The work of Standards Australia stretches far from wherever it is the committee meets, and with the ever-increasing use of Skype this can quite literally be anywhere. Whatever the standard, its impact can be felt right across Australia – and every so often as an employee of Standards Australia I get to break free of the shackles, escape the office, stretch my legs, and head to the coalface to where the standard hits the pavement.
In the latest venture, a trip to Albury brought me into one of our regional cities with the fine men and women of the HVAC sector. The trade night was hosted, organised, publicised and ultimately successful as a result of the work by AIRAH – the peak industry body in the sector.
Making the trip from Sydney, and further from my home on the picturesque Central Coast of NSW, quickly proved worth it when I asked the simple question to a fellow exhibitor: “Do you have much to do with standards?” The response from this particular individual was one of “Yes, unfortunately…”
A somewhat disheartening comment, but given I would be about six foot from this individual all night I pursued the comment with another question and found that of the hundreds of pages the standard comprises, there was one particular element that made it difficult for this individual’s business. Not an insignificant concern, but had I left it at the blunt response I may not have found how small the cause of the trouble was compared to the size of the standard.
More people started heading through the doors of the trade night, and when the work-boots coupled with the increasing glow of the many fluros I am sure Albury’s Commercial Club would have been visible from another planet. I was suddenly in no doubt these were the lifeblood of Standards Australia.
The people I was now speaking with were not representatives of major industry bodies, nor trade unions, nor regulators, nor any of our other nominating organisations involved in standards development. The people I was now engaging with were the very reason for standards to be developed in the first place.
Many of the positive impacts emanating from standards were primarily for these working men and women I was now speaking with. The safety objectives were developed to ensure they returned home from work after a hard day. The goals aimed at improving competition in the sector, were to ensure that all these small business owners were not restricted from making a living as a result of the standard.
There were a number of comments which could be chalked up as pieces of “constructive criticism” but not for one second is this a bad thing. After 96 years of being the nation’s peak non-government, not for profit standards development body there are probably some changes we can afford to make.
This trade night in the Commercial Club in Albury will definitely not be my last trip to find out what end users of standards really think, in fact I hope it is one of the early ones.
In drawing this reflection to an end, it is important to note that it is easy for Standards Australia to be viewed as one of those massive corporations that has an office in Sydney CBD and staff venture out only when they need to in order to calm some sort of community uproar. To do this would be unfair, in my view.
When I went to Albury, I wasn’t selling anything. I wasn’t trying to buy anything. I was merely on a fact finding mission. I wanted to know what tradespeople thought we were doing right and wrong. This was certainly achieved, and we have certainly listened.