A standard is a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for a product for common and repeated use.

Standards are common in our lives. Every time you look at your watch you’re checking standard time. When you buy a light bulb, you don’t need to worry that it will fit the lamp base, because there’s a standard. When you need a flashlight battery, you don’t have to specify the length, diameter, or voltage – you ask for a C, or D, or AA cell.

What does this mean for purchasers of safety equipment?

Suppose every time you want a hard hat, you have to give your supplier specifications like these:

  • A 3.6-kg impactor dropped on the helmet at a velocity of 5.5 m/sec will not transmit a force greater than 4450 Newtons
  • A 1-kg impactor with a 60-deg steel tip, dropped at 7.0 m/sec, will not penetrate to the headform
  • The helmet’s material cannot burn more than 5 sec after you hold an 800 to 900 deg flame to it for 5 sec.
  • The helmet will withstand 20,000 Vrms, AC, at 60 Hz for 3 minutes with no more than 9 mA leakage.

In fact, you do. This is a summary of the common specifications for industrial head protection for use where there may be an electrical hazard. But all you and your supplier need to know is that the helmet conforms to ANSI Z89.1-2009, class E.

Standards are the:

  •  Shorthand of commerce. They are a common language for the marketplace.
  • Standards establish compatibility of components and systems, and make it possible to interchange products from different manufacturers safely and effectively.
  • Standards establish a level of performance for a product, system or process. For PPE, this is the protection the product is designed to provide.
  • Standards provide a method for verifying that a product is suitable for its intended purpose.
  • Standards serve the public good, by establishing levels of safety, health, and environmental protection. Standards are commonly used as the basis for government regulation.