s work dir­ectly sup­ports the US Gov­ern­ment’s stand­ards policy. Act­ive in both nation­al and inter­na­tion­al stand­ard­iz­a­tion, ANSI is a major pro­ponent of the United States Stand­ards Strategy (USS). This doc­u­ment estab­lishes a frame­work that can be used by all interests includ­ing com­pan­ies, gov­ern­ment, non­gov­ern­ment­al organ­iz­a­tions, stand­ards developers and con­sumers, to fur­ther improve U.S. com­pet­it­ive­ness abroad while con­tinu­ing to provide strong sup­port for domest­ic mar­kets. Using the USS as a guide, ANSI is suc­cess­fully facing the stand­ard­iz­a­tion chal­lenges of a glob­al eco­nomy while address­ing key qual­ity-of-life issues such as safety and the environment. 

3. ANSI standards

While respons­ible for the over­sight and coördin­a­tion of stand­ards devel­op­ment in the USA, ANSI does not actu­ally devel­op any stand­ards, how­ever, they are respons­ible for assess­ing stand­ards against nation­al cri­ter­ia and adopt­ing those meet­ing the cri­ter­ia as Amer­ic­an Nation­al Stand­ards (ANS). There are no “ANSI stand­ards”, only ANS standards.  ANSI provides all inter­ested US parties with a neut­ral ven­ue to come togeth­er and work towards com­mon agree­ments, but ANS doc­u­ments are developed by tech­nic­al com­mit­tees cre­ated by the SDOs. There are now more than 11,500 ANS doc­u­ments, cov­er­ing top­ics from acous­tic­al devices to con­struc­tion equip­ment, from dairy and live­stock pro­duc­tion to energy dis­tri­bu­tion, and many more.  The ANS accred­it­a­tion pro­cess is based on the ANSI Essen­tial Require­ments: Due pro­cess require­ments for Amer­ic­an Nation­al Stand­ards. The pro­cess ensures that stand­ards developed by ANSI mem­ber SDOs have been developed with integ­rity and trans­par­ency. A sep­ar­ate pro­cess, based on the Essen­tial Require­ments, determ­ines wheth­er stand­ards meet the neces­sary cri­ter­ia to be approved as Amer­ic­an Nation­al Stand­ards. The pro­cess for approv­al of these stand­ards is inten­ded to veri­fy that the prin­ciples of open­ness and due pro­cess have been fol­lowed and that a con­sensus of all inter­ested stake­hold­er groups has been reached.  The hall­marks of this pro­cess include: 
  • Con­sensus must be reached by rep­res­ent­at­ives from mater­i­ally affected and inter­ested parties
  • Stand­ards are required to under­go pub­lic reviews when any mem­ber of the pub­lic may sub­mit comments
  • Com­ments from the con­sensus body and pub­lic review com­menters must be respon­ded to in good faith
  • An appeals pro­cess is required
That is why Amer­ic­an Nation­al Stand­ards are usu­ally referred to as “open” stand­ards. In this sense, “open” refers to a pro­cess used by a recog­nized body for devel­op­ing and approv­ing a stand­ard. The Institute’s defin­i­tion of open­ness has many ele­ments but basic­ally refers to a col­lab­or­at­ive, bal­anced and con­sensus-based approv­al pro­cess. The con­tent of these stand­ards may relate to products, pro­cesses, ser­vices, sys­tems or personnel. 

4. New Projects

ANSI SDOs receive many pro­pos­als each year for new stand­ards. Cur­rently two of the most excit­ing new pro­jects are: 

5. How to get ANS documents

Vol­un­tary tech­nic­al stand­ards like those pro­duced by ANSI SDOs, unlike legis­lated stand­ards pro­duced by gov­ern­ment depart­ments like the US OSHA, are copy­righted by their cre­at­ors. The costs of devel­op­ing stand­ards can be con­sid­er­able, so these doc­u­ments are sold as a way to recov­er some of the cost of their development.  In some cases, ANS doc­u­ments may be brought into the pub­lic record by way of a court case, in which case that par­tic­u­lar edi­tion of the stand­ard may become free-to-access, for example, ASME B20.1 – 1957. While there are many examples of this, gen­er­ally speak­ing, ANS doc­u­ments are not avail­able for free. Sites offer­ing ANS doc­u­ments for free are break­ing copy­right laws, and any­one found in pos­ses­sion of doc­u­ments obtained this way can be charged under US copy­right laws.  If you are look­ing for an ANS doc­u­ment to use for research or in the devel­op­ment of a product, pro­cess or ser­vice, you can search the ANSI data­base by vis­it­ing in the ANSI Web­store. Stand­ards can be pur­chased indi­vidu­ally, in sets of related doc­u­ments, and as subscriptions. 

6. Keeping up-to-date

I said there would be five things you needed to know in this post, and I always like to over-deliv­er, so here’s num­ber six!  There are a num­ber of ways you can stay up-to-date with ANSI and your favour­ite ANS documents. 
  • Pur­chase a sub­scrip­tion to a stand­ard, like the Nation­al Elec­tric­al Code (NFPA 70)
  • Fol­low the ANSI blog for gen­er­al news
  • Check in with the ANSI web­site from time-to-time
  • Fol­low ANSI on Twit­ter @ansidotorg
If you have more ques­tions about ANSI or oth­er stand­ards developers like CEN, CENELEC, CSA, IEC or ISO, get in touch with us, we’d be happy to help! Feel free to leave your ques­tions in the com­ments sec­tion below, or drop us an email.

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