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  • More than 23,000 standards published by NSAI since 1997, covering healthcare, construction, food, technology and the environment.
  • The most popular standard is ISO 9001, used by over 1.5m organisations worldwide looking to improve their internal management systems.
  • Ireland has led the way in developing many standards, including those covering hurling helmet safety, bottled water and energy usage.
  • NSAI has also inspected and verified more than 240,000 trade measuring instruments since 1997, including petrol pumps and taximeters, to ensure consumers get what they pay for.

Tiger Woods won his first US Masters, Bertie Ahern was due to become Taoiseach, khaki cargo pants were all the rage and Hanson were preparing to unleash their debut single MMMBop! on an unsuspecting world. It is against this backdrop that NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland) was established in April 1997.

Since then, NSAI has enabled business innovation, issued certificates for management systems, products and services, and protected thousands of consumers through regular inspections of measuring instruments like supermarket scales, taximeters and petrol pumps. 

NSAI is the home of standards in Ireland. More than 23,000 of these carefully-designed guidelines and requirements have been published by the organisation in the past two decades, helping businesses and organisations expand, innovate and compete on the world stage and ensuring the products people buy are safe and fit for purpose. 1,391 standards were published or revised in 2016 alone.

There are standards for almost everything; from the specification of hurling helmets and carbon monoxide alarms, to the width of drinking straws. The CE Mark, which must be displayed on all electrical products, toys and medical devices sold in the EU, is also linked to standards.

“We may not realise it, but standards affect almost everything we do, every day,” said NSAI Chief Executive, Geraldine Larkin, “They come to life through blueprints, in prototypes, on production lines, in workplaces, in laboratories, hospitals and schools and street corners.”

“More than a thousand people here in Ireland volunteer their time to help develop new standards. Through the NSAI, we take these Irish voices to the European and International standards development world,” she added.

“On our 20th anniversary, I want to sincerely thank each and every one of them for their time, energy and effort,” said Larkin.

NSAI’s Legal Metrology division has also inspected more than 240,000 measuring instruments used in trade since 1997. Inspectors check that these measuring instruments are accurate, ensuring consumers are not short-changed and businesses do not end up losing out on revenue.

Under the Metrology Act, NSAI Inspectors have the power to prosecute businesses who fail to comply with the law. 

“While compliance in Ireland is generally very high, a number of cases have resulted in legal action being taken over the past two decades, including one against a fish processor in Donegal last month” said Paul Turner, head of Legal Metrology. 

“We take non-compliance in any sector very seriously and will continue to use the full powers of the legislation available to us to deal effectively with it,” he added.

Two decades on, NSAI continues to be a driving force in business certification, helping firms to operate at the highest possible level. Since 1997, it has issued certificates to thousands of organisations in Ireland and globally on the application of standards to goods, services and measurements. 

The most popular business standard is ISO 9001, which is used by almost 1.5 million businesses globally to improve their internal management systems. Another key international standard, ISO 50001 (Energy Management), was developed in Ireland through NSAI and is one of the biggest success stories of the past 20 years when it comes to Irish influence on the world standards stage.

Recent research commissioned by NSAI concluded that standards boost exports by €415million a year and that the use of standards by Irish businesses contributed 23% to recorded trade growth between 1996 and 2013.

“For 20 years, NSAI has had the standards and technical knowledge to provide firms with services to ensure the company not only has a more cost-effective way of complying with regulations and standards, but also is better equipped to grow and secure more tender opportunities”, said Fergal O’Byrne, head of NSAI Business Excellence.

“Looking ahead to the next two decades and with Brexit on the horizon, Irish companies may be looking at new ways to expand. NSAI certification can give those businesses an advantage” he added.

The world may have changed substantially since 1997, but the role of NSAI in supporting businesses and protecting consumers has remained as important as ever. 

As NSAI Celebrates its 20th Anniversary, here are 20 Ways Standards Affect Our Everyday Lives:

  1. Universal chargers for phones and other electronic devices
  2. Accuracy of measures – consumers get what they pay for
  3. Understandable instructions for household chores, such as clothes washing labels
  4. Speedier shipment of goods worldwide with standardised shipping containers
  5. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of sunscreen lotion is determined by standards
  6. Safety on the pitch – Hurling helmet and goalposts
  7. Pop the question! They help us measure ring size
  8. Standards determine the height and depth of stair steps
  9. Construction products fit for purpose
  10. Playtime peace of mind – toys must display the CE Mark to show they are safe to use
  11. Metres measure length, kilograms measure weight and seconds measure time
  12. They ensure bottled water is safe to drink
  13. Standards show us the way in case of emergency with standardised signs
  14. PDF Documents are a standard…
  15. …as are QWERTY keyboards
  16. They manage and protect our e-data
  17. Standards determine the size and layout of ATM cards
  18. They aim to make beach safety flags the same worldwide
  19. Standards set out hygiene rules for caterers
  20. Keep walking! Standards test the durability of shoes

Download the NSAI 20th Anniversary Infographic