Simply put, standards matter.
Standards are the essential backbone that keeps our society running efficiently and safely. They protect Canadians by ensuring the safety of the foods we eat and the products we use every day. They reduce costs for consumers and give us greater choice by providing access to global products. Standards are also essential to Canada’s economic growth. They help businesses compete on a level playing field, in Canada and around the world. Standards support our governments by providing efficient options to help them meet regulatory requirements—as is evidenced by the thousands of standards referenced in legislation. Complying with standards and achieving certification make it easier for businesses to enter new markets by reducing compliance costs, cutting red tape, and speeding up time to market—boosting opportunities for growth and innovation.
Aligning standardization, within Canada and across our borders, also matters.
When certification and testing requirements differ between Canadian jurisdictions or between countries, the mobility of some products, tradespeople and professionals is impacted, resulting in trade barriers. Differences can mean that manufacturers also face conflicting and duplicative requirements—again increasing their costs and often ultimately translating into higher prices and reduced choice for consumers. Aligning requirements, through the development of joint Canada-U.S. standards, for example, is one of the important ways the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is working with stakeholders to improve standardization in Canada.
Every year, hundreds of North Americans die as a result of recreational boating accidents. Not wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) is the number one cause. That is why finding ways to encourage lifejacket use is a priority for governments both in Canada and in the United States —and key to saving lives.
In the past, the lack of harmonized standards between Canada and the United States was a barrier to the consistent use of one life jacket that boaters would be more likely to wear. These devices also had varying approval requirements and standards across North America, increasing costs for both manufacturers and consumers. These duplicative requirements meant the same life jacket could not be worn in both countries, making it challenging for boaters to comply with regulations – and requiring them to have two different jackets to actually comply with each country’s requirements.
But a new joint Canada-U.S. standard for flotation devices addresses these issues and is an important step in ensuring Canadians and Americans have access to the latest lifejackets that will keep them safer on the water.
About the Standard
ANSI/CAN/UL 12402-5 Standard for Personal Flotation Devices – Part 5: Buoyancy Aids (Level 50) – Safety Requirements sets out the technical requirements that lifejackets and PFDs must meet to be certified and approved by both Transport Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard. The standard updates the regulatory and safety requirements to ensure floatation devices in both countries incorporate the latest safety and technological advances and also standardizes other important things such as labelling.
The joint standard replaces standards previously used in Canada and the United States. It is one of two joint Canada-U.S. standards for flotation devices published by Underwriters' Laboratories Inc. (UL), an SCC-accredited Standards Development Organization (SDO), and recently approved as National Adoptions of Canada by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), and as American National Standards by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It is also based on ISO standards, getting us one step closer to the ideal of one set of requirements and a single standard around the world. By doing our part to identify and develop standardization solutions that will make the concept of one standard, one test… accepted everywhere a reality, SCC is creating a stronger standardization network that will benefit industry, governments and consumers.
Need for the Standard
Canada and the United States have the longest international border in the world, spanning nearly 9,000 kilometres. Almost 4,000 kilometres of that shared border stretches across water. Having a harmonized lifejacket standard for both countries means that the same product can be sold—and worn—on both sides of the border.
In the past, manufacturers needed to comply with two different sets of regulations. This meant they were required to have their product retested and relabeled in order to sell it in the two markets, increasing their costs, and ultimately, the price of the product for consumers. There were also different labelling requirements for both countries, making it even harder for the same devices to be sold in both countries.
A Standardization Solution That Meets Stakeholder Needs
Because Canada’s economy is so interconnected with that of the United States, duplication of regulatory requirements between the two countries reduces profits for companies and contributes to higher prices for consumers. That is why working toward harmonizing standards across North America has become a priority in recent years.
As the leader of Canada’s standardization network, SCC played a crucial role in facilitating the development of this joint Canada-U.S. standard.. It was through SCC’s work with Transport Canada to outline their standards priorities that the need to update the Canadian standard for lifejackets and PFDs was -identified..
In August 2014, Transport Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard issued a joint plan for standards harmonization under the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). The PFD standard was one of 29 initiatives, in various industry sectors, where the RCC identified that there was an opportunity to support North American trade and competiveness through harmonization.
UL began the process of developing ANSI/CAN/UL 12402-5 (as well as ANSI/CAN/UL 12402-9, Personal Flotation Devices Part 9: Test Methods) as joint Canada-U.S. standards in February 2014. As a result of their dual SCC/ANSI accreditation, UL was able to create a single Standards Technical Panel (STP), that brought together key stakeholders from both countries, including representatives from Transport Canada, the U.S. Coast Guard, and affected stakeholders
Through a streamlined process, using a single ballot and public review, UL successfully published a standard, based on an ISO adoption – for both Canada and the United States but with no national differences. The harmonized standard was published in December 2015, but UL continues to work with STP members to incorporate any needed revisions as the standard is implemented.
Benefits of a Harmonized Standard
A joint standard benefits manufacturers and consumers on both sides of the border. It means that—for the first time—all lifejackets sold in Canada and the United States will have a single North American label. The new labelling system uses identical icons and performance levels based on the lifejacket’s intended use and the environment within which it is to be worn, making it easier for consumers to choose the device that is best suited to their needs. The new standard also allows for consolidated and redesigned point of sale information based on ISO symbols.
A North American standard also benefits boaters by offering them more options and simplifying things in terms of the types of lifejackets they need to have in their boats. In the past, for example, when boaters were in shared Canada-U.S. waters, they would have technically needed two sets of lifejackets. Now, only one is needed. This makes it easier for them to comply with regulations, and ultimately, saves them money.
Harmonization also reduces the effort, resources and time it takes manufacturers to design and produce products and provides them with greater market access. This new joint standard also includes less prescriptive requirements which means manufacturers will be able to update products to meet safety standards at a quicker pace, closing gaps in safety between Canada and the United States. Eliminating design restrictions caused by duplicative regulations will also allow manufacturers to adopt new technologies more quickly, stimulating innovation and helping them to develop lower buoyancy, more comfortable devices. And a more comfortable lifejacket will mean people are more likely to wear one—supporting the ultimate goal of saving lives.