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Understanding the Distinction: BSI’s PAS 13 Code of Practice vs. Testing Standards

In the realm of industrial safety barriers, like guardrails and bollards, understanding the clear distinctions between guidelines and testing standards is crucial. One area of confusion involves the British Standard Institute’s (BSI) PAS 13 Code of Practice and its relationship with testing standards. Despite their similar contexts, they serve fundamentally different purposes. To help outline the differences, we will be comparing the PAS 13 Code of Practice to the ANSI MHI 31.2 Testing Standard. Understanding these differences can significantly impact the reliability and credibility of safety barrier testing and, ultimately, workplace safety.

What is BSI’s PAS 13?

BSI’s PAS 13 states that it is a, “Code of practice for safety barriers used in traffic management within workplace environments with test methods for safety barrier impact resilience.”

One critical point of misunderstanding is the nature PAS 13’s testing section. This section describes how to perform controlled dynamic impact tests and record data. However, it leaves the analysis and conclusions to the discretion of the testing organizations, which are often the companies manufacturing or selling the barriers. This characteristic highlights that PAS 13 is a Code of Practice, not a testing standard, a distinction with significant implications.

PAS 13: Code of Practice Not a Testing Standard

To delve deeper, let's consider the definitions and implications of a Code of Practice versus a Testing Standard:

Code of Practice:

  • Guidance and Advice: Provides guidance, advice, and best practice recommendations.
  • Flexibility: Offers a framework that organizations can adapt to their specific circumstances.
  • Advisory Nature: Is authoritative but not legally binding, often used for reference and not for mandatory compliance.
  • No Legal Obligation: Does not typically form a basis for legal obligations or certification.

Testing Standard:

  • Formally Recognized: Establishes a consensus on specifications, criteria, or practices.
  • Prescriptive: Details specific requirements that need to be met.
  • Certification Requirement: Compliance can be a requirement for certain certifications with legal and regulatory implications.
  • Rigorous Development: Developed through a more rigorous process, including testing methodologies and performance criteria.

Key Statements from BSI’s PAS 13’s Foreword:

There are two statements from the foreword of PAS 13 that highlight its advisory nature:

  1. “This PAS should not be seen as a British Standard. It will be retracted upon its contents becoming part of, or as, a British Standard.”
  2. “As a code of practice, this PAS is advisory, providing guidance and recommendations. It should not be cited as a specification, and care should be taken to avoid misleading compliance claims.”

These statements, along with its association with the Code of Practice definitions above, reinforce that PAS 13 provides guidelines and recommendations rather than binding specifications or testing requirements.

ANSI MHI 31.2: Example of a True Testing Standard

In contrast to Codes of Practice, let’s take a look at Testing Standards, as they serve as a definitive requirement.

Key Characteristics of Testing Standards:

  • Detailed Testing Procedures: Provides specific, prescriptive testing methods.
  • Third-Party Certification: Requires third-party validation to ensure consistency and reliability.
  • Stringent Requirements: Mandates adherence to defined performance criteria for safety and reliability.

The Importance of Third-Party Testing

One critical aspect of true Testing Standards is the emphasis on third-party testing. In the industrial safety sector, there is a significant difference between third-party witnessed and third-party conducted tests.

  • Third-Party Witnessed Tests: An independent third party observes and verifies the testing process.
  • Third-Party Conducted Tests: An independent third party actively performs the testing at their facility, ensuring unbiased and reliable results.

Third-Party Witnessed Tests can actually be performed by the manufacturer themselves, opening the door for biased and unreliable outcomes. Committing to Third-Party Conducted Tests rather than Third-Party Witnessed Tests is a way to establish the highest level of integrity and trustworthiness in product testing.

One such Testing Standard that includes these requirements is ANSI MHI 31.2, which was developed in-part by McCue, in participation with MHI’s ProGMA group, and outlines clear testing protocols & requirements for safety barriers.

ANSI MHI 31.2 includes:

  • A test method with various impact speeds (3 mph, 5 mph or 7 mph) and surrogate test vehicle weights (from 9,000 lbs to 20,000 lbs) that can be used to replicate dynamic impacts of powered industrial trucks that can occur in manufacturing, warehousing or distribution environments. Previously, there were no standardized parameters for manufacturers of guardrail barriers and posts to use when performing independent testing of their products.
  • A requirement that testing be performed at an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited testing facility.

These inclusions solidify ANSI MHI 31.2 as a Testing Standard rather than a Code of Practice.

Conclusion: Recognizing the Distinction

Understanding the distinction between BSI’s PAS 13 and Testing Standards, like ANSI MHI 31.2, is essential for anyone specifying or recommending industrial safety barriers. BSI’s PAS 13, while helpful, is an advisory Code of Practice that provides guidelines, but it is not a Testing Standard that has binding specifications. In contrast, Testing Standards offer a rigorous, standardized, and third-party certified testing framework, so everyone has consistent safety and performance standards.

By recognizing these differences, we can maintain the safety and integrity of industrial safety products & practices, ultimately enhancing workplace safety in industrial settings.


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