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Australian Standards: are they fit-for-purpose?

Australian Standards are under the spotlight as debate rages.


Thu 23 Mar 23

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Standards Australia, the nation’s primary standards development body, is under the spotlight with Master Electricians Australia recently flagging the need for reforms in the standards development process. With over 6000 standards, hundreds of which focus on timber, it’s essential to understand the significance of standards, particularly for the forest products industry.

Australian Standards in detail

Australian standards play a vital role in ensuring safety, quality, and sustainability across various industries, and the forest products sector is no exception. The industry is heavily impacted by standards, with timber featuring in more than 900 individual standards – and include some of the most popular standards including Bridge design, Part 1: Scope and general principles and Residential timber-framed construction, Part 2: Non-cyclonic areas. These standards encompass various aspects, including harvest, haulage, occupational health and safety (OHS), and quality management.

Standards have been a bedrock of the construction industry for generations but are they still fit-for-purpose? Footage courtesy of @StandardsAus
The role of Technical Committees

Australian standards are developed and maintained by committees under Standards Australia. These committees comprise technical experts, industry stakeholders, and other relevant parties who work together to ensure that the standards reflect current best practices and regulations while aligning with industry developments.

Standards Committees operate by identifying the need for a new standard or the revision of an existing one. They gather relevant information, consult with stakeholders, and develop a draft standard that undergoes a public consultation period. After incorporating public feedback, the committee finalizes the standard, which is then published and adopted by the industry.

There are more than 900 Australian Standards featuring timber or forest-based products. Popular standards include Bridge design, Part 1: Scope and general principles and Residential timber-framed construction, Part 2: Non-cyclonic areas.
What do Standards achieve?

In the forest products industry, standards ensure:

  • Safety: By establishing guidelines for the safe operation of machinery, equipment, and workplace practices, standards help minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Quality: Standards provide a benchmark for assessing the quality of timber products, ensuring they meet customers’ expectations and comply with regulatory requirements.
  • Environmental sustainability: Standards promote responsible forest management, reducing negative environmental impacts and preserving ecosystems for future generations.
  • Market access: Compliance with standards can improve market access for Australian timber products, as customers and regulators trust that they meet the necessary safety, quality, and environmental requirements.
  • Innovation: Standards support the development and adoption of new technologies and best practices, driving continuous improvement within the industry.
So, is the Standards process fit-for-purpose?

Not according to Tools™ founder Jerry Tyrell in an exclusive op-ed for Wood Central. Tools™ was launched at last year’s BDAA National Conference and is seeking to transform the way that standards are presented and distributed.

One of Australia’s leading experts on building defects Jerry Tyrell has pinned the construction industries quality crisis on lack of access to knowledge – specifically standards which are presented in a format that is not easily accessible.

‘If Standards worked, they would have worked by now.’

Jerry Tyrell, Tools™ founder

Food for thought!

Since 2016 Jerry has led the movement to make the National Construction Code free. Perhaps the Master Electricians have a point after all – and Australian Standards should be free too?

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