Introduction

The purpose of this guide is to assist policy officers in assessing the suitability of standards or risk assessments for use in support of policy and programs. The use of standards or risk assessments should be considered as one of many policy options available. When considering policy options, policy officers are required to conduct a broad analysis of all suitable options with a view to minimising the regulatory burden.

What are standards?

Standards are documents approved by a recognised body that provides for common and repeated use. They are rules, guidelines or characteristics for products, processes, services and product methods, used to demonstrate a specific function and quality. They can be used in all types of policy settings and their compliance can be voluntary, compulsory or performance-based. The appropriate use of standards can facilitate trade, improve competitiveness, promote innovation and be an effective tool for reform.

What are risk assessments?

Risk assessments are a tool that policy makers may use to assess whether regulatory action is required or as the basis for accepting a technology or product for where no suitable standard or conformance framework exists. They involve a systematic process of analysis to determine the extent and likelihood of occurrence of undesirable events or situations as compared against benchmarks or standards. Risk assessments are well established in the areas of public health and safety, pharmacology, toxicology, environmental regulation, defence, regulatory management and novel technologies.

International obligations for using standards and risk assessments

Australia is a party to different treaties and agreements that place obligations on policy officers when using standards and risk assessments. The primary agreement is the World Trade Organisation’s Technical Barriers to Trade agreement. This agreement places a requirement on Australia to ensure that technical regulations, standards, testing and certification do not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade and the implementation and operation of free-trade agreements. To abide by this principle, policy officers who use standards or risk assessments in support of policies or programs should select an appropriate international version where possible.

What is the assessment process?

To consider the use of standards and risk assessments in support of policies and programs, policy officers should use the process chart listed in Figure 1.

The process chart allows policy officers to consider the following points:

  • To consider whether a there is a need to complete a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) to support the use of standards and risk assessments
  • The suitability of standards and/or risk assessments for achieving the policy objective
  • The selection of the most appropriate standard or risk assessment to support policy or program objectives
  • Evidence that specification of a standard or conduct of a risk assessment will support the achievement of policy or program objectives.
  • The process of adopting the standard and/or risk assessment into the appropriate policy or program framework.

Figure 1 - Process chart for using standards and risk assessments at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

1. Regulatory Impact Statement

Do you need to complete a RIS?

Have you sought support from the Regulation Reform team?


2. Policy Settings for Standards and Risk Assessments

Have you considered your policy setting?

Can standards or risk assessments be used in your policy setting?


3. Standard or Risk Assessment Selection

Have you identified a standard or risk assessment?

Is the standard or risk assessment applicable in the Australian context?


4. Assessing Performance and Outcomes

Do you have evidence to support the use of a standard or risk assessment to achieve the desired outcome?

Have you assessed the regulatory burden of using the chosen standard or risk assessment?

Have you calculated the net benefit of using the chosen standard or risk assessment?


5. Adoption of standards and risk assessments

Have you sought support from Australia’s standards and conformance infrastructure?

What policy framework is standard or risk assessment being incorporated into?

Is the standard or risk assessment clearly identified in supporting reference materials?

Does the standard or risk assessment require a conformity assessment?

Are any additional guidance materials required?

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