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Learn How To Find Standards

Looking for a Standard? You can begin with a simple online search, but featured here are specialized search tools that will help you work faster and smarter.

Before you begin your search be aware that most standards must be purchased in electronic form or hardcopy from the standards developer sponsoring the standard or an authorized standards re-seller. Here are a few tips on searching for standards.

Industry Standards | International Standards | Military Standards | Standards Issued or Adopted by Federal Agencies | Standards Search Engines  | Voluntary Product Standards

Industry Standards

There are thousands of Industry Standards in the U.S. developed by professionals in specific industry sectors such as telecommunications, concrete, fire protection, information technology, etc. Many industry sector standards are included in the standards search engines provided by IHS, TechStreet, and SAI Global.

However, when looking for standards it is useful to also search a standards developer's site. There are over 600 standards developers based in the U.S., many of which are international in scope and participation. The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) maintains a listing of U.S. industry standards developing organizations on the ANSI Standards Portal.

View and add to our list of standards organizations that offer free access to their standards.


International Standards

There are a diversity of bodies involved in the preparation of standards used globally. These include governmental or treaty organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and organizations that are either specialized in standardization or involved in other activities. In general, an international standard is voluntary and has no legal status unless a regulatory authority requires conformance to that standard.

It is the policy of the U.S. government to use the term "international standard" to refer to standards developed in conformity with the principles of the WTO TBT Committee's 2000 Decision on the Principles for the Development of International Standards, which include (1) openness; (2) transparency; (3) impartiality and consensus; (4) relevance and effectiveness; (5) coherence; and (6) the development dimension.

Though many standards developers in the United States are international in scope and participation, there are several international standards bodies that operate by national representative participation, including:

Codex Alimentarius
Codex develops food standards, guidelines and related texts.

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
The IEC prepares and publishes international standards for electrical, electronic and related technologies.

International Organizations for Standardization (ISO)
The ISO supports a wide-range of standardization work on everything from screw threads to ship building.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
ITU's scope of standardization is global telecommunications. ITU's standards documents, called Recommendations, can be downloaded for free on the ITU website.


Military Standards

Military standards are important for government contracts and procurement. You can search for government and military standards (and in many cases get the text for free) on:

ASSIST Quick Search
Searchable access to full-text Defense and Federal specifications and standards available in the official DoD repository. Registration is not required.

DTIC Online
The Defense Technical Information Center is the largest central resource for DoD and government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business related information and is an excellent complement or back-up to ASSIST tools. This site offers an easy to use link to the full text DoD Specifications and Standards eAccess database.


Standards Issued or Adopted by Federal Agencies

NIST's Standards Incorporated by Reference (SIBR) database contains the voluntary consensus standards, government unique standards, private industry standards, and international standards that are referenced in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which codifies all Federal regulations in the United States. SIBR also includes standards that are used by U.S. Federal Government Agencies in procurement activities.

ANSI's Incorporated by Reference (IBR) Portal provides access to standards that have been incorporated by reference in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These standards incorporated by the U.S. government in rulemakings are offered at no cost in “read only” format and are presented for online reading. There are no print or download options.

Many government agencies offer databases and websites that aggregate and track their standards requirements and programs:

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) protects the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products. The CPSC site (available in English and Spanish) includes an easy to use database of regulated products, and tools to identify mandatory and voluntary standards.

Department of Energy
A searchable database of approved and draft Department of Energy technical standards

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The EPA offers a keyword searchable database, the Environmental Monitoring & Assessment Program (EMAP) of bibliographic citations relating to the environment; includes citations to standards for evaluating pollutants.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
FDA's Recognized Consensus Standards database includes all national and international standards recognized by FDA which medical device manufacturers can declare conformity to.

General Services Administration (GSA)
GSA maintains an Index of Federal Specifications, Standards and Commercial Item Descriptions, and a list of Federal Vehicle Standards, providing the full text of federal standards for ambulances, buses, fuel/water tankers, light trucks, medium & heavy trucks, sedans, and wreckers & carriers.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
A comprehensive and easy to use resource for locating current OSHA standards and enforcement-related information. Includes links to interpretations, enforcement guides, and other enforcement related information.

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)
NHTSA is the arm of the Department of Transportation that is concerned with automotive safety. The NHTSA safety requirements are set forth in the series of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
NIST Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) for Federal computer systems. The FIPS Listed by Number lists gives publication number, date of issue, and a short abstract for each FIPS PUB.

National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)
NSTC publishes the Registry of USG Recommended Biometric Standards.  This Registry is based upon interagency consensus on biometric standards required to enable the interoperability of various Federal biometric applications, and to guide Federal agencies as they develop and implement related biometric programs.


Standards Search Engines

These free specialized databases aggregate the collections of the major standards developers worldwide (ASTM, ISO, UL, etc.) and can help you quickly search a global library of standards. Searching these databases is free and all offer the option of purchasing the standard.

Document Center Inc.
Access to over 750,000 documents, sells standards and provides monitoring, auditing, and updating services. 

The IHS Standards Store has over 800,000 standards, specifications, and codes; available in English, French and Dutch.

SAI Global Standards Infobase
Provides access to over 1 million world-wide engineering standards and specifications, current and historical. Registration (which is free) is required to search the database.

Online database of over 400,000 industry codes and standards aggregated from 350 of the world's leading Standards Developing Organizations.


Voluntary Product Standards

The purpose of the Voluntary Product Standards is to establish nationally recognized requirements for products and to provide all concerned interests with a basis for common understanding of the characteristics of a product.





  • Standards Coordination Office
    (301) 975-4000
    NIST, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 2100
    Gaithersburg, MD 20899-2100
Created July 28, 2016, Updated November 4, 2022