IV. MEASURES FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO AGRICULTURE
D. Conforming to international standards
1. Standards setting and certification process in Malaysia
Product standards are generally made mandatory by the government when the element of safety is critical, such as for electrical items or fire safety-related products. Products required by law to meet mandatory standards cannot be sold or used in the country if they have not been certified as meeting those standards. Thus, local or foreign manufacturers wishing to sell such products in the Malaysian market must ensure that their products comply with those mandatory standards. That can be done by certifying their products. In both those instances, the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) acts as the standards setting and certifying agency. Enforcement of mandatory standards is carried out by the relevant agencies.1.1. Standards development procedure development
The process of standards development begins when requests are received by SIRIM, which begins developing standards for a particular product. Such requests can be made by any party including consumer organizations, the government and manufacturers. Preliminary standards are then prepared using a variety of background technical information. That information is usually obtained from sources such as technical literature, related national standards of Malaysia or other countries or international standards, research and development organizations, experts in the field, and feedback or surveys. Information can also come from design data, company manuals, inspection and test data, and servicing and maintenance records. That stage may take as little as a few weeks to as long as a few years, depending on the technical complexities involved.
Once ready, the preliminary standards (or draft Malaysian standards) are discussed by technical committees convened by SIRIM. Members of technical committees are drawn from all sectors of the economy, such as government departments, professional organizations, consumer associations, manufacturers and individuals. If accepted by the technical committee, the draft standards are released for public comment. The comments from the public are then discussed by the technical committee, which then finalizes the draft Malaysian standard. An exception is made with draft standards that are provisionally based on international standards; in such cases, there is no public comment period and the standards are accepted as provisional Malaysian standards before they are approved as Malaysian standards.
The next stage involves the Industrial Standards Committee (ISC), which comprises industry and consumer representatives. That stage can be fairly straightforward with ISC approving the draft Malaysian standard submitted to it by the technical committees, or it may involve numerous revisions of the draft Malaysian standard. In the latter case, ISC will request the relevant technical committee to revise certain aspects of the draft Malaysian standard before giving its approval. Once ISC has approved the draft Malaysian standard, the standard is submitted to the Standards Council for final approval, after which it is submitted to the SIRIM Board for endorsement. Only then can it be published and gazetted as a Malaysian standard.
The above format applies not only to the preparation of new standards, but also to revisions or amendments to standards, or to changes to the standards development procedure. Revisions to Malaysian standards are carried out every five years, and decisions on revisions are based on whether the revision will benefit a majority of consumers or producers, or if the relevant technology has changed such that the previous Malaysian standard is obsolescent.
Various ISCs have been established at SIRIM to deliberate on the draft Malaysian standards before submission to the Standards Council. The ISCs are established in the nine key product areas listed below where standards are developed. The numbers in parenthesis refer to the breakdown of the total of 2,116 standards approved by the Standards Council as of 31 August 1995.
Standards development in the plastics sector has, in fact, been passed out to the private sector. For example, the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association writes a draft Malaysian standard and submits the draft to SIRIM for final approval by the Standards Council before it becomes a Malaysian standard.
Where necessary, environmental factors are taken into account when preparing Malaysian standards. The ISC has, in fact, instructed the technical committees to take environmental factors into account when drafting standards. For example, standards developed or amended for aerosol products will ensure that chlorofluorocarbons are not used as a propellant since the use of such chemicals must be phased out under the Montreal Protocol which Malaysia has signed. In the case of paper, the degree of whiteness of manufactured paper has been reduced to limit the amount of bleach used in the paper-making process; that consideration is reflected in the standards developed for paper. Food standards usually specify acceptable limits of pesticide residue. It is expected that increasing environmental awareness in Malaysia will result in environmental factors becoming increasingly incorporated into Malaysian standards.1.2. Product certification process
Product certification assures buyers that a product meets certain set specifications, a minimum level of performance, or set safety requirements. Products manufactured in Malaysia, either to a Malaysian standard or a foreign standard issued by the respective national standards institutes are accepted by SIRIM for its Product Certification Marking Scheme. Examples of foreign standards for which product certification is commonly sought include the Japanese national standards, British, European, Japanese or international standards. Thus manufacturers choose the standards for which they wish to obtain certification.
Under the SIRIM Scheme of Supervision and Control, a licence will only be awarded if the product complies with the applicable standard and if the factory has a quality control system that meets the requirements of SIRIM Scheme. Certification thus involves factory visits during which the product is tested for compliance against the requirements. A manufacturer who applies to have a product certified is given up to two years to comply with the requirements of the Scheme, after which the application is terminated. The manufacturer is, however, given one chance to re-apply, subject to approval by the Certification Committee at SIRIM. Once a product is certified, it is given a certification mark that is affixed to the product. Spot checks are regularly performed to ensure that the factory continues to strictly adhere to the requirements of the SIRIM Certification Scheme. Licences are renewed annually if the terms and conditions of the Scheme continue to be met. Consignment testing is performed on imported products which need to meet mandatory standards. Thus, products certified by SIRIM will bear the Malaysian quality mark ("MS" mark) or the safety mark ("S" mark) to denote compliance with Malaysian standards specifications. The certified mark is used on products certified to a foreign national standard or international standard. In the case of products requiring mandatory certification, control labels are issued. The labels are security printed and serially numbered, and specific procedures and conditions for their use have been established to ensure all items can be traced to the respective manufacturers.1.3. Product listing
The SIRIM Product Listing Scheme, which is based on ISO Type 2 certification, evaluates products on the basis of performance and/or safety in compliance with specified standards that include supplier specifications; regulatory codes; and industry, national, or international standards. Products imported into Malaysia which do not have to comply with mandatory certification are eligible to have their products listed under the Scheme. That condition fills a gap in the Product Certification Scheme which applies to products manufactured in Malaysia or those requiring mandatory certification. Locally produced goods for which no Malaysian or other national/international standard currently exists are also eligible for listing by complying with other specifications, industry standards, or codes. Suppliers of intermediate products to bulk purchasers also benefit from the Scheme.
The procedure requires the client to submit an application together with product samples and relevant supporting documents. Documentary audit and type testing of the products are then carried out. The products are recommended for listing if they meet the specified requirements. Market surveillance of the listed product is conducted throughout the year to ensure has to be renewed annually.