The term “standards” is often used to describe a threshold that must be met to satisfy a rule or expectation. Similarly, in Engineering, standards are documents that establish uniform engineering or technical criteria that products, systems and processes have to meet in a specific industry. The documents are prepared by professional groups or associations in a given area of specialization, and are recognized as the accepted way of doing a particular activity in a specific industry.
Codes, on the other hand, are a set of rules specifications, and/or systematic procedures for design, fabrication, installation and inspection methods prepared in such a manner that allow them to be adopted by legal jurisdiction. Codes can be approved by local, state or federal governments and can carry the force of law. The main purpose of codes is to protect the public by setting up the minimum acceptable level of safety for buildings, products and processes.
They are used to ensure consistency, and enable repeatability or compatibility in manufacturing, building, and other activities and processes. For example, standards ensure that light bulbs made by different manufacturers can be used anywhere, that tires are made a certain way, that houses in a hurricane-prone area are built to withstand certain forces, etc. Among other things, they ensure that minimum safety requirements are met and minimum performance is achieved.
There are several organizations in the United States and around the world that develop and issue standards. Some of the ones more common in the engineering industry are:
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