ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards developing organizations in the world. We are a not-for-profit organization that provides a forum for the development and publication of international voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems and services. Our volunteer members represent producers, users, consumers, government, and academia from more than 140 countries. They develop technical documents that are the basis of manufacturing, management, procurement, codes and regulations for dozens of industry sectors.
ASTM volunteer members belong to one or more standards-writing committees, each of which covers a subject area such as steel, petroleum, medical devices, consumer products, nanotechnology, additive manufacturing and many more. These committees develop the more than 12,000 ASTM standards found on our site and in the 80-volume Annual Book of ASTM Standards.
A standard is a document that has been developed and established through ASTM's consensus principles and which meets the requirements of our procedures and regulations. Full consensus standards are developed with the participation of stakeholders with an interest in their development and use.
ASTM standards are used by individuals, companies and other institutions around the world. Purchasers and sellers incorporate standards into contracts; scientists and engineers use them in their laboratories and offices; architects and designers use them in their plans; government agencies around the world reference them in codes, regulations and laws; and many others refer to them for guidance.
ASTM standards are voluntary in that we do not mandate their use. However, government regulators often give voluntary standards the force of law by citing them in laws, regulations and codes. In the United States, the relationship between private-sector standards developers and the public sector was strengthened with the 1995 passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (Public Law 104-113). The law requires that government agencies use privately developed standards whenever possible, saving taxpayers millions of dollars by simplifying formerly duplicative standards development efforts.
ASTM's Standards Development Process
Generally, anyone who identifies a need for standardization can submit a request to us. Our staff researches the idea to assess whether there is interest in the field, to discover if parallel activities exist in other organizations and to determine where the activity would appropriately fit within our structure. ASTM staff does not determine which standards should be developed; our technical committees do.
Our standards development activities cover a wide range of technical and management areas. A sampling of recently formed technical committees gives an indication of ASTM's broad scope:
Standards development work begins when members of an ASTM technical committee identify a need or other interested parties approach the committee (see answer above). Task group members prepare a draft standard, known as a work item, which is reviewed by its parent subcommittee through an electronic balloting system. After the subcommittee approves the document, it is submitted concurrently to the main committee and our entire membership.
All negative votes cast during the balloting process, which must include a written explanation of the voters. objections, must be fully considered before the document can be submitted to the next level in the process. Final approval of a standard depends on concurrence by our standing Committee on Standards that proper procedures were followed and due process was achieved.
Depending on a committee's commitment to timely development and approval, standards can take as little as nine months to become full consensus standards. Our ever-evolving use of Internet technology offers our members increasing opportunities to get new high-quality, relevant standards into the marketplace as quickly as possible.
For example, virtual meetings combine teleconferencing with Internet document viewing and editing. Other resources such as online collaboration areas; electronic balloting; and the automated development of agendas, minutes and custom schedules further expedite a committee’s response to industry needs, and aid members from around the world in participating.
Who governs ASTM’s standards development procedures? ASTM’s governing body is our board of directors, which is elected by the entire membership. The board and its standing committees have established procedures to ensure that standards are developed on a consensus basis, that all dissenting parties receive due process, and that all of our standards follow style and format requirements. “Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees” and “Form and Style for ASTM Standards” are among the documents that govern the ASTM standards development process.
ASTM has over 30,000 volunteer members from more than 140 countries around the world who are producers, users, consumers and general interest parties. These members write ASTM standards through their service on one or more of our 140-plus technical committees. It is these members who decide which standards development activities to pursue. Anyone interested in the field covered by a committee’s scope is eligible to become a committee member.
Each ASTM committee determines its own meeting schedule; most meet twice a year. In addition, a good deal of standards development work takes place online between meetings via virtual meeting. See the material under “How long does it take to develop an ASTM standard?” for more information on this topic.
Click here or contact ASTM International Headquarters at +1.610.832.9500. Informational and participating membership costs US$75; organizational membership is US$400; and student membership is free.
ASTM and International Standards Development
From its inception, our method of developing standards has been based on consensus without borders. Our process ensures that interested individuals and organizations representing academia, industry, product users and governments alike all have an equal vote in determining a standard’s content. Our members come from countries representing more than 90 percent of the world’s population. Further, our high quality standards are responsive and relevant to the needs of the global marketplace. Half of our standards are sold outside the United States.
Does ASTM meet criteria for organizations that develop international standards? We meet all the criteria for an international standards developing organization as outlined in Annex 4 of the Triennial Review of the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (WTO/TBT). Both the U.S. Standards Strategy and the WTO/TBT state that international standardization can be more effective through the support of sector-driven standards and observance of basic principles of standards development. In line with these documents, ASTM’s standards development process:
- Reaches decisions through the consensus of those affected.
- Allows open participation by all affected stakeholders.
- Maintains a balance among competing interests.
- Fosters transparency by making information directly available.
- Ensures due process by considering all views and allowing appeals.
- Supports flexibility by allowing the use of different approaches.
- Encourages timeliness by avoiding administrative delays.
- Maximizes coherency by avoiding overlap or conflict.
Access to Standards
From any ASTM page on our website, you can easily search for over 12,000 standards (by keyword or number) in dozens of industrial, management and other areas. Titles, scopes and the documents referenced are shown for each standard. You can also purchase any standard as an immediate PDF download or by calling ASTM Sales at +1.877.909.ASTM. If you need multiple standards or have multiple users, consider an online subscription or organization-wide access.
Most of our income is derived from the sale of standards and other publications. Our innovative services, such as proficiency testing, training, and certification and declaration also generate income.
We develop industry-wide certification programs rather than programs for individual organizations. Our certification programs are available for materials, products, systems, services, as well as personnel certificate programs. All of our certification programs are offered through the Safety Equipment Institute.
The Safety Equipment Institute became a subsidiary of ASTM in 2016 and houses all of our certification programs. It is a private, non-profit organization that administers a non-governmental, third-party certification program and tests for public safety. They certify a broad range of safety and protective products used occupationally and recreationally. SEI certification programs are voluntary and available to any manufacturer of safety and protective equipment that wants to have product models certified.
ASTM does not have any testing facilities to accommodate requests for one-off testing of products. If your product must be tested for conformance to an ASTM standard, you can do that in your laboratory or contract with an independent, third party laboratory.
Can a company indicate that their product conforms to an ASTM standard? In general we do not object if an organization does their own testing/verification and represents that their product meets an ASTM standard by referencing the specific designation (e.g., “Complies with or meets ASTM A XXX-YY [and, where possible, the title of the relevant standard]”).