|A National Conformity Assessment Strategy
This article was adapted from two articles printed in the ANSI
Now that a National Standards Strategy has been developed, the need for a National Conformity Assessment
Strategy has been discussed among the various member councils
of the American National Standards Institute. Some individuals
have argued that a strategy is necessary immediately; others have
questioned the need for one at all.
In 2000, U.S. interests were finalizing work on the text of a
National Standards Strategy (NSS) for the United States. During
this process, questions surfaced regarding plans to address the
other side of the coina national strategy for conformity assessment
(determining the fulfillment of specific standards requirements).
It was evident that the topics discussed during the NSS meetings,
such as national treatment, product approval processes, transparency,
due process, fees, recognition, and duplicative requirements,
are relevant to both standards and conformity assessment issues.
Those involved in development of the NSS observed that addressing
both standardization and conformity assessment strategies at the
same time might be too much to tackle if each issue were to be
given appropriate consideration. Consequently, work on a National
Conformity Assessment Strategy (NCAS) was tabled pending approval
of the NSSa milestone that was achieved in August 2000.
At this time, conformity assessment experts from the ANSI constituency
who supported the development of such a strategy envisioned an
end-of-2001 target date for a working draft. Some had presupposed
everyones agreement on the benefits and advantages of developing
a consensus strategy that might outline a national approach
to conformity assessment. However, initial efforts to commence
the project engendered considerable discussion and caveats.
Outreach to the various ANSI councils (company, consumer, government,
and organization) on this initiative aroused passionate discussion.
It was noted that considerable reference material already exists
on conformity assessment topics in many different contexts. Various
convocations of conformity assessment practitioners have taken
place in recent years that generated summary records of common
vernacular, the variety of approaches, and implementation particular
to given sectors. Yet none seemed to fit the expectations for
a companion reference for the National Standards Strategy that
was relevant and compatible.
Lane Hallenbeck, ANSI vice-president for conformity assessment,
noted, Many stakeholders were concerned that the process of reaching
consensus in defining sometimes complex conformity assessment
concepts would result in a manuscript too generic to be meaningful.
Some debated that controversial conformity assessment applications
would be given undue emphasis. Others felt that the diversity
of preferred approaches would make it too difficult to agree on
common ground in such a document. But, the common and fundamental
apprehension was that we had set off to create the NCAS before
giving adequate consideration to if and why it might be needed.
Accordingly, the ANSI Board of Directors charged an ad-hoc group
from the Board Committee on Conformity Assessment to assess the
desirability of a National Conformity Assessment Strategy, propose
what the objective of such a strategy might be, and suggest what
further steps are to be taken in this initiative.
This summer, building upon a resolution emanating from the Company
Member Council Executive Committee (CMCEC), the ad hoc group outlined
the principles that an NCAS should capture concerning conformity
assessment in the United States with a view toward promoting and
facilitating world trade to achieve the following objectives:
Foster safety, health, and environmental protection to enhance
the quality of life.
Promote international understanding and recognition of U.S.
Promote U.S. product and service acceptance globally.
Promote implementation of cost-effective conformity assessment
Support development of industry sectoral strategies.
Hallenbeck pointed out, The support of ANSI-member councils for
the creation of an NCAS as well as their guidance in defining
the scope of this complex project was instrumental in the creation
of the proposed development steps that we will follow with the
Board of Directors approval.
The kickoff for this NCAS effort commenced with a workshop on
Sept. 24-25 at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the American
Petroleum Institute, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.
The proposed timeline calls for much of the development work to
take place through June 2002. //
For additional information, contact Lane Hallenbeck, ANSI vice president of conformity assessment (phone: 202/331-3612).
Copyright 2001, ASTM