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 February 2006 Global Notebook

U.S. Standards Strategy Offers Framework for U.S. Business and International Trade

The new U.S. Standards Strategy has been approved and published. The strategy establishes a framework that will be used by U.S. stakeholders to improve trade issues in the global marketplace, enhance consumer health and safety, meet the needs of diverse industries, and advance U.S. viewpoints in the regional and international standardization arenas. The U.S. standardization system functions under the belief that standards should meet societal and market needs and should not be developed to act as technical barriers to trade. The U.S. Standards Strategy promotes standards that are technically suitable, applied globally, and developed in accordance with the principles of openness, transparency, consensus and due process within the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. The document is built upon 12 initiatives that address the role of government; health, safety and environmental responsibilities; consumer interests; prevention of standards as trade barriers; responsiveness to cross-cutting technologies; efficiency in standards development; the priority of standards education; and other crucial considerations. Key updates to the strategy relate to intellectual property rights, funding models for the standards system, national priorities, and global trade issues. The strategy and an accompanying frequently asked questions document can be found online here.

Risk Management Tools for Improved Patient Safety

The Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (formerly NCCLS) has announced it will follow up its March 2005 Quality Control for the Future workshop with a workshop titled Risk Management Tools for Improved Patient Safety, to take place in conjunction with the organization’s annual Leadership Conference, April 26-28 in Vienna, Va. The first workshop has launched a continuing flurry of press, scholarly articles, and public debate throughout the healthcare world on the topic of equivalent quality control, along with collective innovation on new regulatory options to better accommodate different sectors of the patient-testing field. The 2006 workshop will focus specifically upon defining current problems in risk management, reviewing currently employed mechanisms and solutions, and describing a systematic risk management approach, providing attendees with concrete tools for practical application. The main focus will be on providing the audience “take-home knowledge” of risk management tools, with afternoon training sessions focusing on hazard analysis, process mapping, failure modes effect (criticality) analysis, fault tree analysis, and hazard analysis and critical control point. ASTM International is a cosponsor of the event. For more information, click on the link above or call 610/688-0100.

Commerce Secretary Awards Silver Medal for Leadership in DoC Standards Initiative

Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez recently awarded a group Silver Medal Award for Leadership to nine Department of Commerce staff members “for demonstrating dedication and leadership to develop and implement the department’s Standards Initiative, designed to increase U.S. exports.” The group was recognized for their vision and leadership of a cross-bureau effort to implement the department’s Standards Initiative. The awardee group includes staff from both the department’s International Trade Administration (Heidi Hijikata, Gwen Lyle, Brian McNamara, Louis Santamaria, and Jennifer Stradtman) and its National Institute of Standards and Technology (Belinda Collins, Elisabeth (Libby) Gomez, Carmina Londono and Mary Saunders). The Commerce Standards Initiative was announced in 2003 by former Secretary Don Evans and aims at maximizing competitiveness and increasing U.S. exports by eliminating standards-related market barriers that undermine trade and threaten international competitiveness. Standards affect 80 percent of global trade and significantly impact competitiveness worldwide. Industry views standards as the principal non-tariff barrier to expanding exports. In the two years since the launch of the department’s Standards Initiative, significant improvements have been made across the department to improve internal coordination and to be more responsive to private sector needs in this area of trade-related standards issues.

The Pittsburgh Conference

ASTM International will be exhibiting at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, known as PITTCON, March 12-17 in Orlando, Fla. Please stop by booth 2810 if you are attending the conference.

NFPA and Canadian Standards Association Form Alliance to Enhance Public Safety

The National Fire Protection Association and the Canadian Standards Association have entered into a memorandum of understanding designed to strengthen community and workplace safety. The MOU was signed by NFPA President James M. Shannon and CSA President, Standards, Pat Keindel at CSA headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Under the agreement, the organizations will work together to improve public safety and quality of life by promoting awareness, knowledge, and the application of standards and industry best practices in the community and workplace. As a first step, the organizations have announced that NFPA has licensed CSA to use NFPA 1600, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs as a base document for the development of a new voluntary Canadian National Standard for Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs.

“Long” Distances Measured with Picometer Accuracy

A new laser-based method for measuring millimeter distances more accurately than ever before — with an uncertainty of 10 picometers (trillionths of a meter) — has been developed and demonstrated by a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This is akin to measuring the distance from New York to Los Angeles with an uncertainty of just 1 millimeter. The technique may have applications in nanotechnology, remote sensing and industries such as semiconductor fabrication. Laser light is typically used to measure distances by counting the number of wavelengths (the distance between successive peaks of the wave pattern) of light between two points. Because the wavelength is very short (633 nanometers for the red light most often used), the method is intrinsically very precise. Modern problems in nanotechnology and device fabrication, however, require uncertainty far below 633 nm. A more precise method, described in the December issue of the Journal of the Optical Society of America A by John R. Lawall, involves measuring the frequency of laser light rather than the wavelength. //

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