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Global Notebook
U.S. President Signs International Code Council Initiative to Improve Building Safety and Save Lives in Latin America

The Foreign Relations Authorization Act recently signed into law by President George W. Bush includes legislation initiated by the International Code Council aimed at improving building safety in Latin America. Included in the Authorization Act (H.R. 1646, now Public Law 107-228) is the Code and Safety for the Americas Act (CASA Act). The CASA Act provides humanitarian aid that will allow for the construction of safer homes, schools and buildings, and will provide train-the-trainer programs in Ecuador, El Salvador and other Latin American countries. Safer construction will save lives and reduce economic losses from building disasters. The legislation authorizes the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) to provide grants or enter contracts with organizations that can help improve building safety in the eligible countries. The World Bank and U.S. Geological Survey have calculated that the economic losses accrued world-wide in the 1990s as the result of natural disasters could have been reduced by as much as $280 billion by investing just $40 billion in risk-reduction strategies.

Standards That Make a Difference Survey Results

In June of 2002, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) announced the launch of “Standards That Make a Difference,” an online survey calling for the identification of standards considered to be “most valuable” by the members of the standards and conformity assessment community. The survey results demonstrated the critical role that specific documents (whether a single standard or family of standards) play in enhancing business competitiveness and improving societal issues such as safety, health and the quality of life. Standards were nominated from a wide array of industries, from refrigeration and air-conditioning to data automation systems. Click here to download a PowerPoint display of the dozens of cited standards.

National Conformity Assessment Principles Document Developed

The American National Standards Institute has approved a new reference document, “National Conformity Assessment Principles for the United States.” This document articulates the principles for U.S. conformity assessment activities of which the consumer, buyers, sellers, regulators and other interested parties should be aware to have confidence in the processes of providing conformity assessment, while avoiding the creation of unnecessary barriers to trade. Click here for a PDF download of the document.

Law Grants NIST New Authorities to Investigate Building Failures

On Oct. 1, U.S. President George Bush signed legislation giving the National Institute of Standards and Technology the authorities — modeled after those of the National Transportation Safety Board for investigating transportation accidents — to investigate major U.S. building failures. The National Construction Safety Team Act gives responsibility to NIST to dispatch teams of experts within 48 hours, where appropriate and practical, after major building disasters. The law gives the teams a clear mandate to: (1) establish the likely technical cause of building failures; (2) evaluate procedures used for evacuation and emergency response; (3) recommend specific changes to building codes, standards and practices; (4) recommend any research or other appropriate actions needed to improve the structural safety of buildings, and/or changes in emergency response and evacuation procedures; and (5) make final recommendations within 90 days of completing an investigation. The new law specifically applies to the NIST World Trade Center building and fire safety investigation that was initiated formally on Aug. 21.

American Interests Come to the Table Supporting Harmonization of Global Vehicle Regulations

With the steady increase in global traffic and mobile populations, the coordination of regulations for construction of motor vehicles has become an international priority. SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers) was recently granted Special Consultative Status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council as a non-government organization. This accreditation allows SAE to participate in U.N. sessions of its leading council overseeing the development of international vehicle regulations. Along with the status comes a formal seat for SAE at the regular sessions of the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (Working Party 29 or WP29) held three times annually, as well as its subsidiary bodies, which meet in Geneva, Switzerland. Click here for more information on NGO accreditation. Click here for information on global vehicle regulations.

Copyright 2002, ASTM