British Standards

Who needs Standards?

How are national standards developed?

The prime source of national standards and similar documents in the UK is the British Standards Institution (BSI). Standards are prepared at the request of industry or government or user groups, and so the Committee that prepares a standard is, as far as possible, representative of the various groups that may be concerned with the product or subject. In general, industry gets the standards it asks for and the standard will reflect the thinking of the individual committee members and the groups they represent, as well as the problems they have experienced in the past.


This standards-making activity has been going on in the UK for over 100 years and, in other industrialised countries, similar procedures have been in progress quite independently for just as long. Although there is now much more international harmonisation activity taking place, many national standards differ in some way from those of other countries. Additionally, what is contained in a single standard in the UK may be covered by four or five standards in another country because their standards-making procedures are slightly different. However, industry frequently makes the assumption that, because a problem is tackled in a certain way in the UK, then other countries must do it the same way. This is not necessarily so.


Furthermore, although national standards authorities similar to BSI exist in most countries today, they are not all at the same stage of development nor do they necessarily try to cover as wide a range of activities as BSI does. In developed or industrialised countries, standards will generally exist for manufactured products. These standards will probably differ in some respects unless they have been the subjects of international or European harmonisation (and even here differences can still arise). In addition, these standards may not necessarily be produced or issued by the national standards authority of the country concerned.

What standards, specifications and codes are used in the Middle East?

Most Middle Eastern economies now have standards organisations, which are in general concentrating on producing standards for indigenous products. These national standards bodies, often operating under the aegis of government departments, are usually responsible for some or all of the following activities relating to standardization, conformity assessment and metrology:


  • preparation, issuing and updating of national or regional (e.g. Gulf Cooperation Council – GCC) standards for industrial products and basic standards for methods of testing, units, symbols, definitions and metrology;
  • quality assurance activities to provide consumers with the essential assurance that the health and safety requirements of the standards are being consistently achieved for all commodities;
  • testing;
  • certification of products and of quality and environmental management systems;
  • accreditation;
  • calibration, legal and industrial metrology;
  • participation in the activities of regional and international standards organisations; and
  • providing information services in respect of notification duties for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreements.


Because government projects throughout the Middle East invariably require the use of internationally recognised standards and because English is widely used as the language of business and commerce, British, European and International Standards are widely used in the Middle East, although American standards continue to prevail in the oil and gas sector.  Moreover, many national and regional standards are either adoptions of, based on or technically equivalent to British, European and International Standards. The EU and GCC for example are cooperating on developing standards at a national and regional level, a large number of which are modelled on British, European and International standards.


There are now over 20,000 current British Standards publications, including adoptions of all European Standards and many International Standards, covering all industry sectors, with more than 2,000 new or revised standards being issued each year to keep the technical content up-to-date and to encompass new materials, processes and technologies.



BSI has a network of authorised distributors throughout the UK and abroad.  These distributors are under agreement with BSI to sell their products to their customer base. Benma Limited is an Official Distributor of British Standards and supplies British, European and International Standards in the United Arab Emirates through the British Business Group in Abu Dhabi, in Oman through Al Manahil books and in Qatar through dch Management.