ANSI is the American National Standards Institute. It is a private organization involved with coordinating and publishing voluntary consensus standards that are used for nearly every product, process, and system in the U.S. For example, the computer or smart device you are using to read this article uses the ANSI code for displaying letters, numbers, and symbols on your screen. There are more than 10,000 ANSI standards – ANSI standards are everywhere.
In addition to publishing ANSI standards in the U.S., ANSI is also involved with coordinating U.S. standards with international standards so that products can be used worldwide. The goal is to have products with consistent characteristics and performance and terminology with consistent definitions. That way, consumers can have confidence in their products, and those products will meet functionality.
However, ANSI does not develop standards. The ANSI standards are developed by other organizations and groups. What ANSI has done is to establish requirements for developing standards, and ANSI accredits organizations that meet all of those requirements.
What is covered by ANSI standards?
This is how ANSI describes its standards:
American National Standards provide dimensions, ratings, terminology and symbols, test methods, and performance and safety requirements for personnel, products, systems and services in hundreds of industries. Many ANS [American National Standards] make it clear how to improve the safety of products for the protection of consumers, including products such as baby cribs, bicycle helmets, home appliances, lawn mowers, ladders, etc.
ANSI standards apply to consumer products. They also apply to industrial and commercial products, as well as the facilities that make those products.
ANSI Standards are Voluntary
ANSI is not a government agency, and the standards they publish are not backed by the force of law. That's why ANSI standards are called voluntary standards. However, some ANSI standards are referenced by enforceable codes and standards set by government agencies such as OSHA. For example, OSHA 1910.145, “Specifications for Accident Prevention Signs and Tags” references ANSI Z53.1-1967. That, in effect, makes the ANSI standard a part of the OSHA standard, and OSHA can issue a citation if your workplace safety signs are not in compliance with the Z53.1-1967 ANSI standard.
Note that, in the above example, OSHA references the 1967 edition of the ANSI standard. There are more recent editions of this ANSI standard. For example, the Michigan OSHA (MIOSHA) references the 1971 edition of Z53.1, Updating OSHA standards is not a simple process. As a result, OSHA does not always reference the most current ANSI standard. However, you must comply with the specific version of the ANSI standard that is referenced by OSHA.
What is an ANSI Standard?
ANSI, as well as ISO, defines a standard this way:
A standard is a document, established by consensus that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results.
What this means is that standards may establish the size, shape, capacity, performance, and other characteristics a product must meet. Even something as simple as a light bulb must be designed according to standards, otherwise you might not be able to even screw a new light bulb into an existing socket. Think about all the different charging cords you have for your various electronic devices. It seems like each brand uses a different connector. Wouldn't it be nice if there were standards so that a charger made for one device would work for any other device that used the same voltage and current?
ANSI standards also provide performance specifications as well as safety standards. Some of the ANSI safety standards include:
- ANSI Standard A14.1 - American National Standards for Ladders - Wood Safety Requirements
- ANSI/ Standard Z359.13 - Personal Energy Absorbers and Energy Absorbing Lanyards
- ANSI Standard A10.13 - Safety Requirements for Steel Erection
- ANSI Standard 105 - Hand Protection Selection Criteria
- ANSI Standard A1264-2 - Provision of Slip Resistance on Walking/Working Surfaces
- ANSI Standard Z10 - Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems
What is an ANSI Standard Conformity Assessment?
ANSI (and ISO) defines an ANSI Standard Conformity Assessment as:
Any activity concerned with determining directly or indirectly that relevant requirements are fulfilled.
While a standard IS a technical expression of how to make a product safe, efficient, and compatible with others, a standard alone cannot guarantee performance. Conformity assessment, however, provides assurance to consumers by increasing consumer confidence when personnel, products, systems, processes or services are evaluated against the requirements of a voluntary standard.
ANSI standard conformity testing ensures that a product meets the requirements of the ANSI standards that it is required to meet, or which the manufacturer claims are being met. Conformity testing is done in one of three ways:
- First-Party Assessment – this is testing done by the manufacturer, supplier, or importer of a product. First party conformity assessment provides greater flexibility, and may even be built in as a part of an iterative design process. It may also be conducted prior to a second or third party assessment.
- Second-Party Assessment – typically takes place at the end of the design process or production cycle. A second party is an organization that has customer interests in mind. This may even be normal customers for the product. For example, industrial customers may examine and test the materials they purchase to ensure they meet the required specifications. This may include testing the material itself, as well as testing tolerances, fitness, durability, and safety.
- Independent Third-Party Assessment – this type of assessment is done by an organization that has no relationship with the company producing or supplying the product. The assessment typically takes place in a testing laboratory at the end of the design process or production cycle. A third-party assessment provides the most trusted evaluation demonstrating the product meets the requirements of the applicable ANSI standards.
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