International quality and safety standards

Meeting World Standards

For companies pursuing international business, there are exceptionally stringent requirements in terms of export standards, health and safety and quality which need to be met. Since most international standards require a review of all activities involved in the production process ‒ from sourcing raw materials to getting the good to its end user - several other spinoff benefits may be realised. These include:

  • Improved efficiency in production and a reduction of waste and duplication
  • Improved supply chain management
  • Higher overall product quality
  • Better packaging and labelling for product(s)
  • Promoting a learning environment that facilitates continuous improvement
  • More streamlined and easier training
  • Improved customer service
  • Access to new markets which can increase business and profits

Admittedly, these benefits while attractive, may only materialise in the medium to long-term and will come at significant cost, the outlay of which must be made upfront. You should note also that different standards, regulations and procedures are required in different markets.  Following is a brief overview of the main standards and programmes that target these specific areas.

Quality Management Systems (QMS)

QMSs are broad standards that cover everything an organisation does to manage its processes and activities. Implementing a QMS offers recognised benefits for any industry and to any business, large or small, whether it manufactures products or offers services. The best known among the QMSs are the ISO standards, in particular, the ISO 9000 (quality management), the ISO 22000 (food safety management) and ISO 14000 (environmental management) series standards. These specialised standards can be national or worldwide and can apply to specific industries or to certain processes across all industries.

QMSs can make your business more competitive by helping you to:

  • Reduce expenses
  • Increase productivity
  • Detect problems faster
  • Open access to new markets
  • Meet or exceed customer needs
  • Address marketplace demands
  • Improve relationships with suppliers
  • Ensure consumer confidence
  • Increase employee participation
  • Use industry best practices

The expenses involved with developing and registering a specialised standard depend on the size and complexity of your business and on your internal structure. In general, you can budget for development costs which include documenting and implementing the system, training costs, auditing and registration costs.

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Food (HACCP) Safety Management System

HACCP is a system that helps you guarantee the safety of your products by controlling your raw materials, your processes, your plant environment and your employees. There are seven basic principles used in developing HACCP plans: analysing hazards; identifying critical points where these hazards can be controlled; establishing the critical safety limits for these controls; developing procedures for monitoring; planning corrective actions; establishing verification procedures and setting up record keeping and documentation.

Because it is recognised worldwide by industry and by governments, adopting HACCP makes good business sense. In addition, it:

  • Meets customers' food safety expectations
  • Lowers risk of a product recall
  • Makes company export ready
  • Gives essential information to help in decision-making
  • Gives company a competitive edge
  • Lowers current operating expenses

If you are interested in developing a HACCP system, your company may wish to bring in a professional advisor or hire a coordinator to develop, implement and maintain the system.  The length of time it takes to get your HACCP plan up and running depends on the size and complexity of your operation, and your commitment to see it fully implemented and maintained. You may need to retrain employees, take on additional duties, or reinforce proper food-handling procedures.

Occupational Health and Safety (OHSAS 18000)

This international standard comprises two parts – 18001 and 18002. OHSAS 18001 is an Occupation Health and Safety Assessment Series for health and safety management systems. It covers issues such as planning for hazard identification, risk assessment/control, OHS management, awareness and competence, training, communication, emergency preparedness and response, performance measuring and improvement. OHSAS 18002 provides guidelines for the implementation of OHSAS 18001. It explains all requirements and how to work towards implementation and registration.

Carrying out OHSAS 18000 often triggers more general, positive changes within your business. These include:

  • Reduced risk with improved safety management of health and safety risks
  • Competitive advantage through demonstrated commitment to health and safety
  • Improved performance via improved operational efficiency through accident management reduction and reduced downtime
  • Reduced costs with reduced insurance premiums and compensation, penalties for breached legislation, etc.

Costs are similar to those encountered in the implementation of any other international standard certification and include costs for training, consultancy fees, equipment and supplies and costs to develop, implement and maintain the system.

LEED Certification

Among those international standards growing in popularity is the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) “green” building standard. According to the Council’s website, LEED certification is “the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings”. LEED Certification is one which verifies a project’s green building achievement and is predicated upon the need to enhance human health and well-being whilst at the same time, reducing the negative impact on the environment. It covers five main areas:

  • sustainable sites
  • water efficiency
  • energy and atmosphere
  • materials and resources, and
  • indoor environmental quality

In addition, consideration is given to projects that demonstrate innovative design components that further reduce energy consumption.There are four levels (certified, silver, gold and platinum) for which a project can achieve certification based on attainment of credits within any of the five areas listed.  Much like any other certification, it is not a static process but requires a dedicated team of industry professionals who incorporate new technologies and maintain these standards through time.

The BIDC’s Special Technical Programme can assist you in meeting all these world standards.

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