A full consensus standard is developed by a cross-section of stakeholders with an interest in its use. When there is a need for new standards, requests can come from trade associations, government agencies, and professional societies that do not create their own standards; or manufacturers, consumer groups, and even individuals. The request is presented to an ASTM technical committee and the process of standards development begins.
The ASTM process transcends what entities could do individually because it bridges gaps of technology, combines resources and overcomes lines of competition. The result is a product of the highest credibility, integrity, and marketplace acceptance.
Understanding the hierarchy within ASTM is integral to appreciating the value of the ASTM standards development and approval process. The hierarchy comprises three basic levels: main committees, subcommittees, and task groups. Task groups perform most of the “leg-work” and research that forms the basis of draft standards. Once the group completes its work, it forwards these drafts through the hierarchy for review and voting. The standard must gain subcommittee, main committee, and Society approval before becoming an official ASTM International standard.
At each level, voting requirements are enforced to ensure fairness. When a draft standard has been reviewed and accepted at all levels, the draft becomes an ASTM standard and is published. Depending upon the need for the standard, drafting and approval can occur in a few months, a year, or more.
Fairness in ASTM standards development is ensured through: 1) a required balance of interest between producers, users, and general interest members and 2) a voting process that ensures due process.