What is standardization?
Dictionaries contain a wide variety of definitions for the word "standard", which can mean rule, benchmark, norm, regulation, principle, average, medium, performance target or criterion. As a general rule, a standard involves intended or required compliance with agreed values or objectives. Though the application of a standard is essentially voluntary, an obligation to apply may arise as a result of legal or administrative regulations, contracts or other legal grounds.
In the field of prevention it is generally technical standards used to define properties that are of particular significance. Standards facilitate the comparison of products, definitions and test specifications.
Whether at European or international level, standards and norms can make a decisive contribution to the opening up of markets, technology transfer processes and deregulation in technical legislation. In order to ensure that national differences do not hinder the free flow of goods, the definition of product quality requirements using national legislation or regulations set out by the German social accident insurance institutions has been banned since 1985. In the intervening period European standardization has played a key role in the rising quality of occupational safety and health (OSH).
Standardization targets a broad consensus amongst all stakeholders, which include manufacturers and operators of systems and products as well as employers and employees, authorities, the German social accident insurance institutions, trade and industry, test institutes, specialist insurers, monitoring bodies, consumers, associations and the scientific community. This approach is a prerequisite for the definition of standards which represent "generally accepted technical rules" and achieve high levels of social acceptance and awareness.
A contract between the German Federal Government and the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) designates the latter as the German entity responsible for domestic, European and international standardization work.
Good reasons for cooperation
As standards can contribute to the prevention of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and work-related health hazards, standardization represents an important tool which supports the German social accident insurance institutions in the delivery of prevention services in accordance with their statutory mandate (see §1 and §14 in book VII of the German Social Code (SGB VII)).
Standards which take risks to safety and health into consideration facilitate the design of safe, ergonomic work equipment which prevents or minimizes the respective risks. This not only enables companies and national economies to avoid the considerable costs otherwise incurred as a result of accidents or work-related health hazards, but also saves those affected and their relatives a great deal of suffering.
The participation of representatives of the German social accident insurance system in standardization committees is a contractual component of an agreement between the DGUV and DIN.
Dr Stefan Vorderstraße
Safety and Health Department
Rules and Regulations