Technical Articles

European & International Standards Writing Agencies

The four most important overseas standards writing agencies are:

  • IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission)
  • CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization)
  • CEN (European Committee for Standardization)
  • ISO (International Organization for Standardization)

In general, IEC and CENELEC develop standards for products powered by electricity, whereas CEN and ISO are active in areas other than electronic concerns.

The IEC is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and consists of representatives from most of the world’s industrialized nations. Recommendations for standards are written by working groups which consist of experts in specific technical areas. These technical experts are drawn from manufacturers, users, and the national testing labs. Although IEC publications take the form of recommendations and are not standards with the force of law, they are the basis for most national standards. In fact, most new standards published by European and Australian agencies have only minor deviations from IEC publications. Although the U.S. and Canada are IEC members, in general the standards that deviate most from IEC publications are those developed by UL and CSA.

The IECEE is also located in Geneva, at the offices of the IEC. (IECEE used to be called CEE, but was made part of the IEC in 1985. The CEE, which was composed of representatives from the European national standards agencies, was the main regional standards writing agency in Europe.) IECEE’s function, like the organization it replaced, is to administer the “CB Scheme” through the CCB committee of the IEC.

The CB Scheme is a plan where each member country’s national test lab agrees to accept the test data of other member country’s test lab for the purpose of assuring reciprocal recognition of test marks by European test agencies. CEE standards are no longer issued. Those that were issued prior to 1985 have been superseded with IEC standards. 

CEN/CENELEC is an agency charged with responsibility for developing standards which represent a consensus among its European member countries. Although IEC publications usually form the basis for most European national standards, CEN/CENELEC will develop standards called European Norms (“EN” documents) or harmonizing directives (“HD” documents) to cover matters which its members feel are not adequately addressed in IEC documents. CEN/CENELEC documents HD-21 and 22 are prominent examples; these documents define European standards for PVC and rubber jacketed power cable.

ISO, a sister organization to IEC, concentrates on writing non-electrical standards. An important document of concern to North American manufacturers is ISO 9000 which outlines quality management systems.



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