Spotlight on safety

Switching on a light, using a smartphone, plugging in a hairdryer, taking the bus, car or electric scooter to work, heating food in a microwave, using a computer or electric drill, the list  of our daily interactions with electrical or electronic devices and systems is endless….We expect them to work safely as a matter of course, without ever thinking of the complex processes involved.

rock climber on steep cliff with harness

IEC International Standards play a major role in ensuring that these processes work efficiently and safely. They help a wide range of industries, spreading from lighting to transportation, to produce safe products, and services.  

ACOS, the IEC Advisory Committee on Safety, provides overall guidance to IEC Technical Committees and subcommittees on questions of safety, and a forum in which to discuss complex issues between technical committees.

IEC publishes many horizontal safety publications which cover a variety of subjects and apply to a broad range of products. They include fundamental principles, concepts, terminology or technical characteristics relevant to many technical sectors. They aim to ensure consistency of IEC publications in areas common to several of these sectors, by avoiding duplication of work and contradictory requirements. This is important for safety aspects of systems comprised of products developed according to many different standards.

When developing new products, systems or services, designers and standard writers need to know which safety aspects to include in their work. They may refer to the relevant IEC publication in its entirety, or to appropriate sections. If experts cannot find the information in existing basic or group safety publications, they can work in the IEC with the committee responsible for the horizontal or group safety function to develop what they need.

In a world where increasingly complex products and systems are entering the market, health and safety must be managed consistently with other risks such as cybersecurity, the environment and ethics, within a defined system boundary.

Risk reduction is key

Adopting a systems approach allows the reduction of risk for the system to an acceptable level, while improving performance and encouraging innovation. The underlying principles of risk assessment can be used wherever safety aspects require consideration, and as a useful reference for other stakeholders such as designers, manufacturers, service providers, policy makers and regulators.

The purpose of this approach is to reduce the risk arising at any stage, from design, production, distribution and use (including maintenance) to the destruction or disposal of products or systems. The complete life cycle of a product or system (including both the intended use and the reasonably foreseeable misuse) must be considered, whether the product or system is used in industrial processes, the workplace, a household environment, or for recreational activities. The ultimate goal is to achieve tolerable risk for people, property and the environment, and minimize adverse effects on the environment.


Philippe Juhel, ACOS Chair
Philippe Juhel is Chair of ACOS, the IEC Advisory Committee on Safety