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Life is all about standards and right from the start too. In the case of Adam and Eve they didn’t measure up to the standard (rule or law) set by God and as a result sin came into being.

We are always talking about living standards, standards in education, industrial and agricultural production, health, safety, productivity, efficiency, sports or anything that needs benchmark to aim for.

We even have standards (goals) we set in our personal lives, as a matter of choice and not compulsion found necessary in the case of goods and services in the market place. We can choose to be regulated and disciplines as individuals or have a tidak apa (couldn’t care less) attitude towards ourselves and the way we live, work and play.

When we connect with others and the world around us there are certain standards (norms) of behaviour we need to observe. How well we are accepted by others depends on standards we apply to ourselves- our upbringing, how we build relationships, the paper qualifications we acquire and the way we apply what we have learnt.

Codified rules and regulations make things easier because we know what to expect and what is expected of us.

Laws of a country, to all intents and purposes, are standards and if we run foul of them and are caught there is penalty. And it is not just human law we are talking about but the laws of nature as well where the penalty is suffering caused by environmental disasters, floods, drought, famine and disease.

So there is no running away from standards. There was a time when people looked at price more than anything else. These days it’s different. They look at price and quality which demands a certain consistency and predictability before people believe they are getting their money’s worth.

Having said all that, let’s now look at specific standards companies are having to comply with to do business.

Take ISO 9001 for instance. It is about QMS or Quality Management System. Compliance and certification is based on how an organization’s management works to meet customer requirements, be it goods or services.

While the history of post-war standards goes back to 1947 when the International Committee on Standards (a non-governmental organization under the United Nations) was set in Geneva, ISO certification began coming into its own in 1987 with the first standards identified and published.

They were revised in 1994 with one main feature added on-preventive action against potential threats or occurrence of non-conformance. Basically, the objective is to flag and initiate preventive action before it happens.

Further revisions came in the year 2000 subjecting performance to greater scrutiny in eight key areas, namely Leadership, Involvement of Employees, Customer Focus, Systems Approach, Process Approach, Continuous Improvement, Mutually beneficial Customer-supplier Relationship and Factual Approach to Decision Making.

In Year 2008, it was revised again to ISO 9001:2008 where it only introduces clarifications to the existing requirements of ISO 9001:2000 and some changes intended to improve consistency with ISO 14001:2004.

Next, there is ISO 14000 which first came into the scene in 1996 with a revised version in 2004. It zeroes in environmental issues, looking at laws and regulations and how an organization monitors them and work towards compliance. It includes preparedness for emergencies such as fire drills, chemical spillage, sabotage and product tampering.

OHSAS or Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series was initiated by the International Labour Organization in 1999. Our Department of Standards Malaysia has been a member of its OHSAS committee since 1987.

A revised version standard for OHSAS was published in 2007 with greater emphasis on “health” instead of only occupational safety, “accident” has been included in the term “incident” and new requirements for “Evaluation of Compliance”, “Participation and Consultation” and “Investigation of Incidents”.

When it comes to Food Safety, there is ISO 22000 with its year 2005 version concentrating solely on food safety by combining ISO 9001 (focus on management quality) with HACCP or Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points with its concentration on the process or step by step production chain.

It, however, is not meant to replace HACCP or ISO 9001 with its wide public implications.

Finally, there is ISO/TS 16949 dealing with technical standards for the automotive industry which sets its own measures for vendors to comply with over and above the ISO 9000 certification which they are also encouraged to have as a starting point.

In Malaysia at the moment, we have players who help companies and organizations to attain the proper and appropriate credentials (certifications) from such certification bodies as DNV Certification, AJA EQS Certification, SIRIM QAS Certification and etc.

They can be likened to driving schools which teach to drive but leave the testing to the Road Transport Department.



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