International Standards


ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies (ISO member bodies) and the work of preparing International Standards is carried out through ISO technical committees. Each member body (a country) interested in a subject for which a technical committee has been established has the right to be represented on that committee. ISO technical committee TC51 covers pallets exclusively and the work on the current range of ISO pallet standards started in earnest in 1979. At that time ISO rated standards relevant to international trade as a high priority and there was already a single useful basic standard on pallet sizes to start from - ISO 6780: General purpose flat pallets for through transit of goods - Principal dimensions and tolerances.

PalletLink later took on the convenorship of the work on pallet testing during the 1980s and this culminated in ISO 8611: 1991: General-purpose flat pallets for through transit of goods - Test methods. Their work continued with the first in a set of supporting standards when ISO 12777-1: 1994: Methods of test for pallet joints - Part 1 - Determination of bending resistance of pallet nails was published. ISO standards take this length of time to produce because ISO insist ballots for new standards are conducted worldwide, in three languages and results strongly in favour, before publication goes ahead and this is often difficult to achieve, requiring several drafts, each with a new ballot.

In the early days of the ISO packaging work, the Asia Pacific region members of ISO rarely participated. This caused problems because ISO endeavour to make standards representative and Asia Pacific were known to be using three sizes of square pallet, but the ISO committee aim was one single square size. The participation problem eventually improved and in sharp contrast to the early 1990s there is now particularly strong representation from Korea and Japan who are active in ISO work including pallet sizes, slip sheets and test method development.

France initiated a new Committee CEN/TC/261 Packaging in 1989 and work on new European (CEN) packaging standards started at a great pace. The European Standards body Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN) produces ENs which are produced by working groups of specialists in a particular subject. At one time in support of the EU aim of reducing packaging trade barriers there were some 20 working groups producing packaging standards on plastic, steel, paper, glass, wood packaging, recycling and roll containers. Most have now been published.

CEN comprises 30 National Members, largely countries in the European Union (EU) plus Norway and Switzerland. An EN is published when there is agreement by a majority of the countries in CEN and it is then obligatory that all EU countries publish a new EN as their own national standard. For example when EN 13382: Flat Pallets for Materials Handling - Principal dimensions was published by CEN in 2002 (in 3 languages) it was published a few months later with the same title in London as BS EN 13382. At much the same time it would have been published in Germany by DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung) as DIN EN 13382 and by AFNOR (Association Francaise de Normalisation) in France as NF EN 13382. There is also a requirement for national bodies to withdraw their own national standards on the same subject soon after the EN appears.

Working relationship - ISO and CEN have a good working relationship and rarely duplicate work, more often than not, if CEN has already commenced work on a new subject, ISO will let it take the technical lead and vice versa. Upon completion it is put to the member countries of ISO including for example Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea and USA to vote for or against adoption as an ISO. An example of this type of co-operation was EN ISO 18613: 2003: Pallets for materials handling - repair of flat wooden pallets where CEN led the work and a parallel vote of ISO and CEN members followed. Unlike ENs each country is at liberty to publish ISO standards as they see fit. 

Relationship between national standards bodies - British Standards Institution (BSI) produce British Standards, in Germany, DIN produce the DIN range and in France, AFNOR produce the NF (Norme Francaise) range of standards. All national standards bodies in Europe are subordinate to CEN and (in practical terms) to ISO, this is obviously necessary as otherwise 'local' standards would introduce trade barriers. However, in the absence of an EN on a subject, most countries have a range of national standards that they have produced in response to an industrial or public need, for example Germany with  DIN 15141-4: Transportation chain, pallets, four-way timber perimeter-base pallets, 1000 x 1200mm- brewery pallets. The relevance of this to other countries is that a brewer in Belgium for example might be required by the purchaser to ship Belgian lager to Germany on pallets constructed to DIN 15141-4 so that the pallets are of immediate use to the German brewing industry and do not add to their ‘packaging waste mountain’.

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PDF21k History of ISO 8611 pallet testing standard used across the world. (PDF 134kb)
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