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:

  • ANSI Unmanned Air­craft Sys­tems Stand­ard­iz­a­tion Col­lab­or­at­ive (UASSC) for stand­ard­iz­ing drones (https://www.ansi.org/standards_activities/standards_boards_panels/uassc/overview?menuid=3)
  • Amer­ica Makes & ANSI Addit­ive Man­u­fac­tur­ing Stand­ard­iz­a­tion Col­lab­or­at­ive (AMSC) for accel­er­at­ing the devel­op­ment of addit­ive man­u­fac­tur­ing and 3D print­ing stand­ard­iz­a­tion.

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.

Author: Doug Nix

Doug Nix is Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Compliance InSight Consulting, Inc. (http://www.complianceinsight.ca) in Kitchener, Ontario, and is Lead Author and Senior Editor of the Machinery Safety 101 blog. Doug's work includes teaching machinery risk assessment techniques privately and through Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Kitchener, Ontario, as well as providing technical services and training programs to clients related to risk assessment, industrial machinery safety, safety-related control system integration and reliability, laser safety and regulatory conformity. For more see Doug's LinkedIn profile.