Back to basics – understanding Standards
SHP speaks to Daniel Mansfield, Head of Policy Engagement at the British Standards Institution (BSI) and asks him to go back to basics on Standards.
Can you explain what Standards are and why businesses should be interested in them?
Simply put, a standard is an agreed way of doing something. It could be about making a product, managing a process, delivering a service or supplying materials – standards can cover a huge range of activities undertaken by organizations and used by their customers. Standards are the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter and who know the needs of the organizations they represent – people such as manufacturers, sellers, buyers, customers, trade associations, users or regulators. Standards are knowledge, and they can be specifications, codes of practice, guidance or vocabularies.
The point of a Standard is to provide a reliable basis for people to share the same expectations about a product or service. This helps to trade, can provide a framework for achieving economies, efficiencies and interoperability, and can enhance consumer protection and confidence.
Are Standards relevant to SME’s as well as larger organisations?
Absolutely. Standards can be used by all sizes of organization, and for small businesses can help to ‘level the playing field’ against larger firms. Because using standards can inspire confidence in your business (both from employees and customers) it can set you apart from the competition. Through using standards businesses are better able to retain existing customers and win new business. Using standards may be specified in some supply chain arrangements, as it gives both buyer and seller confidence in what they are doing. In this way SMEs can compete with larger businesses.
Are Standards expensive and/ or hard to achieve?
There is a cost to buying and using standards, but we would encourage people to speak to the BSI team to work out the best way of getting hold of standards. You may only need a single standard, but becoming a BSI member can help if you need more than one, as then you can purchase standards at the member rate (typically 50% of the full price for British Standards), and online subscriptions are available for those who might need collections of standards. This can bring the cost of an individual standard right down.
But it is through using standards that businesses can save money. Standards can drive down costs, boost productivity and improve profits. They can help you allocate resources more efficiently, get your product to market quicker, manage risks, and help you compete effectively with larger organizations.
Research BSI published last year showed the contribution that standards make to the UK economy as a whole, but also why individual firms use them: the most productive sectors use standards the most; 84% of contributors to the study said that using standards enhanced their reputation, and 70% felt that standards had improved the quality of supplier products and services. Whilst standards are voluntary, they can also help with regulatory compliance, and over 89% of those we interviewed for the study agreed.
What are the benefits of certifying to a specific standard?
It is not a requirement in any of BSI’s standards to be certified, and in many cases, your own declaration of conformity to a standard will be enough. However, for a number of management standards, such as ISO 9001 (quality management), ISO 14001 (environmental management) and ISO 27001 (information security) there are many organizations who will offer to certify you. A certificate of conformity to a standard, whether for management or product conformity, can give external proof to your customers, which might be very important. Certification may also be required in some supply chain or other contractual arrangements.
Which are the most important Standards for health and safety professionals to understand?
As well as BS OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems and BS ISO 39001 Road Traffic Safety Management Systems, there are standards for personal protective equipment, risk management, food management, and product safety. It would depend on your industry sector, but I would recommend that you browse the catalogue of standards to find what is relevant to you.
I want to talk to my board about gaining certification, how should I go about trying to get buy-in?
Taking health and safety seriously can achieve maximum return for your employees, your operations and your customers. Are you thinking about health and safety management systems certification, or product testing and certification services? Certification can provide an extra layer of assurance to your customers, and can set you apart from your competitors.
We have decided to certify to ISO standards, what next?
Speak to a reputable certification company, such as those who are accredited by the UK’s sole National Accreditation Body, UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) https://www.ukas.com/search-accredited-organisations/
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