A national program to protect public health and safety by ensuring that certain nuts, bolts and other fasteners used in critical situations (such as attaching aircraft engines to fuselages) conform to specifications was launched formally today with publication of the final rule for the Fastener Quality Act of 1990.
Fasteners are a $6 billion U.S. industry critical to the automobile, aerospace, construction, chemical and manufacturing sectors. The Federal Register announcement by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology calls for the rule to become effective on Nov. 25, 1996, and the act to become official on May 27, 1997, allowing NIST and others time to accredit laboratories that test fasteners.
A second notice was published announcing that NIST will establish two new programs: (1) an Accreditation Body Evaluation Program to evaluate and approve, or recognize, qualified entities to accredit laboratories that perform testing of fastener products and materials; and (2) a NIST Fastener Laboratory Accreditation Program to accredit laboratories that perform inspection and testing of fastener products or materials. These two programs will carry out the requirements of the Fastener Quality Act of 1990, P.L. 101-592, as amended by the Technology Transfer and Advancement Act, March 1996 (P.L. 104-113). A third notice also was published for public comment announcing consensus standards organizations that develop standards for fasteners in accordance with Section 3(2) of the act.
The 1990 law protects public safety by (1) requiring that fasteners identified by the act conform to the exact specifications represented by the manufacturer; (2) providing for accreditation of laboratories engaged in fastener testing; and (3) requiring inspections, testing and certification, in accordance with standardized methods for fasteners covered by the act.
The basic requirements of the act as amended are: (1) manufacturers, importers and private label distributors mustcertify that fasteners meet applicable standards; (2) certification has to be based on tests carried out in "accredited laboratories"; (3) the manufacturer's trademark or insignia must be on the head of the fastener, if required by the applicable standards and specifications; (4) fastener lots cannot be commingled by manufacturers, importers and private label distributors; and (5) records of compliance must be kept for five years.
Responsibility for implementing the act was assigned to the Secretary of Commerce; NIST Technology Services Deputy Director David E. Edgerly oversaw the effort. NIST worked with the Fastener Advisory Committee and the Public Law Task Force to develop the final regulations.
The implementation consists of establishing the following procedures: (1) laboratories in compliance with the act must be listed by NIST in the "accredited laboratory list" that will be established under the program; (2) laboratories may apply to the NIST National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program for accreditation; (3) private and/or other government laboratory accreditation bodies or entities may apply to the NIST Accreditation Body Evaluation Program for approval to accredit laboratories.
The fastener regulations also establish a system within the Commerce Department's Patent and Trademark Office to record who manufactured the covered fasteners, allowing for quick tracing to their source or private label distributors. In addition, the regulations contain provisions on enforcement, civil penalties, and hearing and appeal procedures that will be administered by the department's Bureau of Export Administration.
The NIST Fastener Laboratory Accreditation Program will be operated under international standards. NIST operates its NVLAP accreditation programs in conformance with ISO/IEC Guide 58: 1993--Calibration and Testing Laboratory Accreditation Systems-- General Requirements for Operation and Recognition, and laboratories accredited by NVLAP meet the requirements of ISO/IEC Guide 25: 1990--General Requirements for the Competence of Calibration and Testing Laboratories.
The application period for laboratories interested in being accredited for the fastener program will begin immediately and will be open indefinitely. Completed applications returned to NIST will be scheduled for accreditation and assessment visits on a first come, first served basis.
NIST FQA program manager Subhas Malghan points out that the act will not be effective until there is an adequate number of accredited laboratories to carry out fastener testing. If NIST determines that the number of laboratories is insufficient, the effective date may be extended, Malghan adds.