PROFILE HANIF JAKHURA
COLUMN FOR THE RECORD
POLITICS & POLICY THE FALL OF IRAQ
ENVIRONMENT STANDARDS- AN IMPORTANT TOOL FOR SAFETY

 

STANDARDS AN IMPORTANT TOOL FOR SAFETY

The primary aim of the standard is to ensure safety and this aspect takes precedence over everything else

By Dr. M. ASAD HASAN
April 14 -20, 2003
 
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The use of standards results in better safety, pollution prevention and more economic utilization of human efforts, materials, time and other resources since design, work planning, production and maintenance procedures are better simplified and controlled. Standards minimize hazards, pollution, and un-necessary varieties of processes, procedures, machines, supplies, etc., being used and also act as a common medium of communicating in creating better understandings among all concerned i.e. technical experts, manufacturers, traders, consumers etc. It is, however, worth mentioning that we formulate, adopt, practice and live with standards of all types, covering virtually every aspect of life but are hardly ever conscious of their existence.

The adoption of standards in the field of buildings and environment was being commonly practiced in this country since pre-historic ages. Archaeological evidences from Mohenjo-daro and Harappa reveal that commercial codes and standardized techniques of production were being implemented during the great Indus Valley Civilization. These techniques led to a uniformity of products and practices within a vast socio-economic complex that cover not only a gigantic geographical area but also en-compassed a period of time stretching over 25 centuries, starting from around 4000 B.C. to about 1500 B.C. One of the most outstanding characteristics of the two cities situated at a distance of some 640 kilometers, is the remarkable similarity of planning in layout, sanitation, style of house-built of burnt clay bricks in standard dimensions and even in the type of potteries, ornaments and seals found at these widely separated sites. Planned in rectangular blocks, divided by broad roads, and incorporating systematic lanes and rows of houses, the twin cities anticipated some of the latest views of city planning. Considerable sophistication of approach is evident in the drainage system of Mohenjo-daro designed to handle both storm water and domestic sewage (for the disposal of which there was an elaborate arrangement approximating modern sanitation methods), which carried the waster water of the city in large bricklines sewer to the nearby Indus River. The use of concrete in the construction of the ancient water transportation system could be cited as early as in 800 B.C. (Rome's Cloacae Maxima System).

It is not out of place to mention that a simple and non-intentional mistake of using non-standards water hydrants resulted in almost damaging the major portion of American Town of Baltimore. A section of this town, i.e., Baltimore caught fire in 1904. More than a dozen fire engines were rushed to the scene from the surrounding districts but despite their presence much of Baltimore was destroyed because the hose of the fireman from out side the town did not fit the gauge of Baltimore's water hydrants. The firemen were therefore unable to use their hoses on the blaze. Had the hose sizes of the various fire services been standardized, the result might have been quite different. Heavy losses due to repeated occurrences of such simple incidences of non-matching of gauges or two components made the world more conscious of the importance of standardization. Proper recognition of standards, now a days, is considered to be of prime importance. Hazards can, neither be controlled nor minimized without the use of standards.

With the development of science, technology and global trade, specific characteristics of entities have now become a must and hence parameters are required for their specifications. Such parameters, usually mentioning the required limits, are derived in the form of standard. The standard is thus a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics of activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context. Standardization is not a onetime effort but is a dynamic concept which incorporates the latest results of research and development and help in achieving optimum utilization of a available resources, streamlining production and maintenance processes, increasing productivity, efficiency in services and building-up consumers confidence and good-will. Standards may conveniently be divided in three groups, i.e. safety standards, performance standards and standards for products, sizes and dimensions.

More now than ever before it may be said that safety and protection of human life are one of the principal aims of standardization. Standardization is now used as an important tool for reducing the risk of injury in the home and at the work, and in travel and leisure activities.

The primary aim of the standard is to ensure safety and this aspect takes precedence over everything else. Goods are to be manufactured with the utmost care to ensure a very high degree of reliability and in addition re-inspection and check testing be called for at intervals during the life of the goods. All these requirements are set out in the standard and compliance with the standard is frequently made enforceable by law.

The safe operation of a equipment is ensured even at its design stage through the help of standard specifications. Standardization provides both a means of agreeing upon levels of safety and performance for equipments and the technical requirements for specifying and testing them. In that way, it can help to ensure that safe goods are made available to consumers.

Moreover, there are many product standards prepared solely for the protection of human life and health. Examples are safety belts for motorists or airline passengers, industrial protective clothing of all kinds, life-belts for use at sea, Helmets, Handshields, Filters and Safety Screens, Safety eyewear's (spectacles, goggles), articles for skin protection, hearing protection, noise protection, Hand & Foot Protection, etc. Many countries make these standards mandatory in use. There are also other standards solely concerned is safety which are more in the nature of Codes of Practice. They would include such items as fire regulations to be observed in the construction of buildings or regulations dealing with the installations of electric wiring. In addition, a vast number of national, and a growing number of International Standards have safety requirements written into them as one important aspect of the particular standard.

Workplace safety standards include provisions to protect operations of industrial machinery, procedures for the safe handling of hazardous materials, specifications for the design and performance of protective clothing, and requirements for colours and symbols for safety signs and warnings.

Minimizing the risk of human injury in automobiles and aircraft requires the use of several hundred standards covering safety glass, seat belts, lighting and braking system, signaling devices, exhaust systems, etc. The development of international agreements of safety standards and regulations has been especially important for international trade in hazardous and automotive products.

In the home, standards provide for the safe installations and operations of house-hold equipments, for the reliable performance for fire protection and alarm systems, for the appropriate use of glass and other building materials, and for the general safety of children's toys. Internationally agreed standards can also significantly reduce the risk of injury in sports and recreational activity, for example, in specifying safety requirements for gymnastic and skiing equipments.

The experience of developed countries reveals that for developing an effective safety system and its control programme at the national level an active participation of the national standards body, in formulation, promotion, propagation and enforcement of safety standards, is a must.

At international level, the three apex international organizations that lead the development and dissemination of international standards and recommendations are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electro-technical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). By their nature, of necessity and by design, these organizations and their publications are in the front line of efforts to meet perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the most public challenges of our affluent society, i.e., safety. How to reduce hazards and to manage better safety.

Intemational Organization for Standardization (ISO), for example, has constituted the following Technical Committees to look after the aspect of safety, needed by the citizens of the global village:

Technical Committees:
92 Fire safety
94 Personal safety-protective clothing and equipment
181 Safety of toys
185 Safety devices for protection against excessive pressure
199 Safety of machinery.