Published: 11 February 2016
I am the Australian Society of Microbiology representative on the FT020 Water Microbiology Australian Standards Committee. This committee meets when there are Australian Standards (AS) that are up for review (approximately every 5 years) or when a new Standard has been proposed and requires work. Before I became a member on this committee I thought AS were put together by an elite group of people and that was all they did. The Committee is made up of elite members, (of course that goes without saying ☺) but we are people who work in the industry and most still work in the laboratory or have at some time in our career. There is the Standards Australia secretary who ensures the meeting and Standards follow the correct protocols, the Chair who runs the meeting, a NATA representative and members comprising people like myself who are in a supervisory role but still perform bench work in the real world. I still do bench work and that is why I enjoy the challenge of being on the Committee. It entails reading all the Standards, assessing their relevance and at meetings discussing any issues that may arise from the testing side. These issues can be industry driven changes, changes to the type of testing required, the introduction and availability of new methods or consumables, feedback from users of the Standard or personal experience when using the method in the laboratory. The Standards are reviewed and it is then the decision must be made on what to do with the Standard. They can be reconfirmed (no changes), withdrawn or revised (the Committee evaluates and revises the Standard).
When a Standard is released for public comment it is crucial that the users of the Standard read it and make any relevant comments. All of these comments are documented and must be discussed by the committee at a meeting. The discussion outcome is also documented and any changes required are made and eventually the Standard is printed. It is not an easy process. Writing an unambiguous Standard takes time and a lot of discussion. Think back to those tasks you had at TAFE or university when you had to write instructions on how to cook a piece of toast. It is often the little things that can be overlooked, the things you may take for granted. There are certain guidelines that have to be followed and are set out by Standards Australia. The method steps are there to follow so that everyone using the Standard is doing the same thing therefore creating a uniform procedure that should give the same results no matter where you are. Standard procedures are important and it is the basis of the quality systems in laboratories.
So please comment if you feel there is something you need to bring up when a Standard goes out for Public Comment. Even if it just a typographical error or something you think is wrong-COMMENT. Your company can subscribe to StandardsWatch so you are alerted when a Standard relevant to your area is released or open for public comment.
Thank you to the ASM and my employer (ALS) for supporting me to be a committee member on FT020 Water Microbiology. It is appreciated and it is only through organisations like the ASM and generous employers that Standards Australia committees can operate. All committee members are volunteers and must have the relevant qualifications and knowledge to ensure that these Standards can continue to be developed and maintained.
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