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ANSI: What Is It and What Does It Do?

Posted By Jim Pauley, Friday, September 01, 2000
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) — Most in the electrical industry have heard of it, but do you really know what it does? Take the following short quiz:

The American National Standards Institute is:

(a) A standards developing organization (like UL, IEEE, NFPA, etc.)

(b) A facilitator of standards development

(c) A federal government body (like NIST, DoD, etc.)

(d) The US representative to international standards organizations (ISO, IEC)

(e) All of the above

(f) Both "a” and "b”

(g) Both "b” and "d”

Are you ready with your answer? The correct answer is…. (g). Many of you probably picked (a) "A standards developing organization” as your answer. This is a common misconception. ANSI does not develop standards. Rather, it helps to facilitate the development of standards by establishing the guidelines for consensus, due process and openness. Read on to learn more about this critical element of the US Standards System.

History

Founded in 1918 by five engineering societies and three government agencies, ANSI remains a private, nonprofit membership organization supported by a diverse constituency of private and public sector organizations. ANSI represents nearly 1400 company, organization, government agency, institutional, and international members.

National Standards Activity

Ask most people about ANSI and the odds are good that you will hear something about developing standards. We all talk about "ANSI Standards” which leads us to believe that ANSI actually develops standards. In fact, ANSI actually accredits many different standards developers, including those familiar to the electrical industry like NFPA, UL, and IEEE. By being an accredited developer and following the procedures outlined by ANSI, the developer is allowed to call their finalized standard an American National Standard (ANS).

Developers are not accredited in a haphazard fashion. Each developer desiring to become ANSI accredited must submit a set of standards development procedures for ANSI review.

These procedures must be in compliance with the basic ANSI principles of openness, consensus and due process. In addition, the developer must undergo an audit of their procedures and processes at least once every five years. The purpose of the Audit Program is to confirm adherence to the criteria for accreditation and to confirm that the developers’ procedures and practices continue to be consistent with their approved procedures and current ANSI requirements.

Why is the designation of an American National Standard important?It is the glue that holds together the private sector based standards system. Without a process in place such as that provided by ANSI, we would likely have more governmental control of the standards system and less acceptability of the standards nationwide. Authorities having jurisdiction (inspectors, building officials, etc.), governmental agencies (Federal, State, local) and users recognize and look for standards that are recognized as ANS. By using standards that have been designated as such, they can be assured that the standard has been processed through an open system, where consensus was achieved, and there was ample opportunity for those affected by the standard to participate and comment.

Standards are presently promulgated as ANS, by any one of three methods: Committee, Organization and Canvass.

The Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) Methodis used by developers who chose to form a specific accredited committee to do the standards work. For instance, ASC C2 develops the National Electrical Safety Code. The organization providing the development support is IEEE and they manage the process and the activities of the C2 committee.

The Organization Methodis used by organizations that choose to establish a set of procedures specific to their organizational needs. The procedures must also comply with the ANSI procedures and guidelines, but are typically more extensive in nature. As an example, NFPA develops the National Electrical Code under the organizational method of ANSI.

The Canvass Methodof standards development is used by a wide variety of standards developers. The ANSI procedures outline a specific set of requirements for this method. In this method, a canvass list of interested persons is established and this body provides the review of the standard that is under development. UL, NEMA, ARI, and a host of other developers use this method.

Use of any of the above methods results in a standard that can be designated as an American National Standard. Due process and consensus are the hallmarks of that designation. In all cases, the ANSI process requires a public review period. This allows those who did not directly participate in the development of the standard to still make comments on the technical content of the standard. A single standards developer could have standards produced under one or more of these three methods.

There are some key groups within ANSI that have responsibility for portions of this national standards system. Each of these groups exists to ensure that the ANSI process is maintained, appeals are heard, and procedural issues are addressed. These are in addition to all of the mechanisms that may exist within the standards developer process.

The Board of Standards Review (BSR)– The Board of Standards Review is responsible for the approval and withdrawal of American National Standards. The functions of the Board of Standards Review include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) National Standards and adjudicating questions or conflicts that develop in the standards approval procedure; and

(2) Determining whether standards submitted to ANSI for approval or withdrawal as American National Standards meet the requirements of the ANSI and acting on all requests for approval, reaffirmation, revision and withdrawal of American National Standards.

The BSR is not involved in the content of standards and does not hear appeals with regard to technical issues. However, the BSR may hear an appeal with regard to whether a technical issue was given due consideration in accordance with the ANSI accredited standards developer’s procedures.

Executive Standards Council (ExSC)– The Executive Standards Council is responsible for the procedures and criteria for national and international standards development activities of ANSI. The functions of the Executive Standards Council include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) Developing and promulgating procedures and criteria for the coordination, development, approval and withdrawal of standards as American National Standards;

(2) Developing and promulgating procedures and criteria for the coordination, development and approval of United States positions in the international non-treaty standardization organizations with which the Institute is or may become affiliated;

(3) Establishing and supervising such groups as are needed to plan and coordinate the development of American National Standards and to determine and coordinate United States positions in international standards activities;

(4) Developing and promulgating procedures for auditing the implementation of procedures and operations given in (1), (2) and (3) above;

(5) Hearing and adjudicating appeals pertaining to procedural issues and accreditations; and

(6) Considering and responding to public review comments.

Appeals Board– The Appeals Board considers appeals by directly and materially affected persons (organizations, companies, government agencies, individuals, etc.) who believe they have been, or will be, adversely affected by a decision of ANSI, whether in the form of action or inaction. In recent years, the Appeals Board has primarily considered appeals of appeals decisions issued by the Executive Standards Council (ExSC) or the Board of Standards Review (BSR). However, the Appeals Board may hear appeals with regard to the implementation of additional procedural issues.

The importance of the ANSI process and the auditing program should not be underestimated.

Without this National Standards activity, the US standards system would be open to domination by special interests, have limited acceptance across the country and would negatively impact US competitiveness.

ANSI’s International Role

ANSI is the sole U.S. representative and dues-paying member of the two major non-treaty international standards organizations, the International Organization for Standardization(ISO), and, through the U.S. National Committee (USNC), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

Through the ANSI umbrella, US positions on issues in IEC and ISO are conveyed to the international community. This role helps the US in maintaining competitiveness in other markets and provides a forum where concepts in US standards can be promoted into IEC and ISO standards.

It should be recognized that by participating in IEC and ISO activities, ANSI is not committing the US to using those standards on a de facto basis. Standards that are developed through IEC or ISO and are being considered for use in the US are (and should continue to be) processed through the ANSI national standards system. This will ensure that all US interests have an opportunity to "weigh-in” on the standard before it becomes accepted as an American National Standard.

ANSI Membership

The present ANSI membership falls into three categories; Corporate, Government, and Organization.

Corporate membershipis for a corporation, partnership or other entity that is created under the laws of the United States or any State thereof and that is engaged in industrial or commercial enterprise or professional, educational, research, testing or trade activity.

Corporate members include companies such as Square D Company, Caterpillar, AT&T, Microsoft, etc. Corporate member dues to ANSI are determined based on a fee structure related to annual revenue.

Government membersare departments or agencies of the United States government or of any State, interstate or regional authority or agency, or any local or county subdivision of such entities interested in the work of ANSI. Government members include Broward County Florida, City of Jacksonville, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Metro Dade County Florida, US Department of Defense, etc. Government member dues to ANSI are determined based on a fee structure related to their annual budget.

Organizational membersinclude not-for-profit scientific, technical, professional, labor, consumer, trade or other association or organization that is involved in standards, certification or related activities. Organizational members include Underwriters Laboratories, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, National Electrical Manufacturers Association, etc. Organizational member dues to ANSI are based on a basic organizational fee along with a national activity assessment based on the number of standards the member develops and submits to ANSI (if a standards developer) and an international activity assessment based on a level of involvement with ISO and IEC (if they sponsor a technical advisory group or a secretariat).

Membership in ANSI helps not only to support the voice of the US interests internationally, but more importantly it supports the US infrastructure for a voluntary, consensus-based standards system.

Summary

In summary, ANSI plays an irreplaceable role in the US standards system. Each participant in the electrical industry (inspector, installer, manufacturer, designer, etc.) must endeavor to understand the role ANSI plays and support that role by actively participating in the standards system and in setting the direction ANSI takes in the future.

One of the key ANSI publications is Standards Action. This document is produced biweekly and indicates what standards are under development and out for public review. Standards Action is available on the ANSI web site. This is required reading for anyone involved in the US codes and standards system.

More information about ANSI and ANSI membership can be found on its web site atwww.ansi.org.


Read more by Jim Pauley

Tags:  Featured  September-October 2000 

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