Merging two global machine-safety standards isn't an easy process. And that was fully apparent when IEC/ISO 17305 was cancelled late last year.
The standard, which aimed to unify the safety standards ISO 13849 and IEC 62061, was scheduled to take effect in 2017. Now, the merger is on indefinite hold.
The reason? That pesky commodity known as time.
The many differences that exist between the two standards simply proved to be too much to address in the timeframe that the ISO technical committee had to work with. As a result, the committee made the move to cancel the project.
This isn't to say that the possibility of a merger is dead. It's merely in limbo.
Its fate should be clearer following the next IEC/TC 44 and ISO/TC 199 plenary meetings, which will take place in October 2016 and March 2017, respectively.
News of IEC/ISO 17305's demise may have come as a relief to those worried about confusion or significant changes resulting from a merger of the two standards.
However, the basic methodologies and requirements introduced in ISO 13849 and IEC 62061 shouldn't require significant alterations. As a result, machine designers would likely find that their previous migration to these two standards would make a move to a merged standard a relatively manageable and painless experience.
A pair of technical reports also can help alleviate concerns about a merged standard. Published in parallel in 2010, ISO TR 23849 and IEC/TR 62061-1 provide helpful interpretations of the two standards and guidance on applications that are relevant to each. These reports can be a helpful resource for anyone seeking to better understand the relationship between the two standards and how they might converge.
With this in mind, any eventual re-implementation of the merger process should be viewed as an opportunity, not a burden. It would clarify and simplify the discrepancies that exist between the two standards today. And it would help steer machine designers toward a single global standard that can help them build safer, more competitive machinery.
Meanwhile, work is starting on updates to the ISO 13849 and IEC 62061 standards. Revised versions of each will likely be out within a few years.
What can we expect to see in these updates?
One possible change within ISO 13849 could include providing some relief from the quantification and calculation burdens for more simple and deterministic systems. Potential additions and improvements to IEC 62061 may address new factors, such as low-demand safety applications, to make the standard applicable to a wider range of equipment and machinery.
The work already completed on IEC/ISO 17305 is available for use by both standards and should help guide the two updated standards and keep them on a converging path.
For now, machine designers should focus their efforts on understanding ISO 13849 and IEC 62061. This will help ease their migration to the revised standards when they take effect. Strong familiarity with the two standards also will make machine designers more comfortable moving to a unified standard if and when that time comes.
Learn more about the planned merger of (EN) ISO 13849 and IEC 62061.