Explainer: understanding lighting Standards

Standards are there to ensure that products and services are delivered in a ‘standard’ fashion. Often, standards refer to the minimum acceptable way of doing something, often to ensure safe or ethical behaviour. A Service can be far better than is required by a Standard, but that Service never fall below the requirements of a Standard.

Standards are there to reassure the rest of us that the companies we deal with are doing their job in an appropriate manner. Standards are there to provide confidence.

In the lighting industry there are different sets of Standards, with particular frames of reference:

Worldwide standards include:

ISO Standards: The International Organisation for Standardisation is a worldwide organisation that takes its membership from the national standards bodies of 162 countries. ISO brings together experts from around the world to share knowledge and develop International Standards that support innovation and working practices. These Standards are voluntary and consensus-based.

IEC Standards: The International Electrotechnical Commission prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and relate technologies. IEC maintains an ongoing oversight via a series of sub-committees across a variety of industrial sectors.

Regional standards include:

UL/CSA Standards: Originally known as Underwriters Laboratory, UL is the accredited Standards developer for USA and Canada. It is accredited by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI)

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is accredited by the Standards council of Canada (SCC) as a Standard development organisation.

European Norm Standards: ENs are the documents that have been ratified by one of the three European Standardisation Organisations (ESO), CEN, CENELEC or ETS.

A European Standard automatically becomes a national standard in each of the 34 CEN-CENELEC member countries, which includes the UK.

CEN/CENELEC: EN Standards can be generated specifically by the European Standards writing bodies or can be an adoption of IEC Standards.

Agreements with IEC and ISO ensures worldwide harmonisation of standards and prevents duplication or contradiction.

National Standards include:

British Standards: BS details aspects of products or specifications unique to the UK.

The BSI Group is incorporated under a Royal Charter and covers most industry sectors.

British Standards are sometimes an adoption of an EN Standard, creating a BS EN Standard (British Standard European Norm)

Industry specific:

CIE: Commission Internationale d’Eclairage publishes Standards that guide the science and art of light and lighting, colour and vision, photobiology and image technology.

The UK is represented on the CIE by The Institute of Lighting Professionals (ILP) and the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL)




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Industry sector specific: some industry sectors have particular requirements for equipment and services. Sectors include:

UK Military which uses the UK Defence Standards

USA uses the ML Standards

The airline industry uses CA (Civil Aviation Authority) Standards

International commercial shipping comes under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which is an agency of the United Nations.

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Thanks are due to The Lighting Industry Association (LIA) for permission to make use of their teaching material (IEC/EN60598: Luminaires – General Requirements and Tests)

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