Business of Engineering

Five tips to ensure regulatory compliance with international codes, standards

A critical step in managing international projects is understanding how regulatory compliance changes across borders
By Amreen Grewal, Hedgehog Technologies, Burnaby, British Columbia November 12, 2019

Navigating the stages of designing, manufacturing and commissioning for any project is challenging. Factor in the complexity of international markets and the risk of project failure (cost and/or delay) becomes notably higher. An often-overlooked area that poses a significant risk is international codes and standard compliance 

Take, for example, an amusement ride where the design is done in one country, parts built in another, and the installation is planned for multiple destinations. Even though the design is meant to be identical, the final installation sites may dictate the need for compliance on various codes and standards. What can be done to prevent a rejected product on-site? Consider these five steps. 

1. Target market analysis: Understanding national versus international product certification requirements 

Codes and standards for an identical product can change depending on the country. One critical step early on in the project should be to perform a market assessment. The target markets (national, international, hazardous or nonhazardous) should be very clearly identified in the scope of work. This can be a challenge for consulting companies that solely focus on design. Understanding the end-to-end process of design, certification, manufacturing, shipment and installation will mitigate the risks involved. For example, a product for the European market may only require self-declaration whereas the same product for the North American market requires thirdparty certification. 

2. Educate the team 

When working on complex or one-of-a-kind projects, the design phase is the most expensive and time-consuming. Often the design team’s sole focus is to meet objectives and specifications outlined in the scope of work. The design is finalized, the prototype is manufactured, and certification is seen as an obligatory check mark to begin full-scale production. This is the first point of delay in the project if it does not meet standard requirements. The key to a successful project should always be a standard-based design. Educating the team about target markets, applicable codes and standards, and designing with those guidelines in will save time and money in the long run. 

3. Engage local authorities during the preliminary design phase 

The biggest challenge when approaching a design-based approach is how to pick the relevant standards. Engaging local regulators early on during the preliminary design or even concept design phase can prevent a headache later on. Contact regulatory bodies or companies that offer thirdparty certification in the target market to confirm any applicable standards. This not only saves time and money in the long run, but it also can open a channel of communication to clarify any standard related design inquiries. Another suggestion is sending design documents to third-party certification companies for preliminary approval before building a prototype or entering the manufacturing phase.  

4. Perform pre and mid-design site visits 

Most companies focus on design, procurement, manufacturing and shipment phases, leaving installation as an afterthought. The project cannot be a success if its installment isn’t correct. Site inspectors have the final word and it’s important to understand local regulations in addition to product-specific standards. Meeting site inspectors in person and learning their certification process is crucial during the commissioning phase.  

 5. Complete documentation 

Another source of project delay is poor documentation. Whether the product falls under the category of self-declaration or third-party certification, having proper documentation (drawings, quality documents, risk assessments and certificates of compliance) will push the product out to market or site sooner in the interest of time and budget. For international projects, having proper documentation is even more important for quick customs clearance and on-site regulatory approval.  

Understanding the world of codes, standards and international markets can be a daunting task. It may seem like a never-ending cycle enforced by difficult regulatory bodies. It’s important to perform early assessments, and if needed, engage with consultants that help direct a project toward success. The key is collaborating early and not treat it as an afterthought. 


Amreen Grewal, Hedgehog Technologies, Burnaby, British Columbia
Author Bio: Amreen Grewal is a professional engineer for Hedgehog Technologies, an electrical engineering consulting firm specializing in electrical systems and advanced controls. She’s an expert in national and international electrical design standards, especially in hazardous locations, with years of experience in design, production, evaluation and certification of CSA, UL, IEC, IECEx, ATEX and CE electrical products.