New products have lots of codes and symbols on the packaging. Some of them tell you that samples of the product have been tested against a standard specification. That means it should be safe and reliable.
But who sets the standards?
The international Organisation for Standardisation, ISO, is a network of standards organisations from 148 countries. The ISO brings people together from all over the world. They include:
- Experts from industries that make the products
- Experts from the laboratories that test them
- People who represent consumers
They Discuss a product and prepare a draft standard. MAny people read this and comment on it. eventually, the ISO creates a new International Standard. So, if you use a plastic bottle that meets standards BS ISO 169 29, then it means it's 'biodegradable'. It will rot away slowly when it is buried and won't clutter the enviroment forever.
In Europe, including the UK, you might find another mark on the product or packaging- CEmarking. that means the product complies with the directives of the European union. European standards are set by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN). Their directives cover issues of reliability and safety.
Most countries have their own national organisation that sets standards for products and services. The British Standards Institution, BSI, was the first in the world. The BSI works with the ISO and many other organisations. it sets standards byconsulting with experts. It says what should be tested and how.
The BSI shows that products match up to their standards using the 'Kitemark'.
Putting toys to the test
The people at Scientific Services must themselves work to standards set by a national or international organisation.
Those organisations might decide what hazards a teddy bear could present, for example. There should be no sharp points, the eyes must not come off too easily, because that would be a choking hazard, the fabric must not catch fire easily. And for simple quality of the product, the seams shoul not split.
These professionals all choose the right material for the job:
- A product designer writes the product's specification (how it is expected to perform)
- A mechanical engineer knows that jet engine parts must keep their strength and toughness at high temperatures.
- An architect may specify energy-saving window glass to be used in a new building.
- A building control surveyor will make sure that thermal insulating materials comply with building regulations.
A series of tests for assessing products or materias to make sure sure they are of an acceptable quality.
The maximum load that a material of standard shape and size can withstand before crumbling.