ASME has over 130 years of experience in developing voluntary consensus standards that are used in over 100 countries around the world. ASME uses a process to develop standards that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is consistent with principles established by the World Trade Organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.

A standard is a document that establishes uniform criteria, methods, processes, and practices. It provides rules and guidance to designers, manufacturers, inspectors, and users of equipment and products. Standards serve as a form of communication between producers of a product and the user, serving as a common language to define quality and safety criteria. Standards also substantially reduce the burdens of government by providing a basis for regulation that is both technically sound and commercially relevant.

Voluntary consensus standards are developed by committees of individuals with technical expertise in a specific field. ASME consensus standards are built upon a five principle foundation:

1. Openness
2. Transparency
3. Balance of interest
4. Due Process
5. Consensus

By funding standards development through the sale of standards, ASME is able to keep the barriers to participation low and to retain independence and freedom from potential influence by any industry or group.

The Copyright Act of the United States protects standards along with all works of authorship. While the Act has been modified recently, Congress has made no exception for standards. When the government references copyrighted standards into regulations, the same considerations that underlie copyright protection for non-government-referenced standards apply.

ASME and other standards development organizations marshal the vast expertise, diverse perspectives, and technical resources that are available outside the government in order to develop health, safety and environmental standards that are made available for government use at virtually no tax-payer cost. In addition, government use of standards decreases the burden of regulation and the costs of enforcement by conforming regulatory requirements to voluntary, user accepted standards that are already widely looked to for best practices and private self-regulation.

The federal government, through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, recognizes the benefits of private standards development and has made it a policy to require Federal agencies to incorporate privately developed standards for regulatory activities “except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical.” Instead of creating unique technical standards, government bodies have incorporated into their statutes and regulations numerous standards created in the private sector for independent commercial and public safety reasons. The goal of A-119 is to reduce the government’s regulatory and standards development costs. Importantly, OMB requires the agencies to “observe and protect the rights of the copyright holder and any other similar obligations.”

In 1996, Congress passed Public Law 104-113, The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) of 1995 (NTTAA). This law establishes standards policy, coordinates the use of private-sector standards by federal agencies, and encourages, where possible, the use of standards developed by private, consensus organizations. With narrow exceptions, the Congressional policy set by the NTTAA is that: “all Federal agencies and departments shall use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies.” The use of standards in regulations allows, in principle, the government to be more responsive to technological innovation and the needs of industry and those served by industry.

POLICY OBJECTIVES:

  • Support both long-standing Federal policy and recent official reviews that protect the copyright of standards incorporated by reference and encourage Federal participation in the development, and use, of private sector standards.
  • Serve as a resource to policy makers on the voluntary consensus standards process and the importance of standards to the health and safety of the American public.
  • Increase the use of voluntary consensus standards by government agencies as a means of satisfying regulatory requirements, as well as increase participation by government agencies in the standards development process.
  • Promote performance-based technical regulations and market-accepted international standards as meeting the intent provisions of the World Trade Organization’s agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
 
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