What’s in a Number? The Fed Spec Numbering System

What’s in a number?  For folks familiar with specs and standards, the answer is “A lot!”  The Fed Spec numbering system is a good example of this.  Fed Spec numbers have a lot of meaning packed into a small amount of space.  And once you see this example of how engineers number the standards they develop, you’re sure to see more hidden meanings in the other standards you use.

First, what is a Fed Spec?  This is a common term for Federal Specifications.  These documents are “owned” by the GSA, the U.S. General Services Administration.  These folks are responsible for procurement at the Federal level of our government.  So they have a need for specifications to reference in their contracts much the same of the Department of Defense does.

Since the government specs and standards programs have been in place for many decades, they pre-date the public use of the Internet.  If fact, they predate the use of computers and networks completely.  Many specs and standards have been generated over the years for use in government procurement.  And back in the days of paper records, the need for ways to streamline finding documents necessary for contracts was acute.

For Fed Spec Numbering, a schema was developed to keep “like” specifications together.  This was done by a letter system that segregated specifications by commodity group.  Thus a contracting officer looking for specifications on textile products could go directly to that section of the specifications on the subject.

How is this “pre-sort” done?  Document numbers start with specific sets of letters for each commodity group.  There can be 1 to 3 letters at the beginning of the document number.  Each set of letters is for 1 commodity.  After the pre-designated number string, there is a hyphen and then the first letter of the title of the document.  Then there is another hyphen and the actual numeric designation.

So let’s take a look at some examples:

M-D-2798, Dinnerware, China (Decorated)

In this case, “M” is for the commodity group ceramics, “D” is the first letter of the title, and “2798” is the numeric component.

QQ-A-1876, Aluminum Foil

Here, the “QQ” part of the number is for metals, and many important Fed Specs for metals used to be in this section (most are now withdrawn).  The “A” is the first letter of the title, and the “1876” is the numeric string.

PPP-B-1606, Box, Fiberboard Special Use (Post Office Money Order Forms)

Another favorite designation – The “PPP” covers packaging and packing.  There used to be a “PPP” number on the bottom of most cardboard boxes!  The “B” is the first letter of “Box,” and “1606” is the numeric string.  Here you can see some of the scope of work for the GSA purchasing agents — They provide support for the post office!

So now you can see that the string of letters at the head of a Fed Spec number can be 1, 2, or 3 letters.  They are always a set of the same letter — there is no “ABA” or another other combined string.  And each covers a general subject area.  The complete list of available letter strings and their commodity coverage is available for you at the bottom of this post.

When you work with a set of standards from a single source, you may likely find “hidden meanings” in those numbers as well.  If you have a document set that you need help with, please get in touch.  And if you are having difficulties finding a particular standard, please contact our Document Center staff.  We’re available by phone (650-591-7600) and email (info@document-center.com).  But first, you may want to search for your problem standard at our webstore, www.document-center.com.  We have over 1 million standards available there.

List of Fed Spec Number Classes

We’ve been working with compliance documentation since 1982.  I hope you’ll make us your Standards Experts!

Incorporation by Reference (IBR) News

The issue of Incorporation by Reference (IBR) of standards into the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) has generated a number of copyright issues.  Now with a recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, some clarity has been offered.

At issue is the very concept of copyright for standards documents referenced in U.S. regulations.  There has been an on-going debate about copyright in these instances.  Should IBR standards be freely available or should the rights of the copyright holder (the standards developer) be upheld?

On one side of this debate stands an organization called Public.Resource.org, Inc. which has been posting IBR standards on the Internet.  Challenging the “freely available standards” stance, ASTM International, ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) and NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association Inc.) are on the other.  The battleground was a lawsuit brought by these Standards Developers (SDOs) against Public Resource for posting standards without permission and without compensation.

Last week, the court ruled in favor of the SDOs.  This means that IBR does not move referenced standards into the public domain.  Copyright protection continues to be in force.  This may mean free “read-only” access or it may mean the standards need to be purchased.  Each SDO continues to be the decision maker with regards to distribution.

Why is this considered a victory by SDOs?  Sale of publications in many cases is a significant part of the funding for these non-profit organizations.  IBR standards can be some of the most frequently used documents in their catalogs.  The potential lost revenue represents a legitimate challenge to the way standardization is funded.  As ANSI (the American National Standards Institute) notes, “The ruling supports ANSI members and the standards ecosystem, and enables the plaintiffs to continue to develop high-quality voluntary consensus standards that support federal, state, and local agencies.”

The standards community as a whole is grateful to these three associations for taking on the legal challenge presented by Public Resource and others of its kind.  Copyright protection requires constant vigilance.  However, many associations do not have the funds available to take on such a case.  Leadership by ASTM, ASHRAE and NFPA has been a boon to the community as a whole.

Standards are included in our regulations as best-practice solutions for health, safety, and quality requirements.  Having the two systems work in harmony is essential — one being the voluntary standards system and the other the regulatory framework for the enforcement of our laws.  I expect this ruling to provide the legal precedence needed for creating a stable legal footing regarding copyright and IBR for the standards developing community.

EN Adoptions of IEC Standards

I recently had a question about the EN adoptions of IEC standards.  The question was basically, “How can I know when an EN adoption of an IEC standard is identical to the original IEC document?”  This is a valid question since the EN adoptions may or may not include changes from the source material.

Of course, since all EN ISO adoptions are labeled that way (i.e., “EN ISO 9001”), questions come up frequently about why the IEC adoptions are not the same.  I have always answered that since the IEC adoptions are not necessarily identical to the source, the same numbering protocol has not been used.  While true, most customers are not very pleased with this answer!

Well, good news for all you standards users out there!  CENELEC and IEC have signed a new agreement that will change the way that the adoption process is handled.  Here are some highlights from the new Frankfurt agreement last October.

Currently 80% of the EN adoptions of IEC standards are identical to the source material.  From now on, IEC documents that are adopted without changes will be labeled “EN IEC.” This will be just like the ISO adoptions.  So when you see a new release numbered “EN IEC,” you’ll know the IEC content has not been changed.

Further, CENELEC and IEC are striving to harmonize an even greater number of standards.  So there should be more European adoptions that are identical to the source IEC standards. Organizations that rely on these documents for their electronic products (now almost 20% of all global trade) are sure to be pleased.

National differences in standards make for confusion and expense.  And they detract from a region or country’s competitiveness.  This is good news indeed that Europe is working towards a reduction in these types of variations.

The lack of clarity in the current situation has been a hindrance to global usage of the EN adoptions.  It has caused confusion in the marketplace when a product meets the requirements of the EN adoption.  Folks just don’t know if meeting the EN edition is the same as meeting the IEC edition.  Over time, the new protocol will make it easier to understand equivalencies.

The last time the EN adoptions of IEC standards were administratively addressed was back in 1996 in Dresden.  Times have changed and industry is pushing for more harmonization as markets continue to globalize.  Expect to see the new system implemented soon.  And don’t be surprised when some of the numbers of the standards you frequently use are updated.  Now that you know what the revision means, you’ll be glad to see it happening!

Meantime, if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.  Our staff will be happy to work with you so you can understand the migration path of your compliance information.  Reach out to us by phone (650-591-7600) or email (info@document-center.com).  And go ahead and search for and order the standards you need at the Document Center Inc. webstore, www.document-center.com.  We’ve been working with standards for over 35 years.  Make us your Standards Experts!

Which edition of a standard should I use?

Which edition of a standard should I use?  This question comes up regularly as our customers work on setting up compliance libraies for their companies.  There are two aspects of this question that I’d like to review for you today.

Sometimes the question has to do with which national adoption of an EN standard to use.  Since all national publications contain the required EN text, this is easy to answer.  Go ahead and use any national adoption of the EN standard you need.  Your only concern may be the use of a particular national source (BS, DIN, and so on) if your auditing body is from a particular location.  So if you’re being audited by a German organization, you may want to use the DIN adoptions and so on.

But more often the question more specifically means “Which edition will satisfy my regulatory requirements?”  The answer to this question requires a little more work on your part.   This is because each regulatory jurisdiction has the ability to dictate the version of a particular standard that you’ll need to meet.

For example, in order to meet European requirements, you’ll need to use an EN version of any given standard.  Many times you’ll find the standards you need the the EU Harmonized Standards Lists.  But let’s say you’re also required to meet FDA certification.  The FDA has adopted specific versions of standards too.  And sometimes those are not the same as the EN edition.  So you may need to review the list of FDA approved consensus standards too.  Here is the link to the search page for these FDA adopted standards.

Other jurisdictions may have adopted other versions of your standards.  You’ll need to know which locations your products will be marketed in and take a look at each set of requirements!  Guess what?  You may be buying and reviewing multiple versions of the same document.  This is a tedious process, but well worth it.  There may be slight differences in the various publications.  Knowing and accounting for them as early in your development process as possible will avoid costly problems later.

I want to mention that the standards community has had a goal of “one standard, one test” for many years now.  This is the foundation of the movement towards harmonized standards.  Naturally there are times when that goal cannot be met (think of the many electrical outlets and plugs you can find when you travel).  And certainly, politics and economic protectionism plays a role.  However, it is clear that standards organizations have made positive strides in minimizing differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Questions like “Which edition of a standard should I use?” are brought to us all the time.  This is because many people using standards have no formal education in the standards process, protocols, and conventions.  For folks like you, Document Center Inc. is a valued resource.  We have the knowledge that you need when making many of your compliance documentation decisions.  We hope that you will contact us with any questions you have and to purchase the standards you need.  You can reach us by phone (650-591-7600) and email (info@document-center.com).  Our website, www.document-center.com, is also a wealth of information.  Make us your Standards Experts!


What does ASTM reapproved mean?

What does ASTM reapproved mean?  This is one of those questions that many folks who are new to standards have.  The answer is simple, but it is an opportunity to discuss the administrative side of standardization too.

“Reapproved” or “Reaffirmed” are terms used in standardization to notate that a publication has been reviewed on a certain date.  During this review, the technical content of the standard was found to still be valid.  So you can continue to use the publication the way that it was originally issued.   You will see this written as “2000(2016) Edition” or “2000 (R2016) Edition” or even “2000 R16 Edition.” Good standards practice usually requires such a review every 5 years.

Do you have to purchase an ASTM reapproved (or any reaffirmed) edition?  This is a judgement call for many organizations.  Since the technical content of a reaffirmed edition has not changed, there is no practical reason to buy a reaffirmed edition when you already have the original issue.  That is, there is no practical difference between a 2000 Edition and a 2000 R2016 Edition.

However, sometimes auditors will prefer to have the most current edition of a publication used.  So in some cases, documentation experts will go ahead and get the reapproved edition so that they have the latest copy on file at all times.  This should be discussed with your auditor should your document collection be part of a compliance review.

Sometimes ASTM publications are reaffirmed with editorial corrections.  You might see this as “2000(2016) e1 Edition” or 2000 R2016(e1) Edition.”  This means that the technical content has not changed, but there has been some other modification to the document.  It might be a correction to the address of a referenced entity or a reformatting of a table.  Again, since the technical content remains valid, purchasing the update is not mandatory.

If you are new to standards and have questions like this, you’ll be glad to know that we are here at Document Center Inc. to give you a helping hand.  We know that many of you come to the world of standards without any prior knowledge of this type of information.  So we are happy to assist you and explain the various conventions that can be so confusing.  Every question is acceptable!  Just get in touch with us by email (info@document-center.com) or phone (650-591-7600).

You’ll also find our website, www.document-center.com, to be a valuable resource.  When you search for standards to order, you can also review the document’s history.  Many times this will shed light on how the publication has changed over time.  And we also have information on the basics of standardization for you to review as well.

Remember, here at Document Center Inc. we’ve been working with standards since 1982.  We have many products and services set up specifically to help folks like you.  Make us your Standards Experts!

Are IETF Standards Free?

Are IETF Standards Free?  This is the third standards development model I am reviewing as part of my presentation at the SES (Society for Standards Professionals) Conference in Denver next week.  As SDOs (Standards Developing Organizations) consider distribution options, understanding models that do not charge users for standards is important.  And in my opinion, the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) model is the only one where standards are really free!

In this discussion, I will really simplify the IETF standards process in order to make my points.  But if you are interested in the organization, their mission, and their real standards development protocol, you need to take a look at two of their web pages.  The first is the “Getting Started in the IETF” page for newcomers to the IETF.  The second is the “The Tao of the IETF:  A Novice’s Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force.”

The IETF is not a traditional standards developing organization.  It does not have dues and participation is free (except for attendance at any of the 3 annual meetings which do have a fee).  Documents generated by the IETF are called RFCs (Requests for Comments).  Some become standards, many don’t.

RFCs can be authored by a single individual or by a group.  Usually they are proposed within the structure of one of the many IETF working group.   Discussion may ensue, with commenting and revision being an essential part of the process.  A draft that has been through a number of updates may then be considered for adoption as an RFC.   Eventually, some RFCs are elevated to the status of BCPs (Best Current Practices) and some become Standards (STDs).  To learn more about this, take a look at RFC 2026,  “The Internet Standards Process – Revision 3.”

All RFCs are freely available on the Internet.  Of course, there are certain quirks that you need to be aware of.  An RFC that has been replaced with a newer revision will not have any indication that it is out-of-date.  You need to learn how the documents are kept and where to search in order to make sure you get the latest edition of a standard.

Also, you can imagine that over the years there have been plenty of attempts to create RFCs for topics that are of low interest to the community or attempts to derail Working Group projects.  So there are protocols in place to make sure that the IETF stays focused on areas where consensus is important to the development of the Internet.

There are some things to note when you look at the IETF, their publications, and their processes.  Because the group deals with the Internet, technology tools that make collaboration and consensus possible at a distance have been adopted by the IETF from the very beginning.  By relying heavily of open source tools and protocols, the group keeps costs to a minimum.

Also, since the work is highly technical in nature, participants really are “birds of a feather.”  And since all work is done on a volunteer basis, this usually means that only those directly involved with a particular aspect of Internet technology will be part of the appropriate working group.

How does this model differ from the traditional SDO protocol?  The constraints of “good standards development practices” as typlified by ANSI protocols make administration of the standards authoring process essential.  The IETF model does not meet ANSI requirements.  Right out of the gate, the need for due process, wide participation in authoring, and maintenance over the lifetime of the standard creates challenges the IETF does not have.  Traditional standards are expected to be reviewed once every 5 years.  Revision is often necessary.  All these things take money.

Are IETF Standards Free?  As you can see, the IETF RFC process and distribution practices are indeed without formal costs.  The IETF is an unusual and unique organization in the world of standards developers.  Yet this extraordinary model for consensus and documentation does offer other SDOs an opportunity to look at an entirely different way of operating.  Over time, there is no doubt that some of the IETF practices will be adopted by the traditional SDO community.

Are Consortium Standards Free?

Are Consortium Standards Free?  I’m looking at the broader issue of standards and public access for my presentation at the SES (the Society for Standards Professionals) Convention in Denver this month.  There are some standards that are made available for no charge.  I reviewed the Mil Specs and Standards set last week.  Today I’m going to take a look at Consortium Standards.

What is a Consortium?  Luckily, one of my co-panelists has a webpage with a detailed answer to this question: Consortium Info Essential Guide.  For our purposes today, let’s just say that a consortium is a group that has joined together to promote a specific technology or technological solution.  They often fast-track the development of standards in a particular area to provide the technical support to get a product or service to market quickly.

Why is a Consortium different that other Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs)?  The consortium process is often called “pay to play.”  That is, the standards system used is not particularly open in the classical standards sense.  It is a system based on the participation of a few key players.  These folks support the activities of the consortium with dues, often rather expensive in comparison with other SDOs.  They are interested in rapid consensus and deployment.  Their mission is to get their standard(s) in use as quickly as possible.

Are consortium standards provided at no charge?  Usually during the development process, consortium standards are not available.  This is primarily in the interests of time (and sometimes business interests as well).  Introducing additional players into the mix can end up in too much input, slowing down the process.  It may also give competing technology advocates a chance to see what is going on in a certain group.  Or give them a chance to derail the consortium’s goals.

However, once consortium standards are adopted and published by the group, they often are available at no charge.  This is to support the mission of the consortia — Wide adoption of the technology as a tool for promotion of the group’s products or solutions.  Let’s think of the original business strategy for the PC industry — Make PC standards open in comparison with Apple closed standards as a tool for increasing marketshare.

So consortium standards are not free — they do take money to develop, as do most of the standards we use.  However, by choosing to make the final publications available at no charge, a consortium is furthering its core mission — adoption of a specific technology.

What happens if a consortium standard is widely adopted?  How is the standard maintained?  This is an issue of standards development that presents a problem for many consortia.  The authoring group is brought together to get a technology adopted.  When it is, the group’s mission has been met.  Usually, at this point the consortium is dissolved.  But about the standard?

Much to the initial suprise of the traditional SDO community, it is at this point that many consortia hand over their publications to another standards organization.  IEEE has been the happy receipient of a number of standards developed by various consortia.  Why?  A traditional SDO is not only geared up to develop standards but also support them throughout their lifecycle.  For example, standards should be able to be revised if technical errors are discovered.  Standards should be reviewed once every 5 years.  Standards need to be distributed to a potentially large audience over a long span of time.  And even when cancelled, they still may be required for legal or regulatory purposes.

And when this transition takes place, does a consortium’s standard still get distributed at no charge?  Usually not.  While the costs for development are borne by the consortium’s organizers, the costs for maintenance are not.  So a traditional SDO who inherits this type of standard usually begins charging for it immediately.

The use of no-charge distribution of standards is a tactical choice for any consortia.  It is a tool to be used to achieve an end.  It can be very effective but does come with a price.  Many of the benefits of traditional standards development (open process, public review, and so on) are not available during the consortia process.  However, in exchange, a consortium will be able to gain consensus quickly, bring a standard to market in a timely fashion, and attempt to gain penetration of the market by open access to the document(s).

For a tranditional SDO, use of no charge distribution should also be considered a tactial choice.  It should be considered when issues of public interest and achievement of organizational goals make a strong business case and the costs of standardization can be covered by means other than standards sales.

Are MIL Specs and Standards Free?

Are MIL Specs and Standards free?  Should all standards be free?  How should we pay for the development and maintenance of standards?  These are some of the questions that I’ll be talking about at the SES (Society for Standards Professionals) convention in August.  As the standards community reflects on the impact of technology, questions about copyright are front and center.  It’s a basic Internet question:  Should information be free?

Let’s take a look at the DoD system of standards.   They are correctly referred to as public domain documents.  This means that they are not covered by the laws of copyright.  You can use them at no  charge but they are paid for by U.S. taxpayer dollars.  So to answer our question “Are MIL Specs and Standards Free?” we must say no, they are not free.  However, the costs are not borne by the user but by the public at large.

How has this  worked out?  Is this a model that industry should use?  Why was this system developed and what has it accomplished?

DoD specs and standards were developed to support the purchasing needs of the U.S. military.  Since government purchasing can have an impact on jurisdiction communities, it has to meet both practical and political needs.  It has spawned great successes and some well-documented failures.

Back in the day, I saw some shortcuts to good practices in the areas of authoring.  For example, one of our customers was requested to write a mil spec for an electrical component.  He added requirements that made his company the sole supplier for the item.  How could this happen?  The military standardization program just didn’t have enough resources to write all that documentation necessary in-house.  So on occasion it enlisted the help of the vendors themselves, with mixed results.

Other authoring and distribution challenges exist.  Finding appropriate tools for authoring and for conversion of legacy documents has been expensive.  The problems of providing paper copies have thankfully been resolved with the use of pdf delivery.  However, helping mil spec customers keep up with changes continues to be problematic.

Another issue created by this use of an exclusive set of documentation is certification.  In the past, visits to thousands of suppliers were needed to make sure products met the requirements.  Now with the adoption of the ISO 9001 requirements, third party certification has a place in the procurement system.

The development of a standards program specifically for government procurement did lead to purchasing scandals in the past.  Dr. Perry’s Mil spec reform in the 1990’s was an effort to reduce the DoD standards collection to a set comprised of military-only requirements.  For all widely available products, the military and other federal level purchasers moved to the use of industry standards.  So, much of the burden of cost of standardization is no longer paid for by taxpayers.  And now military purchasers have the ability to purchase goods in the open marketplace which saves even more millions of dollars.

The old DoD standardization program did have one shining benefit:  The standards set was widely used thoughout industry.  This penetration of the marketplace was an unintended side effect of the no charge availability of the documents to users.  When the DoD decided to cancel many of their publications during MIL Spec reform, it was a real blow to many standards users.  While most companies moved to industry specs, there is a significant number that stopped using standards altogether.

Of course, when it comes to standards, some developers are interested in fast adoption of a new technology.  In these cases, no charge distribution is a real plus.  But for many traditional standards developers, their documentation supports less “sexy” applications.  In these cases the funding for the transparent development and maintenance of their standards may be best achieved by selling the documents themselves.

The standardization community like other content creators will have to deal with many questions regarding copyright and the distribution of information moving forward.  Many of our common public issues like the promotion of trade, the health and safety of our population, environmental stewardship, and interconnectivity of products can be solved with the use of standards.  Finding a way to promote the use of proven solutions provided by standardization is one factor.  Finding a way to support the uncompromised development of this data is another.

IEC 62366-1 Corrigendum

A new Corrigendum 1 has been released for the IEC 62366-1 Edition 1.0.  This standard is titled “Medical devices – Part 1: Application of usability engineering to medical devices.”  It is a widely used standard in the medical device industry.  But what exactly does this new Corrigendum do?

Many of our customers have questions when a corrigendum is released for an international standard.  So let’s take a look at what a corrigendum is and why it is issued for a given document.

Basically, a corrigendum is a change notice.  Similar updates are issued for other standards as errata, changes notices, and so on.  This type of change is too small to warrant an amendment.  But it is a change that affects the technical content of the publication.

You will find the true definition of a technical corrigendum in the ISO/IEC Directive 1.  These directives provide you with the administrative information for understanding the standards process.  They also define many of the document types ISO and IEC use.

Some things to note about a technical corrigendum.  It is issued when the change has a material affect on the techical content.  So it will always address an error or ambiguity that could “lead to incorrect or unsafe application of the publication.”   And it is not usually issued for a publication that is over 3 years old.

Now to the technical corrigendum for IEC 62366-1.  This correction sheet has been issued because of an error in numbering the references to a particular paragraph within the standard.  And it’s true, using the  wrong paragraph can lead to errors.  So the change fits the requirements for issuing a corrigendum.

There are 2 sections of the standard that have been affected by this inadvertent error in referencing,  Section C.1 (General) and Section C.2.4 (Risk control).    Your new corrigendum will give you the correct information.  You should keep the corrigendum with the document it affects.  And you might also like to make “pen and ink” changes to the body of the document so there’s no change of confusion.

How do you find out when a corrigendum has been issued?  Rely on Document Center Inc.’s notification service.  We track all components of the standards we sell.  And our notification service provides you with timely emails when changes to your collection have been made.  As I have noted above, technical corrigenda provide you with information the committee deems to be critical to the correct use of the standard.  You will want to make sure that when a corrigendum is issued for any of the standards you use, you are informed and get a copy promptly.

Just get in touch with our staff to get your copy.  You can  reach us by phone (650-591-7600) or email (info@document-center.com).  We are happy to help you understand the standards you use, how they are issued, and what you need in order to be current.  Make us your Standards Experts!

Using the Harmonized List of Standards

Many of you have questions when using the harmonized list of standards for the EU Directives.  Whenever I have a question about any European Harmonized standard, I head to this website:  https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/european-standards/harmonised-standards/index_en.htm.  Here you’ll find all the harmonized lists arranged by subject.

First, what is a harmonized list?  It is a list of all approved standards that can be used to support your product’s compliance with EU legislation.  So if you’re planning on selling your product in Europe, having it meet the requirements of an applicable harmonized standard is one way to support what’s called “the presumption of conformity.”

Browse the homepage for harmonized standards until you find the Directive you’re interested in.  They’ll be listed by their common name, not by the directive number.  Click on the directive and you’ll go directly to its harmonized list page.  You can verify you’ve reached the correct one by checking the directive number in the header material.

The first thing you’ll see is a summary of the documents that comprise the current edition of the directive.  You’ll also get some links to helpful material, like guides for application and EU contacts.  Next is series of links in various languages to the text of the Official Journal publication that officially adopted all the standards in the current listing.  And of course, following this is a 5-column table with a summary of those standards themselves.

Let’s take a look at each column in turn to understand the information in each.  Column 1 is labeled “ESO.”  This is the acronym for European Standards Organization and will tell you which European Standards Body is responsible for the document.  There are 3 choices:  CEN (which is similar to ISO in it’s scope), CENELEC (like IEC), and ETSI (similar to ITU).  CENELEC covers  standards relating to electricity, ETSI to telecommunications, and CEN does everything else.

Column 2 is labeled “Reference and title of the standard (and reference document).”  In this column, you’ll find all the document numbers of standards that have been accepted as harmonized publications by inclusion in the Official Journal.  They are presented as EN numbers, not as any national adoptions.  This means that you are free to choose any of the many country-specific editions you like.  When the standard is an adoption of another publication, like an ISO standard, this is included in parentheses.  Any amending material is also part of the citation if adopted in the Journal.

Column 3 is the “First publication OJ.”  This is the date when the adoption of the standard was first made official by publication in the Official Journal.  Until this happens, an EN standard is not officially considered to be harmonized.

Column 4 is “Reference of superseded standard.”  If this is a first edition of a standard and it does not replace any other standard, the field will be blank.  However, if the document in column 2 is a revision of a previously adopted standard, then you’ll see the previous edition information in this column.  A typical example might be a citation in column 2 of an EN standard plus Amendment 2.  The reference in column 4 would be that same EN standard with the Amendment 1.

And lastly, Column 5 is the confusing “Date of cessation of presumption of conformity of superseded standard.”  Many of you stumble on this date, but with a little explaination it will be clear.  Column 5 is specifically directed to the document in column 4.  The date provided is the last day your product can conform to that superseded edition.  After that day, your products must conform to the document edition specified in column 2.

Using the harmonized lists is an essential part of conforming with European legislation for many products.  Understanding the data the lists provide will make using the harmonized list of standards a rewarding activity.  They can be used to help you implement changes in a timely fashion.  And they can alert you to additional documentation that may be helpful to your organization.

If you still have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.  Our Document Center staff is available to you via phone at 650-591-7600 and email (info@document-center.com).  We will be able to provide you with a number of options for procuring and using your European standards.  And we can provide you with a variety of tools and services to help you meet your compliance requirements.  Make us your Standards Experts!