Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Food Safety Testing Standards

Food safety testing standards from ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, address the general foundations for a wide range of tests as well as standards dealing with the specific methods used in individual tests. Given how important reliably safe food is to us, food safety testing becomes a top priority. Furthermore, food safety testing itself must be analyzed for accuracy and precision so that consumers, distributors, and producers have confidence in the reliability of the results provided, and thus have confidence in the food being tested, whether they are selling it and have to maintain their reputation and adhere to regulations, or if they are eating the food and their continued health relies upon it.

Starting with standards as broad in their subject matter as ISO 7218:2007, General requirements and guidance for microbiological examinations, and ISO 17604:2003, Carcass sampling for microbiological analysis, those involved in testing food intended for human consumption or the feeding of animals can conduct their testing in accordance with internationally agreed upon testing foundations. Going further, we also find standards much narrower in scope, such as ISO 4833:2003, Horizontal method for the enumeration of microorganisms – Colony-count technique at 30 degrees C Part 1 and ISO 4833 part 2, published to carefully guide specific procedures designed for specific testing scenarios. These specifications seek to assure meaningful and precise, reproducible results across laboratories and testing groups and, as a result, become increasingly important the more specialized the test becomes.

Mirroring the great diversity in both foods and the possible microbiological threats posed, ISO has published a great many standards on the topic under the heading of “Microbiology of food and animal feeding stuffs.” Similarly, several national standards bodies have adopted these ISO standards. The importance of food safety and the testing necessary to assure it is undeniable and a justifiably major undertaking, with these standards and the efforts of food testers everywhere serving as our safeguard.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fire Protection Systems

Fire protection systems are desirable in all structures where fires can occur and where such fires are not wanted—which is to say virtually all of them. Past the obvious need for a fire protection system is the need to choose the proper type of system, the answer to which depends on the design of structure being protected, the nature of the materials comprising the structure and of those found within, its surroundings, and all applicable laws, regulations, codes, and policies.

As fire is quick to spread and becomes increasingly complicated to handle after it does, the prevention of that spread is a vital key point in many approaches to fire protection. This forces the myriad of existing methods and technologies to be used as component parts of a unified comprehensive system rather than independently installed units. That, in turn, requires the individual elements of fire protection systems to be predictable in their design, manufacture, inspection procedures, functioning, and usage, so that they may all be intertwined in a reliable way.

The most recognizable element of a modern fire protection system is the ubiquitous sprinkler: mounted on the ceiling and triggered by the presence of fire, it releases water to either control or suppress flames in its vicinity. While the presence of a sprinkler system is fairly standard, the type of sprinkler system that is appropriate for a particular environment varies widely. ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, has published a 12-part series addressing the varying requirements and test methods for sprinkler systems and associated components. Among a wealth of other standards dealing with fire protection, NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, has recently published two standards focusing on residential sprinkler systems, the first focusing on one- and two-family dwellings and manufactured homes, and the second dealing with larger residential occupancies, up to and including four stories in height.

Sprinklers, however, are only a single part of a complete fire protection system. Everything from the selection and installation of fire extinguishers and their inspection and maintenance procedures, to comprehensive requirements for high challenge fire walls and fire barrier walls is standardized in the ongoing effort to improve fire protection systems.

Altogether, well planned out fire protection systems use all sorts of materials, methods, and devices to contain the spread of fire and put it out, protecting both lives and property.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fireworks Safety Standards

Fireworks safety has a long, storied, and very necessary history. Fireworks displays are increasingly popular as both a hobbyist activity and as a professional undertaking. With displays present at most major holidays and even playing the central role in some, such as Bonfire Night in the United Kingdom or Independence Day in the United States, fireworks are not going anywhere. Thus, with the ever rising popularity of fireworks, comes the need for an appropriately rising standard of protection, taking the role of safeguards surrounding the manufacture and distribution of fireworks, as well as the development of proper handling procedures when it comes to actually using them. Fireworks safety standards, developed through a consensus process that draws opinions from the public, manufacturers, safety advocates, and so forth, are references documenting agreed upon practices for the safe manufacture, handling, and usage of fireworks. Key standards publishers are NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, as well as the national standards bodies of the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria.

Thorough as standardization efforts should be, firework safety standardization in the UK and other European nations has taken the form of a five part series, covering Terminology, Categories and Types, Minimum Labeling Requirements, Test Methods, and Requirements for Construction and Performance.

In the United States, NFPA has published two standards: NFPA 1123-2010, the Code for Fireworks Display, focusing on “everyone involved with pyrotechnics for outdoor fireworks displays,” including “event and venue managers, enforcing officials, insurance professionals, and display operators”; and NFPA 1124-2006, the Code for Manufacturing, Transportation, Storage, and Retail Sale of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles, which addresses the production and distribution of fireworks before they reach the site of their display. In conjunction with other initiatives, injuries from fireworks have steadily decreased over the past decade—an accomplishment made even more impressive when seen in light of the fact that sales of fireworks have steadily increased to new highs each year. This continued dedication to the safety of fireworks is seen in the frequency with which NFPA updates its standards, doing so every few years. In fact, there is already a draft for the successor to NFPA 1124:2006!