Established in 1898 originally as the American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards developing organizations in the world. ASTM is a not-for-profit organization that provides a forum for the development and publication of international voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems and services. ASTM’s members, representing producers, users, consumers, government, and academia from more than 150 countries, develop technical documents that are a basis for manufacturing, management, procurement, codes and regulations.
These members belong to one or more standards-writing committees, each of which covers a subject area such as steel, petroleum, medical devices, property management, consumer products and many more. It is these committees that develop the more than 12,000 ASTM standards that can be found in the 80-volume Annual Book of ASTM Standards.
As used in ASTM International, a standard is a document that has been developed and established within the consensus principles of the organization and which meets the requirements of ASTM procedures and regulations. Full consensus standards are developed with the participation of all parties who have a stake in the standards’ development and/or use.
ASTM International standards are used by individuals, companies and agencies around the world. Purchasers and sellers incorporate standards into contracts; scientists and engineers use them in their laboratories and offices; architects and designers use them in their plans; government agencies around the world reference them in codes, regulations and laws; and many others refer to them for guidance.
ASTM standards are voluntary in the sense that their use is not mandated by ASTM. However, government regulators often give voluntary standards the force of law by citing them in laws, regulations and codes. In the United States, the relationship between private-sector standards developers and the public sector has been strengthened with the 1995 passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (Public Law 104-113). The law requires government agencies to use privately developed standards whenever it is at all possible, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in formerly duplicative standards development efforts.
Generally, anyone who identifies a need for standardization can submit a request to ASTM headquarters. ASTM staff research the idea to assess whether there is adequate interest in the field, to discover if parallel activities exist in other organizations and to determine where the activity would appropriately fit within the ASTM structure. The staff of ASTM does not determine which standards should be developed.
ASTM standards development activities cover a wide range of technical and management areas. A sampling of recently formed technical committees gives an indication of ASTM’s broad scope:
Standards development work begins when members of an ASTM technical committee identify a need or other interested parties approach the committee. Task group members prepare a draft standard or work item, which is reviewed by its parent subcommittee through an electronic balloting system. After the subcommittee approves the document, it is submitted concurrently to the main committee and the entire membership of ASTM.
All negative votes cast during the balloting process, which must include a written explanation of the voters’ objections, must be fully considered before the document can be submitted to the next level in the process. Final approval of a standard depends on concurrence by the ASTM Standing Committee on Standards that proper procedures were followed and due process was achieved.
Depending on a committee’s commitment to timely development and approval, standards can take as little as nine months to become full consensus standards. ASTM’s ever-evolving use of Internet technology offers its members increasing opportunities to get new high quality, relevant standards into the marketplace as quickly as possible.
Over the years, ASTM has created a “Digital Path” for all of its standards, digitizing the contents of ASTM standards from inception to publication. Another example is Virtual Meetings, which combine teleconferencing with Internet document viewing and editing. Other resources such as electronic balloting, and the electronic distribution of meeting minutes, further facilitate timely response to industry needs, and aid members from around the world in participating without straining travel budgets.
ASTM’s governing body is its Board of Directors, which is elected by the entire membership. The Board and its Standing Committees have established procedures to ensure that standards are developed on a full consensus basis, that all dissenting parties receive due process, and that all ASTM standards follow style and format requirements. The manuals, “Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees” and “Form and Style for ASTM Standards,” are among the documents that govern the ASTM standards development process.
ASTM has over 30,000 members from more than 150 countries around the world who are producers, users, consumers and general interest parties, such as academicians and government representatives. These members write ASTM standards through their service on one or more of ASTM’s 140-plus technical committees. It is these members who determine which standards development activities to pursue. Anyone who has interest in the field covered by a committee’s scope is eligible to become a committee member.
Each ASTM committee determines its own meeting schedule; most meet twice a year. Today, with the aid of technology, a good deal of standards development work takes place online between meetings, and via virtual meetings. See the material under “How long does it take to develop an ASTM standard?” for more information on this topic.
Simply contact ASTM International Headquarters at +1 610/832-9500 or click here. Informational and participating memberships cost $75 USD; organizational membership is $400 USD; and student membership is free.
From its inception, ASTM’s method of developing standards has been based on consensus without borders. ASTM’s process ensures that interested individuals and organizations representing academia, industry, product users and governments alike all have an equal vote in determining a standard’s content. Participants are welcome from anywhere on the globe. Further, ASTM’s high quality standards are responsive and relevant to the needs of the global marketplace. More than 40 percent of ASTM’s standards are sold outside the United States.
ASTM meets all the basic criteria for an international standards developing organization as outlined in Annex 4 of the Triennial Review of the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (WTO/TBT). Both the United States Standards Strategy and the WTO/TBT state that international standardization can be more effective through the support of sector-driven standards and observance of basic principles of standards development. In line with these documents, ASTM’s standards development process:
An online search of more than 12,000 ASTM International standards enables you to locate ASTM standards in dozens of industrial, management, and other areas. Available on the ASTM website (www.astm.org — select “Standards” and then “Search”), this function facilitates searches by keyword or standard numbers; you can see the titles and scopes of all ASTM standards and the documents referenced in each standard. You can also purchase any standard as an immediate PDF download or by placing an order through Customer Service at ASTM International (+1 610-832-9585). Online subscriptions are also available.
Approximately 75% of ASTM’s income is derived from the sale of publications, primarily from standards. Other income is derived from annual administrative fees and standards-related programs.
ASTM offers certification programs for products (including materials, products, systems and services) and personnel as well as personnel certificate programs. The offering of certification programs as a part of ASTM's portfolio of services is similar to our successful proficiency testing and training programs.
ASTM will not be developing certification programs for an individual organization but will be developing industry wide certification programs. As programs are developed, they are posted on the ASTM website at www.astm.org/certification.
The Program is sponsored and administered by ASTM International and is available to any manufacturer, distributor, or private brand owner, whether domestic or international. The Program authorizes a supplier who is having their product tested to an ASTM standard test method to register information with ASTM including: general company/product information; ASTM test method identification; sample selection procedures; general testing laboratory information; testing laboratory accreditation/capabilities; testing laboratory test report(s) and data; and attestation that all required information is accurate. Upon acceptance by ASTM, the supplier will receive a notice of registration, identification number and ability to request that registered documentation be delivered by ASTM to another organization or themselves. Please visit the website: www.astm.org/suppliers.
ASTM does not have any testing facilities to accommodate requests for one-off testing of products. An organization which desires to have their product tested for conformance to an ASTM standard could do the required testing in their own laboratory or contract the services of an independent third party laboratory. The Lab Directory and the Organizations that Accredit Laboratories to ISO 17025 on the ASTM website may be helpful. Note: ASTM has not attempted to investigate, rate, endorse, approve or certify any laboratory listed in the directory. Each laboratory has paid ASTM a fee for their listing.
The Society, in general, does not object if an organization does their own testing/verification and represents that their product meets an ASTM standard by referencing the specific designation (e.g. complies or meets ASTM A XXX-YY) (and, where possible, the title of the relevant standard). The ASTM Suppliers Declaration of Conformity to ASTM Test Methods Program provides suppliers with the ability to have their test method documentation registered and accepted by an independent third party, ASTM. In these instances, Society logos shall not appear in connection with such representations. The Society does not approve, certify or test products to ASTM standards unless there is a specific ASTM certification program.
No, ASTM does not certify or accredit laboratories.