Answering the questions about International Standards and Codes









All above abbreviations are the names of different standards, codes, and engineering societies, their numbers estimated in the tens of thousands worldwide, and there will no space to mention them all.

now a few questions will come to your mind:

1- why we have this big number of all codes and standards? And where did they come from?

2- Is it conceivable that every country in the world can issue freely its own codes and standards?

3- is there worldwide authority responsible for following up and coordination with all countries?

4- what are the differences between all these standards and codes?

5- when did I use any of them exactly?

6- I am confused because my country code does not answer my questions, what I can do? Can I use other code or standard?

7- Is it possible to make a design by mixing rules from different codes or standards?


Today we will answer all these questions in detail.



The Role of World Trade Organization WTO



To Understand the mystery of international and local standards and codes, we will start with the World Trade Organization WTO.

You will ask me now what is the relation between the World Trade Organization and the international standards and codes?

I'll tell you the answer; The World Trade Organization aims to facilitate the export of products between the various countries of the world (164 member states and 20 as observers) without any obstacles preventing that.

how can they do this?

Every country in the world produces its products according to its own codes/standards, this means that they follow different codes/standards from each other, as a result of this and as example, the European products can’t be used in USA and vice versa because there will be differences in Voltages, frequency and some other specifications between the codes /standards applied in each one of them.

therefore, the World Trade Organization has made an agreement called it “Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement”



Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement

What did this agreement state?

this agreement stated that all WTO member countries are obligated to use a unified international standard as the basis for all their products and local codes, and also as a basis for the tests and inspection certificates that are conducted on these products.

What does that mean?

it means, as country A, you have the right to have your local code or your local standard, but these local codes and standards must be taken from the agreed international standards with some minor changes in the methods of installation and implementation and not in the products themselves or in the methods of testing and inspection certificates. that is if country A wants to export their products to other countries B to Z, whose codes and products also must comply with the same agreed international standards.



Now, before we continue our story with the World Trade Organization, we just want to answer two more questions:

what is the difference between the standard and the code?

How the WTO categorize the Standards and The Codes?


Difference Between the Standard and The Code

There are several differences between the standard and the code, the most important of which are:

Difference#1: geographical application

The standard is issued by an international engineering association and can be used in several countries and gives technical rules and instructions often used in design, manufacturing and testing processes.

But the code is used in only one country, which is the country that owns the code, and it gives rules that are often used in the design, installation and inspection processes in this country only.

Example: The IEC standard is used in several countries, but the Egyptian code, for example, is used in Egypt only.

Difference#2: binding application

With regard to the rules of installation and inspection, the standard rules can be applied, that is, they are not binding, and they can be replaced by rules from the local code, but the code must be applied, that is, it is binding.


The standard states a certain rule, but the fire department in your country obliges you to do some modifications on this rule, so you must follow the instructions of the fire department, which you will find in the local code.

Important note:

Sometimes the code is called the local standard of a country, for example, the BS British Standard is the British code, not the Standard.



Categorization of the Standards and The Codes by WTO


WTO categorize the standards and codes that exist in all countries of the world according to geographical use into 3 categories:

  1. International Standard (applicable in most parts of the world and in all WTO member countries),
  2. Standard region (applied in a region that includes several countries such as the European Union region, for example),
  3. Local Standard (applicable in one country only and it is called the code of this country).




The World Standards Cooperation WSC



as we said above, the World Trade Organization and in accordance with the TBT agreement to ensure that all member countries follow the same international standard, an organization emerged from it called World Standards Cooperation WSC, its main mission to support the existence of a unified international standard for all member countries.

The WSC organization has set three international standards for all its member states to abide by, and they are:

  1. IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission),
  2. ISO (International Organization for Standardization),
  3. ITU (International Telecommunication Union).

These three international standards have been adopted by the United Nations through the United Nations Standards Coordination Committee (UNSCC) as the recognized international standards that all countries must adhere to.

Well, we want to know the position of the European Union and the United States of America regarding the above binding imposed by the WSC of the World Trade Organization.



The situation of the European Union regarding the binding imposed by WSC



The European Union which is consisting of 34 countries, has a trade organization among its members that is specific to the European Union only, and its name is the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

This organization is overseeing the unification of a standard for the European Union, which is issued under the name EN, which is an abbreviation for Euro Norm (or European Standard)


The EN Standard of the European Union is issued by three engineering societies, which are:

  1. CEN (European committee for standardization),
  2. CENELEC (European committee for electrotechnical standardization),
  3. ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute).


And these three engineering societies have been agreed by the European Parliament that they are the only responsible for issuing the Standard EN.

but the standard EN, you will not find it sold in the market, meaning there is no party to print a standard called EN, and it is sold under the name of EN 60601, for example, in the market.



How we can find the EN standard and deal with it?

the three engineering societies of the European Union stated that every member country of the European Union will has its own engineering body that issue its local standards, must issue a unified copy of its local standards with the standard EN, this means that:

-  for example, EFTA oblige the British Standards Institute BSI which issue the BS British Standard in Britain to issue copies of the BS under the name BS EN so that it remains unified with the rest of the member countries of the European Union.

- The same situation with regard to the German specifications DIN, which is issued by the German standards Institute, copies of which must be issued under the name of the DIN EN

- And so we will have the Czech specifications CSN EN and the Spanish specifications UNE EN and so on.

moreover, each country must issue two copies of the standard EN, first copy in its local language and the second copy in English for unification.  For example, you will find two copies of The standard DIN EN, one in German and one in English with the same content.

So, if you have a merchant in Britain who wants to buy a product from Germany, he must have a copy of the DIN EN in English, not German, in order to understand it, and vice versa.



What is the difference between BS EN, DIN EN, CSN EN, and UNE EN?

there is no difference, they are almost the same content, but they differ in the name of the country that issued the standard.

The only difference you can find between the local copies of the EN standard, is some EU countries may issue their local standard of EN and some not. for example, the EN 60601 standard, you can find a British copy of it 60601 BS EN, but you can’t find a German copy 60601 DIN EN.

the reason for this is either that the German Standards Institute voted against the EN Standard because it did not agree to its rules or either the German Standards Institute found that this EN standard has no application in Germany. In most cases, the German Standards Institute will issue information in its local version of the DIN explaining the reasons for its rejection of this EN Standard.

 And so, the European Union was able to unite the standard EN among all its members.



the European Union Trade Organization (EFTA) & The World Standards Cooperation WSC


to unify the EN standard, issued by the three engineering societies (CEN, CENELEC & ETSI) of the European Union Trade Organization (EFTA) with the three International Standard (IEC - ISO - ITU) of the WSC of the World Trade Organization, the following standards are issued by EFTA:

  1. the EN IEC,
  2. the EN ISO, 
  3. the EN ITU.

  • The EN IEC is the European application of the International Standard IEC
  • And the EN ISO is the European application of the International Standard ISO ... and so on
  • The EN IEC standard is issued, for example, in 3 different languages, namely English, German and French, and these copies are sent to all members of the European Union, each according to its language.
  • also, as I said above any standard starts with EN, you will not find it sold in the market which means that you will not find printed copies of these standard, EN IEC, EN ISO, or EN ITU.

the standard EN IEC or EN ISO or EN ITU are published in 3 different languages ​​as follows:

  • The BS EN IEC stands for the English version of the European Standard EN in compliance with the International Standard IEC.
  • The DIN EN IEC stands for the German version of the European Standard EN compliant with the International Standard IEC.
  • The AFNOR EN IEC stands for the French version of the European Standard EN compliant with the International Standard IEC.
  • Each country of the European Union has the right to issue any of the three standards (EN IEC, EN ISO, or EN ITU).


We can’t find copies of all EN standards as EN IEC or EN ISO or EN ITU. the reason for this is:

  • either that the EN Standards Institute voted against the WSC Standard because it did not agree to its rules or
  • the EN Standards Institute found that this WSC standard has no application in the European Union.

In most cases, the EN engineering societies will issue information explaining the reasons for their rejection to comply with some IEC or ISO or ITU Standards.



Types of EN Standard


There are several types of EN standard as follows:

1- European draft standard which starts with prEN

2- Standard under development European pre-standard which starts with ENV

3- Regular Standard which starts with EN

Also, the three engineering associations (CEN, CENELEC & ETSI) who issue the standard EN, issue other set of documents as follows:

1- The Ratified text: these are the documents that were sent by the three engineering associations to each member country of the European Union in order to make their local standard from them.

2- The CEN technical specification (CEN/TS): these the documents that contain technical information that still under development and we can’t call them Ratified text.

3- The CEN technical report (CEN/TR): these are documents that contain some information but can’t be considered as Ratified text or CEN/TS

4- The CEN guide: These are documents that are published by CEN or CENELEC, which explain the principles used to make the standard, and they will be free of charge.

 5- The Harmonization document (HD)

Documents of compatibility between the different standards, which are very important documents issued by CENELEC only, and a list of their names is published in the Official Journal OJ. These documents specify the following:

- The standard conflicting with another standard that must be withdrawn,

- The standard that is obsolete and newer versions have issued,

- The Harmonized EN standards and the absence of a recent standard in this list doesn’t mean that we cannot use it, but it means that it hasn’t yet been reviewed by the responsible committee for issuing the Harmonized EN standards list, or an engineering body in one of the member countries still has objections to this standard.


These HD documents do not contain any standard prEN or ENV type.


As for the third engineering association, ETSI, it also issues several types of documents as follows:

  • EG - ETSI Guides
  • ES - ETSI Standards
  • SR - Special Reports
  • TS – Technical Specifications
  • TR - Technical Report

Of course, all of them are the same types of documents issued by the two associations CEN / CENELEC, which we explained above.



Types of BS Standards


First: types of BS by name

1- The BS EN publications (BS EN): this type we explained above,

2- The BS implementations (BS ISO, BS IEC): this type we explained above,

3- The Published documents (PD): these are documents that we do not consider as a Standard and some of them conflict with the EN Standard, but we still need them to describe some products such as PD 5500 Specification for unfired fusion welded pressure vessels

4- The Draft Standards (DPC): these are copies of the Draft Standard that are sold at a low price, and any party can send comments on them to the engineering societies who issued them during a period of 6 months before the draft is approved by these engineering societies.

5- The Drafts for Development (DD): Sometimes there is doubt among engineering societies about the suitability of a specific standard for industrial products before its issuance, so the standard is issued as a DD document that can be used and commented on for a long time more than the 6-month period of DPC, for example, the DD2 was published in 1971 and was not approved as BS Standard until 2004 as BS 7935-1:2004.

6- The Publicly Available Specifications (PAS): These are documents that the BS participated in writing with other organizations, and the purpose of which is to study the market needs for the creation of a new BS standard.


Second: types of BS in terms of function

There are 7 types of standard BS in terms of function are present in The (A standard for standards - Principles of standardization) BS 0 and they are as follows:

1- Specifications: This is the common type of BS standard that contains technical requirements.

2- The Management system: this type contains information for experts that they can use to develop new technology or new products.

3- The Codes of practice: they are often used in construction and installation. It contains easy, flexible and practical rules compared to the Specifications type. Most of them have become Obsolete because they weren’t developed by BSI, but they can still be used.

4- Guides: they give non-compulsory advices that can be used in a specific application.

5- The Methods (test, specifying): This is the type that determines the agreed upon methods of measurement and testing

6- Vocabularies: they are the type that contain the definitions and terms used and agreed upon.

7- The Classification: This type contains the classifications of certain products and the difference between them.


  • All the above types start with the prefix BS except the Codes of practice that start with the prefix CP
  • To develop any standard and publish an updated version of it, the so-called amendments or corrections to it will be published in the beginning, Amendments or Corrigenda corrections to suit any change in the industry or to correct errors in the Standard, then it will be approved and the new version of the Standard will be published.



Review Questions



Ok, we will give two questions with answers to check your understanding for above explanation

The first question:

What is the difference between the BS standard and the BS EN standard and the ISO standard and the EN ISO standard and the BS EN ISO standard and the BS ISO standard?

the answer:

The BS standard is the local standard for Britain (British Code).

The BS EN Standard is the European Standard issued in English by BSI

The ISO standard This is an international standard that will be applied in more than 164 countries in accordance with the requirements of the WSC of the World Trade Organization and is available for publication.

The EN ISO standard is the European application of the same ISO standard above in accordance with the requirements of the European Union Trade Organization (EFTA) and it isn’t available for publication.

The BS EN ISO Standard is the British application of the EN ISO Standard, according to the requirements of the British Standards Institute, and it is available for publication.

The BS ISO standard is the British application of the ISO standard, but it is not compatible with the EN standard, and the reasons for this are as follows:

The first reason: the desire to reduce the number of standards needed to produce a specific product, since some of them are sufficient for this product to become compatible with the TBT agreement and is ready for export.

The second reason: the desire to save the expenses of purchasing and issuing new copies of the standard BS EN without the existence of a reason to do so, and as a result of the first reason.


The second question:

What is the difference between the BS 7121 standard and the BS ISO 7121 standard?

the answer:

Don't say that the two are alike because there are totally different as follows:

Standard BS 7121 as shown in its name, is a local British code. When we look up for it, we find it talking about the cranes.

But the standard BS ISO 7121, is the British version or the English version of the standard code ISO 7121, when we look up for it, we will find it talking about steel ball valves.



The Situation of the United States of America regarding the binding imposed by WSC



In the United States of America, the situation is completely different, we find that there is a decentralization in the issuance of standards to the extent that there are 600 bodies within the United States of America issue more than 100,000 different standards.

But of course there will be an authority to set a unified policy for the issuance of the standards within the United States of America.



the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)

The US Congress passed a law that the body responsible for coordinating and setting the unified policy for the issuance of standards is the American Trade Organization which is called the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and Through one of its departments, which is the Technology Administration, in cooperation with the National Institute for Standardization and Technology (NIST).

the 600 bodies that issue the standards in USA have divided themselves into two groups:

  1. Engineering Societies,
  2. Trade and industrial Associations.



First: Engineering Societies


The first group is the Engineering Societies, which includes:

  1. a group of government engineering associations,
  2. private engineering associations.


Some members of these Engineering Societies had a meeting, three of them are government engineering associations, and they are:

  1. the U.S. Departments of War,
  2. the Navy (now Defense),
  3. the U.S Department of Commerce.


And The others were five private engineering societies which are:

  1. The American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE),
  2. the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME),
  3. the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE),
  4. the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (AIMME),
  5. the American Society for Testing Materials (now ASTM International),

And they decided to make a unified body to coordinate between them and issue a unified copy of the American Technical Standards to avoid wasting the effort and time of these engineering associations in issuing similar standards unnecessarily, and this unified body is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).


the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

Currently, ANSI includes many governmental and private engineering organizations and associations, in addition to many commercial and industrial organizations. The most famous engineering associations and organizations affiliated with ANSI is the NFPA National Fire Protection Association.



Second: Trade and industrial organizations


each organization of them issue its own standard, which we call the Industry Standard, and as shown in its name, it will be related to a specific product or group of products. Among the most famous commercial and industrial organizations, we will find:

  1. the National Electrical Manufacturer's Association (NEMA),
  2. Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA),
  3. the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).


What we will understand from the above paragraphs about USA standardization system:

1- The highest standard exists in the United States of America is the ANSI, and this is the technical standard for the United States of America, which use it to deal with different countries of the world.

2- the ANSI standard includes under it, the two most important standards for technical aspects which are the IEEE for electrical and electronics standards and the NFPA standards.

3- To market all American products with different countries of the world, the United States of America uses the ANSI standard and another standard, which is the National Electrical Manufacturer's Association (NEMA).

4- Accordingly, most of the products in the world will follow one of these three standard:

  1. the American National Standards Institute (ANSI),
  2. the National Electrical Manufacturer's Association (NEMA),
  3. IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

5- The NFPA 70 code, or the so-called NEC code, is a code that is compatible with the standards issued by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), especially with the standard IEC 60364-1, Electrical Installations of Buildings, Section 131, And that is why all the countries whose codes follow the IEC standard, can use the rules and requirements of the NEC code, and also countries that do not have an electrical code can use the NEC code.




the US Trade Organization (DOC) & The World Standards Cooperation WSC


the US Trade Organization (DOC) is coordinating with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to implement the TBT agreement through a group of its administrations, namely:

the International Trade Administration (ITA),

the U.S. Department of State,

the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR),

In cooperation with:

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


And this Coordination is done through the following steps:

1- The US Trade Organization DOC, through its NIST administration, receives notices from the World Trade Organization WTO that include a request for information about all products required to be marketed outside the United States, with a summary of the standards governing these products.

2- The NIST administration distributes these notices to all manufacturers in the United States of America and all engineering bodies through a system called (Notify U.S).

3- Any commercial entity outside the United States of America can request to get a complete copy of the standard and specifications for any product inside the United States of America.



Related Famous Questions



Now we need to answer some important questions asked by many of our followers:

  • In my country, there are a standard and a code both are applicable, which one should I use?
  • I am confused because my country code does not answer my questions, what I can do? Can I use other code or standard?
  • Is it possible to make a mixed design from a set of different codes or standards?

the answer:

It is an almost one answer to all the above questions, for example, if you are in Egypt, you are required to use the following standards/codes in order:

1- The local standard or what is called the Egyptian code, which contains the requirements of the special technical authorities that we call the Authority Having Jurisdiction AHJ like the electrical utility companies, Fire and Civil Defense associations.

2- If you do not find what you are looking for in the Egyptian code, you will go to the IEC standard or to any standard compatible with it, such as the BS EN IEC or the BS IEC or the DIN EN IEC or the DIN IEC and so on.

3- If you do not find what you are looking for in step number 2, you will go to the two important ANSI codes, which are the IEEE and NFPA 70.




World trade organization WTO website

The World Standards Cooperation WSC website

European Free Trade Association (EFTA) website

EN standard website

BS Standards website

U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) website

ANSI – United States Standards Strategy.pdf

Overview of the U.S. Standardization System

Document Center's Standards Forum - Claudia Bach






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