There are currently more than 21 000 ISO standards, regulating an extremely broad range of fields (other than electrical and electronic engineering). Designed by experts, ISO standards can bring many benefits to compliant companies and their customers as they facilitate the optimization of work operations. It is important that companies are aware of revisions to the standards to ensure continued compliance.There are several international and national organisations that create and promote standards, but the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) is the largest. With institutes in 163 countries, the ISO has a true global reach. It is a non-governmental organisation that plays a crucial role between the public and private sectors.
ISO standards are voluntary and difficult to enforce, though some have been adopted as part of national health, safety and environmental regulations and are thus binding. Even outside of a compulsory situation, compliance with ISO standards confers multiple benefits on a company. For example, it opens up international trade possibilities as it ensures the same quality, procedures and products will be found in different countries. It results in uniformity, enhancing efficiency and potentially saving money.
ISO standards apply in all areas, including clean-rooms, air filters, bio-safety cabinets and other laboratory technology and procedures. These standards are of particular importance, given the sensitive nature of the work that they are used in.
ISO standards provide a guarantee to customers that work has been completed to standards designated by an international regulatory body. This has a positive snowball effect for both suppliers and customers. ISO standards dominate the international field and if followed strictly, can ensure the safety of workers, consumers and the environment.
Technology changes rapidly, as do the challenges and needs of industry. It is important that ISO standards be adapted to keep pace with these changes, remaining current and relevant. It is also necessary to keep the standards in line with contemporary thought processes and practices. As a result, all ISO standards undergo review and revision, if necessary, every five years. This is performed by a technical committee. It is said that when a standard has been finalised, even before it comes into effect it already starts undergoing review.
In some cases, a relevant ISO standard may not yet exist. A national standard, such as a Federal Standard from the USA, may then be used and applied in practice in many countries. South Africa, of course, has its own bureau of standards, the SABS, which helps develop international standards. The SABS, established by statute, is a leader in quality assurance on the African continent. South Africa has a long history in the world of standards, having joined the ISO as one of the founding members in 1946.
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