A standard is a document that provides a set of agreed-upon rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results. Standards establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies for diverse fields.
Most standards aim to achieve an optimum degree of order in a given context. Because they are easy to recognize and reference, standards enable organizations to ensure that their products or services can be manufactured, implemented and sold around the world.
Standards can be either voluntary or mandatory:
- Standards are voluntary when organizations are not legally required to follow them. Organizations may choose to follow them to meet customer or industry demands.
- Standards are mandatory when they are enforced by laws or regulations, often for health or safety reasons.
A standard is distinct from an Act, a regulation or a code:
- An Act is a statute that establishes control or directives based on legal authority.
- A regulation is a statutory instrument made by exercising a legislative power conferred by an Act of Parliament. Regulations have binding legal effects. If a voluntary standard is referenced in a regulation, it becomes mandatory.
- A code is broad in scope and is intended to carry the force of law when adopted by a provincial, territorial or municipal authority. A code may include any number of referenced standards.
There are many types of standards:
- Performance standards test products by simulating their performance under actual service conditions.
- Prescriptive standards identify product characteristics, such as material thickness, type, and dimension.
- Design standards identify specific design or technical characteristics of a product.
- Management system standards define and establish an organization’s quality policy and objective.
Service standards specify the requirements that are to be fulfilled by a service and establish its fitness for purpose. Service standards may be prepared in fields such as laundering, hotel-keeping, transportation, car-servicing, telecommunications, trading, and insurance and banking.