Codes and standards are always trying to catch up to product innovation. In fact, the purpose of codes and standards is to standardize best practices for the industry so we are constantly raising the bar for safety and performance. Some ships, however, rise higher and faster than the tide and need additional support to gain acceptance in the marketplace. Listing Evaluation Criteria (LEC) fulfill this need.
An LEC is a document, similar to ASSE’s ANSI-accredited standards, where the performance requirements are defined by a particular product of novel design that does not quite fit the scope of an existing standard. Hand-in-hand with an LEC, a manufacturer can take their product and apply for 3rd-party certification, as required by the plumbing codes. Authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ’s) recognize the certification mark and allow for the product to be installed, given that they understand and agree with the LEC. The LEC then becomes an important tool for bringing a plumbing product to market without waiting for a full ANSI-accredited standard to be written.
Normally, the ANSI standards development process can take two to five or more years, depending on the will of the interested parties. This is because ASSE and others follow ISO 17007 and the ANSI Essential Requirements for developing consensus product performance standards. Contrast that with an LEC, which can take five to 12 months to be released. By design, an LEC is not a consensus document – the working group that develops it consists of representatives of the single manufacturer and ASSE. This tight-knit team has a primary interest in creating a document around a specific product, rather than a general product class.
This inherent bias during development was recognized immediately since ASSE comes from a 55-year history of developing consensus standards. There are a few checks and balances to the process so LECs are written in the spirit of public value. For example, a manufacturer’s proposal for an LEC is required to be agreed to and sponsored by at least one ASSE Product Standards Committee (PSC) member. This sponsorship is essential since the PSC is the balanced consensus body of experts who are the gatekeepers for all of ASSE’s product standards. Furthermore, once the LEC is written, it still has to go through the Product Standards Committee for ballot, and then go out for a 21-day public review. While these may seem like hurdles, the balanced cross-section of the industry that is the PSC may be aware of issues beyond ASSE staff and the individual manufacturer to better help guide the effort.
The sharp focus of the LEC allows for the playing field to be defined for future endeavors by competitors and may include patentable features. Like patents, however, LECs do expire. The LEC is dropped if the product has not gained significant traction after five years. Conversely, if it succeeds, then the ASSE PSC decides how best to incorporate the new technological requirements into a new standard or into an existing standard of a similar product category. This is a hallmark of ASSE’s LEC program as other similar documents, known as ORDs, can allow their performance requirements to stay in force without consideration for market feedback. LECs, therefore, are excellent vehicles for product development and market penetration while, at the same time, balancing a manufacturer’s needs with the needs of the regulatory community.
For more information about LECs, standards development, or product certification at ASSE International, please contact Conrad Jahrling, Staff Engineering Supervisor, at email@example.com.