European Standards are relevant to many aspects of our daily lives. They play an important role, alongside regulation, in protecting the environment, enhancing safety as well as the health and well being of consumers and employees. When products and services conform to European Standards, this means that standards are safe, reliable and of good quality.
Participating In European Standards
Did you know that stakeholders like you can contribute to the development of European Standards? And that they benefit from this direct contribution?
Standards are created by bringing together the experience of different stakeholders such as the producers, sellers, buyers, users and regulators of a particular material, product, process or service. These stakeholders are represented by business and industry associations, public authorities, professional bodies, trade associations, consumer organizations, environmental organizations, trade unions, enforcement bodies, testing and inspection bodies, etc.
Participation from all sectors of society gives standards users confidence that standards reflect not only the scientific and technical state of the art, but that they also take into consideration the concerns and priorities of wider society.
Businesses also benefit from having access to standards that take into account the concerns and priorities of societal stakeholders, as they help ensure products and services are developed and delivered in line with market expectations, the health and safety of workers is safeguarded, and environmental protection is maximized.
The participation of societal stakeholders in European standardization is supported by dedicated European associations, whose roles are acknowledged by the recent EU Regulation 1025/2012 on European Standardization. Societal interests are represented for:
Why are standards relevant for you, the consumers?
Standards provide the nuts and bolts of modern society.
Ever thought why your mobile phone works away from home? Yes, standards.
Ever thought why you need to carry a bag full of electrical adaptors when you travel abroad? That's right, a lack of standards!
But standards address more than the issues of interoperability for consumers. They are essential in making our everyday lives safe, more efficient and accessible.
As standards determine the way in which a product or a service is designed or provided before it is placed on the market, they contribute in making products and services safer and more accessible. It is therefore vital for the consumer interest to be reflected in the development of European Standards to ensure the needs and expectations of consumers are met.
A European Standard is shaped by those who contribute to its development. All European Standards are adopted as national standards in the CEN and CENELEC member countries.
Why do you need to be represented in standardization?
Consumer representatives provide the perspective of the end-user of a consumer product or service in the standards development process. For instance, their contributions help ensure the requirements of a standard reflect the real-life use of a consumer product, and take into account the environment in which the product is used.
It is particularly important that the consumer view - as an element of the public interest - is reflected in European Standards requested (or "mandated") by the European Commission to support implementation of European legislation (in the form of directives or regulations) that sets out essential safety requirements for product groupings such as toys, machinery, personal protective equipment, mobile phones, etc. Similarly, in European Standards that will support the implementation of public policies, such as ensuring the access of everyone to the built environment, regardless of the age or abilities of the person.
Standards developed by private bodies are increasingly affecting the working conditions (product safety, nanotechnology, environment, service, energy, transport, etc.) These standards are also becoming an essential ingredient of protective and preventive legislative requirements. Since important issues for the health and safety of workers are negotiated outside the workplace, Trade Unions need to actively contribute to standardization so as to be a key vehicle for informing standards with workers' shop floor experience, demands and expectations.
At European level, the ETUC is the only representative voice of trade unions: its contribution to standardization is mainly carried out by ETUI, the ETUC independent research and training centre.
ETUI has been so far dealing with "mandated" standards supporting product Directives, with priority given to Machinery and Ergonomics Standards. Standardization has the potential to provide the platform for collaborative work between engineers, employers, workers, manufacturers, researchers and governments who can contribute to better health and safety through consideration of design issues. Through standardization in particular, trade unions can explore pathways to deliver the aim of putting workers' knowledge to best use in improving the working environment.
Standards are an aspect of industry self-regulation. They pervade a significant part of human activity and affect environmental quality and sustainability in a multitude of ways. For example, standards are used to set minimum environmental performance levels of products and processes and in defining measurement methodologies to monitor the environmental quality of human environments. Standards can also affect the labelling requirements of products such as domestic appliances and therefore play an important role in consumer protection.
Standards are primarily designed for voluntary use. However, laws and regulations may refer to standards and make compliance with them compulsory. An example of this is the Eco-Design Directive for energy-related products (2009/125/EC). The Directive sets product-specific regulations for appliances such as washing machines, boilers, TVs and computers and these are supported by standards setting out the requirements for test methods to demonstrate compliance with the regulations' minimum energy performance requirements.
Standards are increasingly of interest to policy makers and regulators in Europe as an alternative to formal regulation and conforming to standards is seen as a means of reducing the need for inspections and enforcement action by regulatory authorities.