BMTA Newsletter BMTA Newsletter - Winter 2019/20 | Page 14 Voluntary Standards In the vast majority of cases standards are voluntary. They are there to assist in giving a better product or service to customers and thus gain competitive advantage. In doing this over time they increase the value of the nation’s output. Occasionally standards are cited in regulation. In these circumstances they become mandatory. This is the case with the standards covering child resistant packaging. It is good and laudable that standards can be used in this way. Regulators may eliminate uncertainty by citing a standard rather than seeking to describe its contents or precepts. This is particularly true with supranational regulators for example the European Commission or certain other trading blocks. Special Needs Active life doesn’t end at 70 and in the ISO community we are developing a suite of standards to assist elderly people with all packaging, for example BS ISO 174805 contains a test using a panel of people aged 65-80 to help ensure that this important sector is given due consideration and their special needs are met. There is a fourth child resistant packaging standard, BS EN ISO 13127. This consists of mechanical test methods to certify a panel tested reclosable pack that has been subjected to minor changes. The mischief that the standards are designed to overcome is twofold: Primarily, child resistant packs save lives. This is borne out by a number of health authorities in both the developed and developing world, most notably the World Health Organisation that, in 2008, described child resistant packaging as the ‘best documented preventative of child poisoning in the developed world’. One of the aims of myself and colleagues, in the standards writing community is to increase this to the developing world. Open ability by older adults is just as important as child resistance. If an adult is unable to open a pack, be it medicine, household products, or garden products then a number of problems arise. The most serious is that the older adult simply leaves the pack open after first use. This can make dangerous products available to exploring and curious children, with absolutely no protection from the packaging. If the product is medicine with difficult to open packaging, a wary older adult may decant it with similar dangerous results. Finally older adults, who quite often have to cope with chronic health conditions, may be pushed into non-compliance by packaging that they cannot open. This impacts severely on the health of both the individual and the nation. Adaptable Concepts Standards are not sets of rules; they are sets of concepts from which we make our own rules. They employ key words: Shall-Which is an instruction, Should–Which is a recommendation, May-Which is a permission and Can-Which is a possibility or potential. As such, standards can and are validly used worldwide, their texts and concepts being adaptable to any culture ethos or system. They are therefore a boon to regulators because they give adaptable certainty of action. Conversely, citing a description instead of the standard makes for subjectivity and error. This occurred recently when the European Commission sought to regulate in the case of soluble packaging, things like dishwasher tabs and soft detergent capsules. These are potentially extremely dangerous while at the same time they are colourful and attractive to children. The commission knew in 2014 that the majority of manufacturers couldn’t comply with the relevant child resistant standard, BS EN ISO 8317 or BS EN 862. So instead of citing the standard and giving a transition period to ease the regulatory impact, they incorporated some words from the standard. They said that containers must be difficult for children to open within a reasonable period but not difficult for adults to use properly. In doing so they exchanged certainty for error and objectivity for subjectivity. Standards deliver quality, certainty and ultimately confidence. In the case of the child resistant packaging standards, they deliver child safety and to elderly and chronically sick people they deliver the confidence that comes with ease of use.