Metrology

Written by CROSQ Secretariat on . Posted in Metrology

Metrology is the science of measurement and is divided into three fields:

  • scientific or fundamental metrology;
  • applied or industrial metrology; and
  • legal metrology.

Scientific Metrology

Scientific (or Fundamental or General) metrology deals with the organisation and development of measurement standards (SI Units) and with their maintenance. There are different specialist areas, e.g. Mass metrology, Volume metrology, Temperature metrology and Chemical Metrology. It signifies the highest level of accuracy within the given area (mass, volume, etc.) and is supplemented by legal and industrial metrology.

Industrial Metrology

Industrial metrology concerns the application of measurement science to manufacturing and other processes and their use in society, ensuring the suitability of measurement instruments, their calibration and quality control of measurements.

Legal Metrology

Legal metrology concerns regulatory requirements of measurements and measuring instruments for the protection of health, public safety, the environment and consumers, for enabling taxation, and for fair trade.

The importance of metrology to society

Measurements have been carried out for as long as civilization has existed. Metrology is basic to the economic and social development of a country. It is concerned with providing accurate measurements which impact our economy, health, safety and general well-being.

We measure practically everything: the weight of our food, the volume of our fuel, the distance between two points, the temperature of the room, the noise at the workplace etc. Incorrect measurements lead to wrong decisions, which can have serious consequences.

The Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) defines metrology as “the science of measurement, embracing both experimental and theorectical determinations at any level of uncertainty in any field of science and technology”.

Without metrology, life would be very difficult. Imagine the following:

  • filling up your vehicle at the gas station and not knowing if you are getting the amount of gas that you are being charged for;
  • buying produce in the marketplace and being unsure if the scale is measuring accurately;
  • shipping for export and being uncertain whether your shipment will weigh the same when it reaches the importing country;
  • administering a lifesaving medication and being unsure of the dosage.

The role of standards in metrology

In measurement science, the word ‘standard’ is used with two different meanings:

  • a widely adopted specification, technical recommendation or similar document; and
  • a measurement reference.

Measurement standards can be a physical measure, measuring instrument, reference material or measuring system intended to define, realize, conserve or reproduce a unit or one or more values of a quantity to serve as a reference. For example, the unit of the quantity ‘mass’ is given its physical form by a cylindrical piece of metal of one kilogram, which represents the international standard, and the unit of quantity ‘length’ is given in physical form by a series of gauge blocks to represent certain values.

Traceability

Traceability is defined as a measurement whereby the result can be related to a reference through an unbroken chain of calibrations.

The level of traceability establishes the level of comparability of the measurement: whether the result of a measurement can be compared to the previous one, a measurement result a year ago, or to the result of a measurement performed anywhere else in the world.

Calibration

Calibration establishes the relation between the indication of a measuring instrument and the value of a measurement standard.

Regional metrology

A recently developed concept is that of regional Caribbean Reference Laboratories (CARLs), which will provide efficient and cost-effective traceability to primary quantities at the international level for working standards at the national level.

Quantities to be developed include mass, volume, temperature, time and frequency. Capabilities of two advanced national laboratories (Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) and Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS)) are currently being upgraded in preparation for the role that they are expected to play in operationalising CARLs.

CROSQ’s role in regional metrology development

CARIMET is the regional arm of the Sistema Interamericana de Metrología (SIM), which is made up of representatives of the National Metrology Institutions (NMIs) of all the States of the Caribbean area with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Its core members are the English-speaking countries of CARICOM, including Guyana and Suriname. Belize is geographically associated with another sub-regional group (CAMET) but it is a general practice within SIM to group Belize with CARIMET.

CARIMET became a Technical Committee of CROSQ in 2008.

Standardization

Written by CROSQ Secretariat on . Posted in Standardization

What is standardization?

Standardization is the process of formulating, issuing and implementing standards with respect to actual or potential problems, provisions for common and repeated use, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.

What is a standard?

According to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, a standard is “a guideline approved by a recognised body that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products, processes and production methods, with which compliance is not mandatory. The term may also include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method.” Standards should be based on the consolidated results of science, technology and experience, and aimed at the promotion of optimum community benefits.

What does a standard do?

A standard helps to ensure quality, ecology, safety, economy, reliability, compatibility, interoperability, efficiency, effectiveness and other vital characteristics.

Principles of standards development

There are five key principles of standards development, whether at a national or regional level:

  • openness;
  • transparency;
  • impartiality;
  • stakeholder-driven; and
  • consensus-based.

Types of standards

Standards can be of many types, and within the region the more common types are:

  • testing standards;
  • product standards;
  • process standards;
  • service standards; and
  • management systems standards.

Types of standards

Standards can be of many types, and within the region the more common types are:

  • testing standards;
  • product standards;
  • process standards;
  • service standards; and
  • management systems standards.

Who benefits from standards

Standards provide technological, economic and societal benefits:

  • Businesses can offer products that meet international specifications and therefore gain market access.
  • Consumers are afforded a wider choice of safe, reliable and consistent quality products.
  • Governments have the scientific and technological basis for health, safety and environmental legislation.
  • Trade officials can use standards to level the playing field and arbitrate trade disputes.
  • For developing countries, standards represent internationally recognised “best practices” and could be an important source of technological know how. Standards provide a basis for making correct decisions when investing scarce resources.
  • For everyone, standards improve the quality of life.

What are harmonized standards?

Harmonised standards facilitate market access under the CSME. CROSQ coordinates the development and harmonization of regional standards in accordance with the WTO/TBT Code of Good Practice for Standards development. There are 14 provisions in the Code including:

  • the principle of National Treatment;
  • standards should not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade;
  • using international standards to develop regional standards;
  • avoid duplication or overlap with other standardisation bodies whether national, regional or international;
  • standards should be based on product requirements in terms of performance rather than design or descriptive characteristics; and
  • publication of work programmes, transparency and consultations.

What is a Technical Regulation?

Technical regulations lay down product characteristics or their related processes and production methods, including the applicable administrative provisions, with which compliance is mandatory. The term may also include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method.

Difference between a standard and a technical regulation

The difference between a standard and a technical regulation lies in compliance. While conformity with standards is voluntary, technical regulations are by nature mandatory. They have different implications for regional or international trade. If an imported product does not fulfil the requirements of a technical regulation, it will not be allowed to be put on sale. In case of standards, non-complying imported products will be allowed on the market, but then their market share may be affected if consumers' prefer products that adhere to standards such as quality or colour standards for textiles and clothing.

The need for regional standards

A regional standard is the harmonization of several national standards into a CARICOM Regional Standard. The purpose of this harmonisation is to increase intra-regional trade, reducing TBT and facilitating the functioning of the region under the same rules.

Harmonised standards are identified by the letters CRS (CARICOM Regional Standard) or CRCP (CARICOM Regional Code of Practice) and may be prefixed by a Member State's standards body when adopted. Harmonisation of standards is the process of establishing a common CARICOM Standard either from the standards of Member States or from international standards adopted or adapted and approved by Member States.

At the start of the 21st century, the globalisation of trade and many other issues, such as security, health or the environment imply that regional standards, based on a double level consensus – between countries and across stakeholders – are, more than ever, in demand.

The political context in which Regional Standards are developed has evolved drastically, with the expansion of the scope of the WTO, the multiplication of free trade agreements, the pressure for better public governance, the concentration of industry in ever more global companies, the growing demand of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for more equitable and sustainable development and the increasing public demand for the social accountability of economic actors.

Companies, therefore, have to monitor their triple bottom line – economic, environmental and social – in order to ensure their own sustainable development whilst contributing to that of the region.

Harmonised regional standards benefit from adequate mechanisms to construct a regional consensus and apply the principle of “do it once, do it right, do it regionally.”

How are regional standards developed or harmonised?

An application for the development or harmonisation of a regional standard is submitted to CROSQ through one of the NSBs. CROSQ circulates the proposal to the Member States for evaluation and voting. If the recommendation is accepted, then the standard is developed or harmonised. There are several stages in the CROSQ standards development process, focusing especially on the concept of consensus-building within all Member States.

  • Preliminary stage (Stage 00) – a proposal for the development or revision of a standard is submitted by individuals or organizations through their respective NSBs for consideration;
  • Proposal stage (Stage 10) – the submitted proposal is circulated to all CROSQ Member States for evaluation and voting; TMC recommends the proposal along with the assigned RTC and Country Secretariat to Council for approval based on the evaluation report;
  • Committee stage (Stage 30) – comments from members of the Technical Committee are taken into consideration with a view to reaching consensus on the technical content of the standard;
  • Enquiry stage (Stage 40) – the working draft is circulated to Member States for comments from their stakeholders which are then taken into consideration;
  • Approval stage (Stage 50) – the revised draft standard (final draft standard) is edited and then circulated to NSBs for voting on acceptance of the document as a CARICOM Regional Standard. The votes are summarized and the FDCS is forwarded to COTED for adoption as a CARICOM standard through the recommendation of the CROSQ Council;
  • Publication stage (Stage 60) – the approved standard is reviewed for quality checks, after which it is finalized for publishing in both soft and hard copy. The CARICOM standard is then distributed to Member States with
  • instructions to implement the standard as per the COTED directive; and
  • Review stage (Stage 90) – periodic review of the standard is performed every 3-5 years in an effort to keep it current and relevant. If on review it is determined that the standard needs revision or amendment, the process is repeated from stage 00. On occasion, it may be necessary to revise a standard earlier than the suggested 3-5 year period.
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Who are considered regional stakeholders?

Stakeholders in regional organisations comprise all those groups (e.g. industry groups / associations) who have an interest in the regional standardization process because they are affected by it and therefore wish to contribute to the process of the development of regional standards. Consumers and consumer organisation in particular are major stakeholders, who have a very vital role to play in standardization activities.

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How can stakeholders be involved in the standards development process?

As a stakeholder, there are three ways in which you can get involved in the standards development process:

  • by proposing the development of a new standard through your NSB;
  • by commenting on draft standards when they are circulated; or
  • rendering your expertise to a Regional Technical Committee for the development of a standard.

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