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May/June 2010

Standards Enable... Safety

Part 3 of a Series

Many standards are written to ensure safety. In fact, it was the need to curb damage and injury caused by breaks in railroad tracks that served as the impetus for ASTM International’s founding in 1898. Through standards such as product content specifications or performance tests used by manufacturers, third-party testers, marketers, consumers and inspectors, ASTM’s stakeholders have been creating standards that keep us healthy and safe in all aspects of our lives for more than a century.


Five days a week, most of us head to a job, concentrating on the day’s tasks and projects, and perhaps not thinking very much about the standards that help keep us safe while we’re doing them.

Foot protection can be critical to personal safety in many types of work, and two ASTM standards cover the performance of boots and shoes in resisting puncture or chainsaw penetration as well as minimum requirements prescribing fit and function: F2412, Test Methods for Foot Protection, and F2413, Specification for Performance Requirements for Foot Protection. Committee F13 on Pedestrian/Walkway Safety and Footwear maintains these and other standards for footwear.

Those who work with electricity or pesticides are better protected through standards that cover equipment and clothing. ASTM D120, Specification for Rubber Insulating Gloves, from Committee F18 on Electrical Protective Equipment for Workers, is a key document because it addresses gloves that provide electrical workers their first line of defense against electrical hazards. ASTM F2669, Performance Specification for Protective Clothing Worn by Operators Applying Pesticides, illustrates work by responsible Committee F23 on Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment to keep people safe in this occupation.

ASTM International standards also cover the commercial buildings in which people work. Safety in an office comes in part from fire-resistive materials used in the building structure; the materials can be tested with ASTM E736, Test Method for Cohesion/Adhesion of Sprayed Fire-Resistive Materials Applied to Structural Members. That’s just one relevant standard from Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings. Such standards as ASTM E84, Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials, from Committee E05 on Fire Standards, provide benchmarks on flame spread and smoke development to help ensure the safety of our work surroundings. Committee E05 also maintains ASTM E119, Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials, which measures the fire resistance of building structures such as walls, partitions and floors.

Committee E06 also is responsible for standards to aid building occupants if evacuation may be required: ASTM E2484, Specification for Multi-Story Building External Evacuation Controlled Descent Devices, and E2513, Specification for Multi-Story Building External Evacuation Platform Rescue Systems. Also working to help ensure safety in emergency situations are such standards as E2411, Specification for Chemical Warfare Vapor Detector, and E2601, Practice for Radiological Emergency Response, from Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications.


Safety in the home comes from precautions that we take in our living space and also from standards that may simply seem to be part of the furniture.

To help reduce fires caused by unattended burning cigarettes, which can begin in furniture and bedding, all 50 of the United States have passed legislation requiring the sale of ignition-resistant cigarettes. ASTM E2187, Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes, provides manufacturers with the means to gauge a cigarette’s ability to ignite upholstered furniture and bedding.

The E2187 standard from Committee E05 on Fire Standards represents just one of many standards that help ensure safety at home; its fire test standards for building materials provide a backbone for home safety, as do standards for materials from Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings and standards that determine contaminants in water from Committee D19 on Water, which help ensure pure drinking water.

Protecting children from the hazards of furniture tipover is the goal of ASTM F2057, Safety Specification for Chests, Door Chests and Dressers, from Committee F15 on Consumer Products. The standard features a test to measure furniture without any load and one that simulates a child around the age of five attempting to climb on the furniture. F2057 requires a tip restraint unit to secure the furniture to the wall and a warning label that explains potential problems.

Committee F15 further protects children at home with standards for window fall prevention devices, infant walkers, baby cribs, candles and more. And Committee D13 on Textiles cares for personal safety through standards for ultraviolet protection labeling (ASTM
), textile flammability (ASTM D4723) and heat transfer (ASTM D7140), among related documents.


Leisure activities are as diverse as the individuals who enjoy them, and ASTM International standards promote safety for all people as they play.

Amusements — from roller coasters to log flumes and Ferris wheels — give thrills to riders of all ages, and those thrills can be enjoyed in part because of standards that ensure safety. ASTM International Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices, recognized worldwide as the premier authority in its field, produces and oversees guides and specifications for ride design, operation and maintenance. Significant among these standards is ASTM F2291, Practice for Design of Amusement Rides and Devices, which details such requirements as restraint configuration, clearance envelopes, load and strength calculations, and more.

On a snowy Saturday, when enthusiasts may take to the slopes, standards from Committee F27 on Snow Skiing help guard skiers’ safety. Boots and bindings for both purchased and rented equipment are addressed in ASTM F1063, Practice for Functional Inspections and Adjustments of Alpine Ski/Binding/Boot Systems, and ASTM F1064, Practice for Sampling and Inspection of Complete and Incomplete Alpine Ski/Binding/Boot Systems in Rental Applications.

Or, players participating in field hockey, bicycle racing or equestrian sports don safety helmets that can be specified using standards from Committee F08 on Sports Equipment and Facilities. Children frolic on playgrounds whose surfaces are specified by F08, and the light sport aircraft community relies on standards, which the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration also cites, from Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft.

When children play, it often involves toys. Safety requirements for many types of toys, from stuffed animals and marbles to teethers and tether toys for children under 14 years of age, can be found in ASTM F963, Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety, which also includes more than 20 test methods, including hazardous substance content, cleanliness, ride-on toy stability and more. The specification has become mandatory in the United States through the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which states that all toys sold in the country must meet F963. F15 most recently revised the document to address ingestion of magnetic components, acoustics, yo-yo tether toys, impaction hazards and flammability.


As we travel from work to home, to play and back again, safety on the road is assisted with ASTM International standards related to pavements, the surrounding ground and the vehicles that traverse those roads.

Committees A01 on Steel, Stainless Steel and Related Alloys, C01 on Cement and C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates all contribute to roadway infrastructure safety through standards that cover materials used to build bridges and boulevards. Geotextiles that stabilize roadways, control erosion and provide soil drainage and reinforcement, all of which are essential to safe driving, come from Committees D18 on Soil and Rock and D35 on Geosynthetics.

Standards for many automotive components come from a variety of other ASTM committees: specifications for automotive steel from A01; powder metallurgy specifications and test methods for brake and steering systems from B09 on Metal Powders and Metal Powder Products; and fastener quality, strength and durability standards from F16 on Fasteners.

Since 1903, ASTM Committee D04 on Road and Paving Materials has focused on standards related to roads — their bituminous mixtures, aggregates, surface treatments, sealers and joint fillers — to ensure smooth streets and highways. D04 takes another step toward safety through standards for retroreflective pavement marker specifications, the devices that mark lanes for easy nighttime reference. The committee works closely with Committee E12 on Color and Appearance in the development of test methods for measuring the retroreflectance of pavement markings. Committee E12 also develops standards for measuring the retroflectance of road signs.

How road surfaces respond to tires, and standards for these characteristics, can be found in standards from Committee E17 on Vehicle-Pavement Systems. ASTM E274, Test Method for Skid Resistance of Paved Surfaces Using a Full-Scale Tire, provides a procedure to evaluate a pavement’s skid resistance relative to others or to itself over time. In turn, such data contributes to understanding road maintenance needs, which can affect roadway safety.

Vehicle tires, their performance characteristics and the criteria to evaluate them, are covered in such recent standards as ASTM F2803, Test Method for Evaluating Rim Slip Performance of Tires and Wheels. The responsible group, Committee F09 on Tires, is now engaged in an effort to develop a light vehicle aged tire durability standard in response to U.S. legislation calling for an upgrade of tire safety standards.

In vehicles traveling the roads, airbags represent a vital automotive safety component that can be tested with standards from Committee D13 on Textiles. ASTM D7559, Test Method for Determining Pressure Decay of Inflatable Restraint Cushions, details a cost-effective screening test to judge the ability of a rollover side curtain airbag to maintain needed pressure over time. It joins such standards as ASTM D5446, Practice for Determining Physical Properties of Fabrics, Yarns and Sewing Thread Used in Inflatable Restraints, to ensure effective airbags.

The fuel that keeps our vehicles moving can be depended on because of standards from Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants. Through such standards as ASTM D2699, Test Method for Research Octane Number of Spark-Ignition Engine Fuel, which links fuel quality to performance, drivers can be assured of effective motor operation.

See the November/December 2009 issue for the first article in this series, “Standards Enable Product and Service Compliance,” and the March/April 2010 issue for the second, “Standards Enable Quality Assurance.”