Tuesday, June 11, 2013

“Quality and Safety Are Not The Same Thing!”

That’s according to Mr. Jon Echanova, EU Key Expert-National Quality Infrastructure during a forum with PPSQF (Phil. Productivity, Safety, and Quality Foundation) held last month at Citibank Tower in Makati. It was the same subject he echoed in other fora for government agencies especially DTI and other business organizations.

The forum was about the National Quality Infrastructure (NQF) which they want to establish in the Philippines under the EU-Philippines Trade Related Technical Assistance Project 3. According to Jon, trade is the driver for growth and the basic question now is how we can make the best out of something that is bound to happen- market globalization. This project therefore hopefully will prepare the Philippines for the global market and ASEAN harmonization scheduled to start in 2015.

He is proposing the creation of a  National Standards Board, which our current Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) is not. He emphasized that “Standard Bodies” are different from “Regulatory Bodies”. Our BPS is doing this in a dual role. He added that safety standards should be separated from quality standards. Our existing national standards in contrast do not separate safety from quality standards. In fact, more often, safety defines quality. Further clarifying, he said standards are voluntary whose purpose is for common understanding and are prepared by standard bodies. On the other hand, technical regulations are compulsory whose purpose is for protection of health of health, safety, and environment and are prepared by regulatory standards. Sounds interesting.

Ironically, in our present Philippine National Standards (PNS), products that have “impact on safety, security and health” are considered as “mandatory” and a PS (Philippine Standard) license is required before manufacturers (for importers, Import commodity Clearance or ICC is required) can distribute and sell in the market. Quality and safety are just one and the same.

I have been a member of the BPS Technical Committee on Flat Steel Products (TC 64) for more than 10 years now as “industry expert’. Our committee’s function is to review and formulate product standards on flat steel products which include, among others, hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, and galvanized steel. This is the industry where my whole professional life has been centered.

I find this subject therefore very interesting. But knowing the “realities”, out there, I’m afraid this may just end up as a wishful thinking.