The year was 1997, and the National Standards Authority of Ireland had just begun setting standards. Since then it has published more than 23,000 standards covering healthcare, construction, food, technology and the environment.
It has also inspected and verified more than 240,000 trade-measuring instruments, including supermarket scales, petrol pumps, and taximeters to ensure that consumers get what they pay for.
Over the past two decades it has helped businesses and organisations expand, innovate and compete on the world stage by ensuring the products people buy are safe.
Ireland has led the way in developing many standards, including those covering hurling helmets, bottled energy, and energy usage.
The most popular standard is ISO 9001, used by more than 1.5m organisations worldwide wanting to improve their internal management systems.
There are standards for almost everything, from the specification of carbon monoxide alarms to the width of drinking straws. The CE Mark, which must be displayed on all electrical products, toys and medical devices sold in the EU is also linked to standards. Over the past year alone, 1,391 standards were published or revised.
NSAI CEO Geraldine Larkin said standards affect almost everything we do every day, although we might not realise it.
“They come to life through blueprints, in prototypes, on production lines, in workplaces, in laboratories, hospitals and schools and street corners,” she said.
“More than a thousand people here in Ireland volunteer their time to help develop new standards.
“Through the NSAI, we take these Irish voices to the European and international standards development world. On our 20th anniversary, I want to sincerely thank each and every one of them for their time, energy and effort.”
Under the Metrology Act, NSAI inspectors can prosecute business who fail to comply with the law.
NSAI’s head of legal metrology Paul Turner said that while compliance in Ireland was very high, some cases have resulted in legal action being taken over the past two decades, including one against a fish processor in Co Donegal last month.
“We take non-compliance in any sector very seriously and will continue to use the full powers of the legislation available to us to deal effectively with it,” said Mr Turner.
NSAI’s head of business excellence, Fergal O’Byrne, said that, with Brexit on the horizon, Irish companies might be looking for new ways to expand.
“NSAI certification can give those businesses an advantage,” he said.