What are norms and requirements?
A norm is a standardized set of rules that includes a catalog of requirements. These requirements can refer to products, but they can also refer to processes. Standardization combines in a generally recognized document the wishes and suggestions made by all the relevant institutions, such as manufacturers, consumer associations, lawyers, research facilities, test and certification agencies.
Without norms of this kind, also known as standards, today's international trade would be inconceivable because every product would have to be checked in keeping with individual criteria. Norms therefore create comparability. They exist at different levels and with different scopes:
- national standards such as the DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung) standards in Germany
- European standards such as the EN standards in the European Union
- international standards such as the IEC and ISO standards that are recognized by a large number of countries around the world
Every norm has a scope or ambit that describes its environment or application purpose. That is why many products are subject to more than one norm. For a coffeemaker, for example, there are valid standards for both safety and for electromagnetic compatibility and hygiene.
Since norms ensure comparability, they form the basis of all the tests that TÜV Rheinland carries out. They make the findings comprehensible immediately. In addition, further tests of individual criteria are undertaken.
Norms ensure, among other things, effective protection from personal injury or damage to property in product handling. A large press, for example, must be designed so that the operator needs both hands to activate it. In that way, he cannot put his hands in the danger area.
Another typical example is electromagnetic compatibility of electrical and electronic equipment, which is governed by corresponding norms. They alone ensure that radios and television sets, microwave ovens and electric shavers do not interfere with or jam each other.
TÜV Rheinland is one of the institutions that engages in establishing and developing norms. It develops standards related to product quality, comfort or user-friendliness. These products offer their users a genuine added value that constitutes an important competitive feature.
Norms for processes and management systems
Norms for processes generally require certain activities or results. The objective is to ensure the efficacy of a process. The ISO 9001 quality management standard, for example, requires the manufacturer to ascertain and improve customer satisfaction, and with operating efficiency in mind practically all management norms require responsibilities to be defined precisely and to be documented.
The best-known management system norms are:
- Quality management on the basis of the ISO 9000 or 9000:2000 family of standards
- Environmental management to ISO 14001
- Health and safety management to OHSAS 18001
- Safety management to BS 7799-2
- Social accountability management on the basis of the SA 8000 "ethics norm"