Following the publication of the European Standardisation Regulation, CEN has updated its policy with respect to its relationship with specific standardisation bodies. Swift action is required to maintain quality management of steel standards but last week the Coordinating Commission for the Nomenclature of Iron and Steel Products (COCOR) missed an open goal.
CEN's revised policy demands that renewal of all agreements require parties have a legal status. CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, is an association that brings together the National Standardisation Bodies of 34 European countries.
Within CEN the responsibility for drafting European steel product standards since 1986 has been ECISS: the European Committee for Steel Standardization (an independent body and an Associated Standards Body of CEN). ECISS is a non-statutory Committee composed of 27 European national standards bodies, but has no legal status.
On 17th and 18th May UK Steel attended a meeting of COCOR in Helsinki, where a vote was due to take place on how ECISS can overcome this problem and continue its work overseeing the revision and development of standards for the steel industry. The vote was to decide between one of two options:
- ECISS to continue as an Independent Associated Body (ASB) to CEN, with the current structure of ECISS/Technical Committees under COCOR.
- Migration of the ECISS structure under CEN, so that ECISS/COCOR would become a CEN Technical Committee, under which the current 12 ECISS/Technical Committees would be transferred as subcommittees.
UK Steel and BSI, plus representation from a UK Steel member company, attended the meeting to support the second scenario which allows for a much smoother transfer of responsibility, but still allows representation from steel producers, users and national standards bodies. Additionally, this new structure would streamline standard development which, under the old arrangement (and first scenario), allowed a three year timetable for completion. With a three year pre-planning period (and a possible nine month extension), standards can take almost seven years to be published.
However, a last minute intervention from Eurofer proposed to investigate the feasibility of the first option, i.e. Eurofer to assume the role of ECISS/COCOR under the terms of the first scenario. As a result, COCOR felt unable to make a clear decision on either option and agreed to a six month postponement until the outcome of the Eurofer investigation is known.
This was a frustrating result for many of us that wish to see a resolution with minimum fuss while still upholding the robust criteria of standard development. Investigating this option will only highlight the legal liability issues on draft standards/standardisation procedures and the additional bureaucracy in obtaining legal status. Add to that Eurofer’s funding requirements and we have a six month delay to study an option that will still have to conform its internal regulations in line with changing CEN Internal Regulations, that will be difficult to achieve and which we can ill afford.
While UK Steel is a member and supporter of Eurofer, it remains our view, after consultation with our members, that option two is easily the best outcome for COCOR. It means less bureaucracy and no financial implications: the CEN sub-committee structure and processes are already financed by the membership fees of National Standards Bodies to CEN.
For the moment, we have no choice but to wait until the outcome of the investigation, which will be made available to COCOR members prior to a vote on 27 November in Brussels. UK Steel is a member of ECISS/COCOR and will continue to monitor developments while supporting the second option – migration of ECISS under CEN.
UK Steel is the primary nominating body for individuals wishing to take part in all BSI steel related standards committees. Comprehensive representation on standards committees ensures the integrity of the standard and fairly represents the range of interests affected by it, including users of the standard and consumers. It also gives the opportunity to feed-in to the development of European and International standards.
If you want to ensure representation on BSI steel standard committees that impact on your product line, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Graeme Craig is the Head of Member Services at UK Steel. He joined the team in 2014 to manage product group meetings, technical and health & safety activities.