By BRIAN HATYOKA –
STANDARDS play an important role in the economy.
Both local and international standards ensure that different products are safe, reliable and of good quality.
As a result of existing standards, consumers have confidence in products that are available on the market. Further, standards help make the world a safer place.
A standard is basically a technical document detailing the requirements necessary to ensure that a material, product, service, or procedure is fit for the purpose for which it was intended.
These requirements could include design, material, performance, manufacturing and testing requirements, including packaging and labeling.
All standards at publication are voluntary.
Voluntary standards are put in place for business best practice so that there is a level of uniformity and acceptability of the quality and safety of a product. However, some standards are declared compulsory on consideration of public health, public safety and environmental protection and for economic reasons.
Under Part 11 of the Compulsory Standards Act No. 3 of 2017, a national standard can be declared compulsory where it is necessary or expedient to do so in respect of a commodity or service to promote public safety, health, consumer protection or environmental protection
While voluntary standards are not enforced by law, declaration of a compulsory standard makes it enforceable by law.
If a product is subject to a compulsory standard, it must meet specific criteria before it can be supplied to the market and these may include performance, composition, contents, methods of manufacturing or processing, design, packaging or labeling, among others.
The Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency (ZCSA), a statutory body under the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI), enforces compliance to compulsory standards.
Established by the Compulsory Standards Act No. 3 of 2017, ZCSA administers, maintains and enforces compulsory standards for the purpose of public safety, health, consumer and environmental protection.
The Agency commenced its operations on January 1, 2018as a regulatory body responsible for enforcement of compulsory standards.
Compulsory standards contain mandatory specifications or minimum requirements that products must meet before they are supplied on to the market.
Manufacturers of goods subject to compulsory standards must ensure they meet the requirements of the particular standard relating to their product of choice before it is introduced on the market.
This is in a bid to prevent or reduce the risk of injury or harm to public health or the environment.
It is a legal requirement for any producer or importer of products subject to compulsory standards to comply with the law.
The Compulsory Standards Act No. 3 of 2017 clearly stipulates what manufacturers and importers should do before manufacturing or importing a product that is subject to compulsory standards and the punitive action against a manufacturer or an importer who does not comply with the Act.
Currently, ZCSA administers 61compulsory standards in quest to enhance its mandate of ensuring public health and safety, consumer and environmental protection.
Part of the 61 list of compulsory standards include Lead Acid Batteries, poultry feed, pig feed, cattle feed, toilet soap, laundry soap, petroleum jelly, school chalks – specification, maize meal (mealie meal), refined edible vegetable oil, crude edible oil, clear beer, opaque beer, potable spirits, bottled water,fertilizers, white sugar, wheat flour, cement, peanut butter, biscuits, electrical cables, plugs and socket outlets.
Others are personal protective equipment like safety footwear, shoe polish specification, safety of household and similar electrical appliances, emulsion paints for interior and exterior use – specification, household hand dishwashing liquid detergent, reflex-reflecting vehicle number plates, reflex-reflecting vehicle number plates, high gloss synthetic enamel paint – specification, automotive gasoil (diesel fuel), road tank vehicles for petroleum-based flammable liquids – specification, illuminating kerosene, unleaded petrol (gasoline) for motor vehicles, primary dry batteries and the code of practice for inspection and testing of used motor vehicles for road worthiness, among others.
Another Zambian Standard (ZS) 559 is on the inspection and acceptance criteria for used textile (salaula).
ZS 559 prohibits the importation and sale of used textile products containing undergarments and night wear like pyjamas, night gowns, ladies and gents’ briefs, brassieres camisoles, vests.
This standard was declared compulsory by Statutory Instrument No. 120 of 2006 to protect the safety of consumers because used textile products that are worn in very close contact with the skin may cause ailments such as skin rash.
It should be noted here that products applied in the environment such as fertilizers and those which people consume, or use have the potential to affect their health and safety.
These compulsory standards were adopted following a risk assessment which was conducted.
The assessment was conducted to ascertain the risk which products subject to compulsory standards pose on public health and environmental safety and what needs to be done to mitigate the problem.
ZCSA monitors compliance with compulsory standards through activities such as factory and border inspections, pre and post market surveillances.
Amarket surveillance is an activity aimed at ensuring continued post market compliance by checking whether products already on the market meet the applicable quality and safety requirements.
It is worth mentioning here that Compulsory standards have been put in place not to restrict growth of industry but to help industry to thrive and protect the public from consuming unsafe products.
In a bid to protect consumers, for example, Statutory Instrument (SI) Number 18 of 2020 was issued to guide on the manufacture, sale and distribution of potable spirits.
The ZS 808 for potable spirits was declared compulsory following the signing of the SI Number 18 of 2020 by the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry.
In this regard, the rationale of ZS 808 is to address the alcohol content and packaging requirements in potable spirits.
This SI is intended to regulate the risks associated with consumption of potable spirits.
Complying with compulsory standards protects local manufacturers business’ interest because imported products of a similar nature also have to conform to the local compulsory standards, hence protecting industry against potential substandard products entering the market.
This also entails that locally manufactured products can compete favourably with imported products as they are subject to the same minimum requirements.
Further, products which comply with compulsory standards create confidence in the ability of the local manufacturers to produce quality and safe products, thereby assisting businesses to grow through access to local, regional and international markets.
This is because adherence to compulsory standards helps businesses to meet regulatory requirements for both local and export markets.
Once industry players adhere to compulsory standards, a level playing field is created because all participants in the industry are subjected to the same regulatory requirements.
This, therefore, create a competitive business environment where players strive to grow by continually improving their business processes.
In the next article, I will focus on 52 proposed Compulsory Standards.
The author is Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency (ZCSA) head of communication