Product Code: JLA_6_1_42

Ernst Sutter
Physikalisch‐Technische Bundesanstalt, Bundesallee 100, D‐38116 Braunschweig, Germany

Different standards in different European countries have given rise to technical trade barriers. The European Community made a great effort to establish a single market before the end of 1992 in which the free movement of goods is ensured. The first approach was to adopt directives setting up detailed requirements for all products. This has proved to be such a slow and difficult process that the New Approach has been adopted: the essential requirements are established by directives, whereas the technical specifications are detailed in harmonized standards. The preparation of these standards must be mandated by the Commission of the European Communities. Since European countries are relatively small and export‐oriented there is a general readiness to harmonize standards. Thousands of new standards are needed, a workload that could not be accomplished by the end of 1992. A transition period of 2 years will therefore be allowed for most fields. In contrast to the United States, where the CDRH (Center for Devices and Radiological Health) standard differs in many points from IEC 825, most laser standards in Europe are already identical with international standards. Where national standards had been developed they were chiefly used as a basis for international standardization work. IEC standards are now subjected to parallel voting in Europe so that they become European standards at the same time as they are adopted as IEC standards. For the relevant laser standards, differences to the CDRH standard are discussed from a European point of view. International harmonization in Europe must still overcome one major problem: directives according to article 118 A of the EEC treaty are still following the old approach. A directive on Physical Agents is in preparation which will include maximum permissible exposure values for optical radiation that run counter to IEC 825: some are more restrictive, some are not safe according to present knowledge. Every effort should be made to prevent this directive from being adopted.

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