New ISO standard for safety of consumer goods

Paul Boughton
A new ISO project committee recently met for the first time in Toronto, Canada, to start the process of creating a new international standard for consumer goods in order to prevent the development and marketing of products that could present health and safety risks. The projected standard will offer practical guidance to suppliers of consumer goods. It will therefore increase consumer confidence while promoting trade and competitiveness.
Currently some 23 countries are involved in the work of the project committee, ISO/PC 243, Consumer product safety. And over 20 experts from Australia, Canada, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea participated in the first meeting.
The scope of the standard was among the key issues discussed. In particular, participants looked at defining what constitutes a 'consumer product' and whether goods such as tobacco, food and medicine should be included or excluded.
It was suggested that the standard be developed with a wide and flexible scope in mind. Dr Elizabeth Nielsen, Chair of ISO/PC 243, explained: "Governments that adopt or reference the future standard in their regulation will be in a better position to define which products it should apply to, depending on each country's situation and existing regulation."
ISO/PC 243 was established following an initiative from the working group of the ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO) which aims to reduce risks related to consumer products. According to the proposal, injury statistics in Europe, North America and Pacific countries indicate that design problems, malfunctions and inadequate safety information for consumer products are associated with many unintentional injuries. An international standard would provide universally applicable guidance and practical tools to identify, assess and eliminate or reduce potential safety risks so that they can be addressed before the products enter the market.
The future standard is expected to provide guidance to all parties involved in the consumer product supply chain (designers, manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, etc). It should result in fewer preventable injuries, promote consumer confidence, provide an international benchmark to facilitate access to international markets, serve as an adjunct to regulatory approaches, offer a systems approach to product safety, level the playing field, educate suppliers, and more.
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