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BSI – The development of Standards

BSI - The development of Standards

As the national standards body (NSB) for the United Kingdom, BSI works closely with industry to ensure standards remain relevant, embody best practise, and continue to place the public at the heart. This doesn’t exclusively refer to safety – although that is a major aspect of standardization. The public can be served by, for example, reduced costs, better products, and a more resilient supply chain. Standards are produced as the result of engagement between BSI and industry, but how does the process work? How are standards developed and how can organizations become involved?

The majority of documents published as British Standards have their origin in international standards (developed by ISO and IEC) or European standards (developed by CEN and CENELEC). The remainder are developed exclusively by BSI to meet particular needs in the UK.

British expertise into the development of standards, regardless of origin, is co-ordinated by a national technical committee. It’s important to note that standards are drafted via expert-led consensus, with that defined as “general agreement, characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting arguments”. Consensus does not imply unanimity.

Membership of a technical committee is open to all organizations that can demonstrate a relevant interest, and is without charge. All technical committees are chaired by an individual appointed by BSI. Prospective members should be nominated by a trade association in the first instance but it is possible to become a committee member as an expert in one’s own right if the expertise is not duplicated by another member. Membership is also not exclusively limited to trade association. BSI’s ethos is that all groups or sections of society who will be impacted by the existence of a standard should have a presence on the committee or be made aware of the work programme. This is why you may see universities, consumer groups, charities, and other interested groups as members.

BSI has a large presence in the built environment sector. Standards pertaining to fire safety will fall under the remit of one of several technical committees. Each have defined terms of reference and will shadow the work of one or more CEN or ISO technical committees:

  • FSH/2 Fire Extinguishers
  • FSH/9 Fire Terminology
  • FSH/12 Fire Detection & Alarm Systems
  • FSH/14 Fire Precautions in Buildings
  • FSH/16 Hazards to Life From Fire
  • FSH/17 Fire & Rescue Service Equipment
  • FSH/18 Fixed Fire Fighting Systems
  • FSH/21 Reaction to Fire Tests
  • FSH/22 Fire Resistance Tests
  • FSH/24 Fire Safety Engineering
  • FSH/25 Smoke, heat control systems and components
  • FSS/0 Fire safety & security systems
  • GEL/89 Fire Hazard Testing
  • PH/4 Respiratory Protection
  • PH/14 Firefighters’ personal protective equipment
  • RHE/2 Ventilation for buildings, heating and hot water service

A vast number of British experts participate in CEN and ISO, where our knowledge and history with fire safety is valued. Within CEN, two technical committees (CEN/TC 127 Fire Safety in Buildings, and CEN/TC 72 Fire detection and fire alarm systems) are chaired by the UK via BSI. British experts also chair an extensive list of Working Groups (WGs), further increasing UK involvement in the documents that shape so much of the fire industry. All experts on Working Groups represent the UK at meetings and not their respective companies or associations.

An idea for a new standard can come from anywhere. We welcome submissions from industry and the wider public. Via our Standards Development portal anyone can submit a new idea for a standard, refer the current stage of development for existing standards, or review the technical committees themselves.

Any ideas will be referred to the relevant national committee for consideration at their next meeting – or sooner, if prudent. The consideration of an idea may not necessarily mean it will be developed into a full standard – it might already have been covered by existing standards, or isn’t practical for development. If, however, the idea is viewed as viable and the technical committee believes it could form the basis of a new standard, BSI will consult with a range of stakeholders to create a drafting panel that has the expertise needed and that represents all stakeholders. The experts then work together, putting forward the views of their respective groups – along with the evidence to substantiate it – for discussion and debate. The text of a standard isn’t influenced by internal voting or lobbying but by general agreement to create a document all parties can incorporate into their way of working. Standardization stops working if it benefits only a few at the expense of the many.

At some point during a standard development, it will be issued as a Draft for Public Comment for a minimum of 60 days. It is used for all such projects (including draft international and European standards and UK national annexes to them) and for all amendments of a technical nature that might affect the application of a standard or the attestation of conformity to it. A DPC is expected to be a mature draft, reflecting at least the proposed technical content of the standard. In addition to inviting comments on text proposed for publication, DPCs can be used to pose specific questions to seek opinions from a wider community on particular points. Drafts currently subject to DPC can be accessed via the Standards Development website. You will need to register to comment but doing so is free.

To learn more about fire safety related standards, don’t miss our 10th Annual Fire Safety Conference on 16 November at Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester hotel. Join us to hear about the latest fire safety updates and to get an insight into the standardization within the fire safety sector. Speakers from all aspects of the fire safety community will provide cutting edge opinions and commentary on the major issues facing the industry today.

Sign up now!

Written by

Christopher Smith-Wong

Programme Manager, Built Environment

BSI – British Standards Institution 

Published September 2017