Developing standards in the Asia-Pacific region
Standards Australia is the independent and not-for-profit developer of internationally-aligned Australian Standards. In this column, Tim Wheeler, National Sector Manager of Standards Australia, talks about the organisation’s role in developing standards in the Asia-Pacific region.
Fire safety has been in the news a lot lately. The high-rise apartment fire in Melbourne’s Docklands, which has been blamed on external cladding that did not conform to combustibility standards, prompted an inquiry by the Senate on building products imported into Australia.
While Australia reviews its standards and conformance system, we should also take the opportunity to introduce a measure of healthy introspection. How do Australia’s standards compare with the rest of the region, and indeed the rest of the world? What can we learn from and do better?
In today’s interconnected world, where globalised product supply chains stretch across different countries, most houses in Australia will have building materials that are imported from different parts of the world. This is happening not just because businesses want to reduce costs. They do this in response to increasing customer demand for lower prices, greater product options and better value for money.
This is why harmonised, mutually recognised and internationally-aligned standards are so important. All around the world, standards open up market access for businesses, and boost trade and investment by reducing barriers to trade. Standards that provide a baseline level of safety requirements allow markets and consumers to have confidence in the quality of products and services.
It all starts from countries working together to share best practices. Standards Australia has been very active in strengthening our partnerships with other countries in the region.
In June 2015, Australia and Singapore deepened bilateral cooperation with a strong focus on facilitating bilateral trade and investment under a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
A key component of this cooperation is the harmonisation and alignment of technical standards across both economies. SPRING Singapore and Standards Australia are intensifying collaboration with a view to aligning standards where possible.
As two of the leading national standards bodies in the Asia-Pacific region, it makes sense for us to pool our resources where there is mutual benefit; and to align our standards development programs to foster innovation, productivity, industry competitiveness and market access in the region.
We have identified a number of areas in early discussions, such as the built environment, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and fire services engineering; the silver economy (another name for the ‘grey’ economy); and intergenerational change.
We aim to start with international standards, identify what works for both economies and to map out a standards infrastructure that provides the greatest benefits with the best use of resources.
We also aim to actively explore areas where harmonised and aligned standards will fit our society in future. We have had great support from both governments for this process, all the way up to the Prime Ministers of both countries.
At the invitation of the New Caledonian Government, Standards Australia is working on a project in New Caledonia in collaboration with AFNOR, the French national standards body. The project aims to build capacity in New Caledonia for standards development, through sharing best practices, experiences and information in the area of building and construction standards. The first phase of the project includes a mapping of both countries’ standards, to identify similarities and explore potential areas for harmonisation. This project will be of mutual benefit and could potentially boost two-way trade and investment between Australia and New Caledonia.
Growing Australia’s Influence Internationally
We have also been helping our neighbours in capacity-building projects. Recently, in association with SPRING Singapore and ISO’s Regional Office in the Asia Pacific, Standards Australia conducted an Institutional Capacity Building Workshop with Myanmar’s national standards body, the Myanmar Department of Research and Innovation (DRI). This workshop will assist DRI to develop further procedures that will strengthen the organisation’s capacity and ability to participate in national and international standards development activities. The goal was to enhance trade and economic benefits for Myanmar and the region through setting up business-friendly standardisation infrastructure based on international systems and norms.
Standards Australia continues to be very active at the technical and governance levels in regional and international standards bodies, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC), and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (APEC SCSC). Mr Adrian O’Connell, our Deputy Chief Executive Officer, has been re-elected for another term on the ISO Technical Management Board. He also serves as the Executive Chair of PASC.
Australia is represented on all major IEC governance committees including the IEC Council Board, Strategic Management Board and the Conformity Assessment Board. This high level of engagement ensures that Australia is able to exercise leadership in areas of standards development that support Australia’s national interests.
Our work would not have been possible without the experts that make up our technical committees.
Standards Australia’s annual Standards Awards are presented to those who have made significant contributions to standardisation. This year, the inaugural WR Hebblewhite Medal for Outstanding Contribution or Distinguished Service in Standards Development, named after our first and longest-serving Chief Executive William Rayner Hebblewhite, was presented to a very deserving winner, Mr Russell Shephard, AFSM.
Russell has been a champion of standards both in Australia and overseas. More than twenty years of his career were spent in standardisation work for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for firefighters, representing the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council and serving as Chair of Technical Committee SF-049, Firefighters Personal Protective Equipment, and a number of other fire safety committees.
His extensive expertise is held in high regard by the international firefighting PPE community. In 2011, he worked tirelessly to achieve worldwide consensus on ISO 16073, Wildland firefighting personal protective equipment – Requirements and test methods, as a single Standard to cover minimum performance requirements and methods for all wildland personal protective equipment.
Recently in 2014, he became Chair of ISO TC 94/SC 14, Firefighters’ Personal Protection. He was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal in 2007 for his contribution to enhancing safety in the Australian Fire Industry.
Russell’s work on the national and international levels has contributed to the health and safety of many of our finest and bravest, and has helped countries from all over the world to be on the same page when it comes to fire safety.
For more information, go to www.standards.org.au