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Frequently Asked Questions

Need some help in your search for answers about ANSI or the standards and conformity assessment community? Choose one of the main topics below or scroll through the list for answers to our most frequently asked questions.

General Overview

Q: What is a standard?

A: A standard is a document, established by consensus that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results. (As defined in ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004)

Q: Why are standards important?

A: Standards play an important role in everyday life. They may establish size or shape or capacity of a product, process or system. They can specify performance of products or personnel. They also can define terms so that there is no misunderstanding among those using the standard.

As examples, standards help ensure that film to fit our cameras can be purchased anywhere in the world, that a light bulb fits a socket, and plugs for electrical appliances fit outlets. With standards, our homes, workplaces and public buildings are safer from collapse, fire and explosion.

Q: What is conformity assessment?

A: Conformity assessment is defined as any activity concerned with determining directly or indirectly that relevant requirements are fulfilled. (As defined in ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004)

While a standard IS a technical expression of how to make a product safe, efficient, and compatible with others, a standard alone cannot guarantee performance. Conformity assessment, however, provides assurance to consumers by increasing consumer confidence when personnel, products, systems, processes or services are evaluated against the requirements of a voluntary standard.

ANSI Overview

Q: What is ANSI?

A: ANSI, which stands for the “American National Standards Institute”, has served as coordinator of the U.S. private sector, voluntary standardization system for more than 90 years.

Our mission is to enhance both the global competitiveness of U.S. business and the U.S. quality of life by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems, and safeguarding their integrity. Through its members, staff, constituents, partners and advocates, ANSI responds directly to the standardization and conformity assessment interests and needs of consumers, government, companies and organizations.

Q: What does ANSI do?

A: ANSI coordinates the U.S. voluntary consensus standards system, providing a neutral forum for the development of policies on standards issues and serves as a watchdog for standards development and conformity assessment programs and processes.

The federation also accredits qualified organizations, whose standards development process meets all of ANSI’s requirements, to develop American National Standards. However, ANSI itself does not develop standards. In addition, ANSI represents U.S. interests in regional and international standardization activities while overseeing conformity assessment activities that promote the global acceptance of U.S. products, services, systems and personnel.

Q: How does ANSI conduct its business?

A: Overall, the Institute provides and promotes a process designed to protect the rights and interests of every participant through a set of four "cardinal principles."

  • Openness – The ANSI process is fair and open. Any materially affected and interested party shall have the ability to participate.
  • Balance – Participants should represent diverse interests and categories, and no single group should have dominance in standards development.
  • Due Process – All objections shall have an attempt made towards their resolution. Interests who believe they have been treated unfairly have a right to appeal.
  • Consensus – Agreements are reached when more than a majority, but not necessarily all, of the participants concur on a proposed solution.

ANSI Membership

Q: Who are ANSI's members?

A: The ANSI Federation of is made up of nearly 1,000 U.S. businesses, professional societies and trade associations, standards developers, government agencies, institutes and consumer and labor interests, all working together to develop voluntary national consensus standards. Since it was founded in 1918, ANSI’s strength has been in the diversity and expertise of its membership, which includes representation from almost every U.S. industry sector.

Q: What is the value of ANSI membership?

A: ANSI members have a unique opportunity to successfully impact their companies’ or organizations’ operations on a national and international level by participating in a number of boards and councils, panels or coordinating and policymaking committees. For a summary of ANSI member benefits, click here.

Q: How do members participate in leadership and policy setting activities?

A: Every ANSI member has the opportunity to participate in the Institute’s leadership/policy setting activities. As a result of a governance restructuring completed during 2002, participation in Institute Policy Committees is open to the general membership; in addition, any interested ANSI member may designate a representative to obtain information, submit comments and participate in meetings whenever logistically possible.

Q: What are the ANSI Member Forums?

A: ANSI provides each of its major constituency groups with its own forum. The Company Member Forum, Government Member Forum and Organizational Member Forum have as their charge to:

  • Provide a forum for discussion and networking by a defined interest category;
  • Provide a mechanism for “early warning” of relevant trends;
  • Address issues of interest primarily to their membership and galvanize implementation at their constituent level;
  • Identify broader-based issues to be addressed by an identified governance body;
  • Assume an active role in ANSI membership recruitment and retention;
  • Serve as the one place within ANSI where participants can represent their own organization’s interests

Consumer Affairs

Q: What role do consumers play in ANSI activities?

A: A key component of ANSI’s mission is to coordinate the development of safe systems, processes and products through standards development and conformity assessment programs. Often the consumer is on the receiving end of this and therefore plays a large role in ANSI’s process.

Q: What is the Consumer Interest Forum?

A: ANSI’s Consumer Interest Forum (CIF) reviews consumer needs and plans and carries out programs to satisfy them. Its responsibilities include representing, promoting and protecting consumer interests in national standards activities. Its activities involve consumers in standards development activities by providing U.S. representation to the international community of consumer specialists for issues of consumer policy. In addition, it creates a forum for discussions of consumer issues in standards development.

Government Affairs

Q: Is ANSI a government agency?

A: No. ANSI is not a government agency and therefore it has no regulatory authority to address complaints about consumer products or services—including products or services that purport to comply with an American National Standard.*

However, ANSI does serve as a conduit for information exchange between the public and private sector. ANSI assists in the cross-communication of public-sector views to U.S. organizations and companies and private-sector views to government officials. Staff in ANSI’s Washington D.C. headquarters takes the lead in maintaining key government relationships and monitoring public policy issues in the area of standards and conformity assessment.

*If you have a complaint about a consumer product or service, you are advised to contact the appropriate federal or state regulatory body for assistance. A list of federal agencies is given on the Consumer Resources page.

Q: What role does the government play in ANSI’s activities?

A: Since the time agencies of the federal government joined the five societies as founders, the ANSI federation has enjoyed a cooperative relationship with various segments of the federal government. This is very beneficial for U.S. citizens as voluntary standards help the government fulfill its mandate to ensure public safety and health and provide sound technical solutions to today’s critical issues without creating additional cost and operations burdens.

Representatives of numerous U.S. government agencies actively participate in the activities of ANSI and its accredited bodies.Approval of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (P.L. 104-113) in the mid-1990’s also helped to encourage federal agencies to rely upon and participate in the voluntary standards and conformity assessment systems. In addition, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has officially recognized ANSI’s role as U.S. representative to the ISO, IEC and many regional standards organizations.

Q: To what extent does the Federal government rely on voluntary standards?

A: One of the best examples of confidence in the ANS process is Congress’s 1996 passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act. This law requires federal agencies to increase their reliance upon—and participation in—the voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the Department of Commerce, recently reported that the number of federal government agencies and cabinet-level departments making use of voluntary consensus standards in new or revised regulations in fiscal year 2000 was more than double the number reported the previous year.

Standards Development

Q: Does ANSI develop standards?

A: ANSI establishes the consensus procedures that are the basis for the development of American National Standards. We then accredit standards developing organizations that operate in accordance with these procedures, and approve their draft standards provided they are developed via this process.

Q: What are American National Standards?

A: American National Standards (ANSs) are essential tools used in every industry. Today, there are some 9,500 American National Standards that have been developed and approved in accordance with the ANSI Essential Requirements. American National Standards are voluntary and serve U.S. interests well because all materially affected stakeholders have the opportunity to work together to create them. ANSI-approved standards only become mandatory when, and if, they are adopted or referenced by the government or when market forces make them imperative.

American National Standards are voluntary and serve U.S. interests well because all impacted stakeholders work together to create them. ANSI-approved standards only become mandatory when, and if, they are adopted or referenced by the government or when market forces make them imperative.

Q: What subjects are covered by American National Standards (ANS)?

A: American National Standards provide dimensions, ratings, terminology and symbols, test methods, and performance and safety requirements for personnel, products, systems and services in hundreds of industries.Many ANS make it clear how to improve the safety of products for the protection of consumers, including products such as baby cribs, bicycle helmets, home appliances, lawn mowers, ladders, etc.

Q: If ANSI doesn’t create standards, who does?

A: ANSI accredits standards developers to create standards. Accreditation is defined as the procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. (As defined in ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004)

Presently, there are more than 220 ANSI-Accredited Standards Developers including organizations like ASTM International, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., NFPA International, ASME International, ASHRAE, CSA America, Inc. and NSF International.

Accreditation ensures adherence to ANSI's cardinal principles. ANSI-Accredited Standards Developers develop American National Standards in many different areas. ANSI supplies standards developers with effective procedures and management services to ensure efficient use of their time and financial resources, and promotes the timely development of standards. ANSI, in cooperation with these standards developers identifies the need for a standard, sets priorities for its completion, then assures that all impacted stakeholders have an opportunity to participate. Audits oversee the integrity of the ANSI process, regularly ensuring adherence to the ANSI procedures and safeguarding the value of the ANS designation.

Q: Does ANSI work only within the United States?

A: ANSI works extensively with national, regional and international standards bodies to ensure American interests are well represented in the development of global standards. International standards support the worldwide sale of products and services; they also prevent regions from using local standards to favor local industries. ANSI’s membership in regional and international organizations permits U.S. delegations to influence the development and content of regional and international standards and conformity assessment programs, and enhances U.S. position in the global marketplace.

Q: Who are ISO and IEC?

A: ANSI is the official U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) via the U.S. National Committee (USNC).

  • ISO develops, coordinates and promotes international standards for a wide range of business sectors. ISO standards include technical product specifications, procedures and guidelines for services, personnel, and management system standards for quality (ISO 9000) and the environment (ISO 14000).
  • IEC is the global organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies.  The USNC serves as ANSI’s channel for U.S. interests in international electrotechnical standards, certification, and other related matters into the IEC system.

Q: Does ANSI develop the U.S. position on ISO and IEC standards?

A: Yes and No. ANSI and its U.S. National Committee for the IEC (USNC) help to govern both organizations by serving on their respective governance bodies. ANSI accredits and the USNC approves U.S. Technical Advisory Groups (U.S. TAGs) to develop and transmit, via ANSI or the U.S. National Committee, U.S. positions on activities and ballots of the international technical committee.

Q: Is participation occurring only at the international level?

A:The U.S. is actively participating in key regional activities around the world. To broaden the participation of ANSI in the development of policy positions regarding regional standards and conformity assessment activities, Regional Standing Committees were formed to coordinate U.S. activities, respond to initiatives and advise ANSI on matters relating to the Americas; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and the Asia-Pacific region.

Q: How does ANSI ensure the integrity of the U.S. voluntary consensus standards process?

A: The effectiveness and strength of the ANS process lies in a system of checks-and-balances. ANSI provides a fair and open process designed to protect the rights and interests of every participant. Our procedures allow everyone with an interest in the subject covered by a standard to participate, either as a member of the consensus body or through public comment, and to have their comments considered.The right to appeal and regular audits of accredited standards developers are an integral part of this process.

Q: How can I comment on a draft standard?

A: For those wishing to submit public comments, ANSI produces a web-based, weekly publication called Standards Action that contains proposals for new standards, as well as revisions, reaffirmations and withdrawals of existing standards. It also includes proposed revisions to ANSI’s Procedures as well as revisions to international standards proposals and developments. ANSI offers a free e-mail service alerting subscribers when the most recent edition has been published. The web address is: www.ansi.org/standardsaction.

Conformity Assessment

Q: How is ANSI involved in assessing the conformity of products to standards?

A: ANSI governs several accreditation* programs for certification activities including products, laboratories, systems, and personnel. ANSI does not conduct tests or technical evaluations of products, systems or services. Similar to the accreditation of standards developers, ANSI accredits other organizations to serve as third-party product, system and personnel certifiers.

*Accreditation is the procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. (As defined in ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004)

Q: Is there also a National Conformity Assessment Policy for the United States?

A: Yes. Through the implementation of the National Conformity Assessment Principles for the United States (NCAP), ANSI is able to articulate the principles for U.S. conformity assessment activities that will allow consumers, buyers, sellers, regulators and other interested parties to have confidence in conformity assessment processes, while avoiding the creation of unnecessary barriers to trade. It is intended to complement the principles of the U.S. standards system as described in the NSS. Standards are just good ideas unless products, processes, systems and personnel conform to them.

Q: Does this mean that ANSI’s conformity assessment programs extend beyond the United States?

A: Via U.S. representation to both ISO and IEC, as well as to many other regional organizations, ANSI’s conformity assessment policy activities promote global acceptance of U.S. products, services and personnel by helping to reduce duplicative marking requirements and certification costs and by helping to ensure a level playing field.

In addition, ANSI advocates worldwide acceptance of U.S. certifications. Working to counter redundant and costly barriers to trade in the global marketplace, ANSI is involved in several international and regional arrangements for mutual recognition of equivalency across boundaries. As a member of groups such as the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), the Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC) and the Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (PAC), ANSI pursues and actively promotes multilateral arrangements for such recognition.

News and Information

Q: How can I learn more about ANSI and the standardization and conformity assessment community?

A: ANSI has designed a variety of sources in order to further disseminate information about the standardization and conformity assessment community:

  • ANSI Online is a comprehensive news and information source for members, the press and the general public providing the most current details on the Institute and the latest national, regional and international standards-related activities.
  • Standards Action is a weekly electronic newsletter announcing standards development activities and soliciting comments on draft national, regional, international and foreign standards.
  • The ANSI Reporter is a quarterly news magazine providing in-depth coverage of major national and international standardization activities with commentary and opinions on their marketplace, legislative and public policy impacts.
  • What’s New? is a free, bi-weekly electronic newsletter that keeps ANSI members and constituents up to date on the latest standards and conformity assessment news, events and publications.
  • Conferences and Tradeshows provide ANSI’s members and constituents with an opportunity to interact directly interact with staff to learn more about the Institute’s programs and services for the standards and conformity assessment communities.
  • Speaker’s Bureau provides meeting planners with access to top executives in the standards and conformity assessment industry who can provide insights, share expertise and educate both private- and public-sector interests through keynote addresses, lectures and panel discussions.

Q: How can I obtain standards and standards-related information?

A: ANSI has several websites offering standards-related information, as well as direct access to documents:

  • The eStandards Store (eSS) (webstore.ansi.org) creates a business-to-consumer site providing immediate access to ANSI’s inventory of more than 60,000 standards available in an electronic format. Purchases may be made with a credit card or with a prepaid deposit account.
  • NSSN, a National Resource for Global Standards (www.nssn.org or www.StandardsMall.com) is a preeminent online database providing information about developing and approved standards, the NSSN functions like an online “Standards Mall” and facilitates access to the more than 300,000 standards tracked by ANSI.
  • NSSN’s STAR (Standards Tracking and Automated Reporting) is a more powerful search engine within the NSSN, and features an e-mail-based service that conducts a daily search and automatically sends a customized e-mail to registered users when specified standards within their identified area of interest have new activity.
  • Network Site Licensing is a business-to-business service, where users can gain easy, electronic access to ANSI’s collections of standards. Contracts may be arranged by contacting ANSI’s Electronic Sales department.
Other Services

Q: What other services are available from ANSI?

A: ANSI has expanded to become more than just the organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. Today, it offers many services that reach out to all members and interested parties.

  • Advertising: ANSI offers both print and electronic advertising at competitive rates. Display and classified advertising space is available in the ANSI Reporter, and banner advertising space is available on the Institute’s many websites.
  • Conferences and Seminars: Throughout the year, ANSI hosts a variety of conferences and seminars, including its Annual Conference and related World Standards Week events, which provide forums for discussion and information exchange about a variety of issues of interest to the standards community. Please refer to the ANSI Online “Meetings & Events” page for a complete listing of upcoming events.
  • Education and Training: ANSI’s instructor-led and web-based education and training programs are designed to teach members of the standards and conformity assessment community how to be smarter, quicker, more efficient, and more effective as they participate in national, regional and international voluntary standardization activities.

    ANSI’s e-learning program allows users to enhance their professional development, access up-to-date information on standards and prepare for national and international standards participation as they learn at their own pace through ANSI’s online courses. Web-conferencing, a supplement to ANSI’s traditional instructor-led courses, also provides for cost-savings by cutting down on travel and lodging expenses and allows participants to learn at their own computer rather than in a classroom.

    Through its Education and Training program, ANSI is reaching out to colleges and universities in an effort to more fully integrate content regarding standards and conformity assessment into higher education curricula and research institutions and to help move the standards research and education agenda forward.

  • Registration Services: ANSI administers a number of registration programs that assign unique identification systems for common applications such as credit cards and frequent shopper cards, as well as for less obvious applications such as organization identification embedded within software applications. In most cases, this is a unique responsibility assigned to ANSI in its capacity as the U.S. member body of ISO or IEC.
  • Research Services: When business information needs extend beyond what is easily found in a database or reference book, ANSI’s standards professionals are available to assist in the identification of U.S., foreign national, regional, and international standards and conformity assessment activities in all industry sectors. Fee-based research services are available at an hourly rate by contacting the ANSI customer services team.

Q: How do I get in touch with ANSI?

A: You can contact us via e-mail at any time. Our office addresses are also shown below:

ANSI Headquarters (DC office)
1899 L Street, NW, 11th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202.293.8020
Fax: 202.293.9287

Operations:
25 West 43rd Street, Fourth Floor
New York, New York 10036
Phone: 212.642.4900
Fax: 212.398.0023

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