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Standards Australia: The Optical Industry Connection

While a simple concept, standards can be met with mixed reactions because their development and implementation can be quite complex.  Amanda Trotman pays tribute to the optical industry volunteers who contribute to this process.

For more than 100 years, Standards Australia has been developing standards for almost everything we touch. From the beds we sleep in and the food we consume, to the cars we drive and the places we call home.

There are up to 10,000 standards across a range of sectors, from manufacturing and construction to energy and mining, public safety, communications, and information technology, transport, health, logistics, and beyond. And, of course, the ophthalmic industry.

Standards Australia celebrated its centenary in 2022, so it’s timely to recognise the contribution of ophthalmic industry volunteers in the process of standards development. Because of the complexity of developing standards, many individuals are involved.

While these people are often called upon because of their expertise in their paid role, their involvement with Standards Australia is in a voluntary capacity, requiring them to juggle time commitments with their work and home life.

In the words of Standards Australia, “these people are at the core of delivering standards that continue to benefit Australians in their daily lives”.

ODMA PARTICIPATION

The main Ophthalmic Industry Australian Standards committees that Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA) representatives have membership on are:

  • MS-024 – Spectacle Lenses (and associated sub-committees such as Instrumentation, Contact Lenses, Spectacle Frames, Implants etc.),
  • SF-052 – Personal Safety – Personal Protective Equipment (and associated subcommittees), and
  • SF-006 – Eye and Face Protection (including sunglasses).

Australian Standards (AS) committees often ‘mirror’ International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committees and are a conduit for Australian industry input to the relevant ISO. Many of the existing Australian standards are now either direct adoptions or modified adoptions of the ISO standards.

ROLE OF INDUSTRY REPRESENTATION

So, what does an industry representative on a Standards Australia committee do?

The committees are formed by membership positions from all sectors of the related industry. This includes academics, professional practitioners, manufacturing, distribution, regulatory sectors, consumer bodies etc. ODMA participants represent the interests of the manufacturing and distribution sectors of the ophthalmic industry.

As part of their commitment to Standards Australia, ODMA representatives nominate and become project members for standards development and revision activities. They also:

  • Attend local and international meeting forums and standards development workshops,
  • Facilitate industry input to feed into the standards development process,
  • Consult with industry for standards interpretation and application,
  • Communicate Australian input into the ISO forums, and
  • Provide expert advice to industry and government representatives, helping shape legislation and policy.

They provide expert knowledge, input, and comment on the development of new standards, and revision of existing standards as the industry continues to evolve. This is at a local and international level. This ensures that appropriate industry standards requirements and test methods are developed to protect consumers and the industry alike, while not adding administrative and cost burdens.

ODMA representatives have helped to navigate through significant industry challenges and changes such as:

  • Transition of the ophthalmic industry from glass products to plastic resin products,
  • Transition and evolution of the industry from conventional lens manufacture (semifinished and finished cast lens product types) to ‘freeform’ lens manufacturing,
  • Programs of adoption of ISO standards (2009) in place of local standards,
  • The reference wavelength standard used in the optics and photonics industries,
  • Evolution of progressive lens standards,
  • Technology developments of materials, coatings and treatments, including anti-reflective, abrasion resistance, and photochromic, and
  • Spectral transmittance, that is Ultraviolet Light protection UV400, which is unique to Australia’s UV exposure levels, traffic signal recognition, photochromic spectral performance, and others.

These topics had the potential to significantly impact the local industry in terms of cost, product integrity, export and import issues, barriers to trade, and consumer protection.

At times, the standards have led technology changes to the industry and on other occasions, lagged technology changes, and have needed to quickly modify and adapt to maintain relevancy.

… these people are at the core of delivering standards that continue to benefit Australians in their daily lives

HONOUR ROLL CALL

ODMA representatives have contributed to standards development and evolution for the ophthalmic industry for more than 50 years. The earliest ODMA involvement was by Dr Don Schultz in the late 1960s in the MS- 024 and SF-006 committees.

Dr Schultz was then a Director of Laubman and Pank, and a member of the Industrial Eye Protection committee. In 1972, he was replaced by Rod Watkins. Mr Watkins was a member of SF-006 Eye and Face Protection from 1972-1992, a member of MS-024 Ophthalmic Optics from 1975 to 1997, a member of CS 053 Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles 1975-1990, a Chairman of Contact Lenses and Contact Lens Solutions from 1980-1984, as well as an Australian Delegate for ISOTC172/SC7/WG5 Ophthalmic Optics from 1982-1987.

In recent years, we have been assisted by Kevin O’Connor, Professor David Atchison, Professor Stephen Dain (Chair of SF-006 Eye and Face Protection), Annette Hoskin (Chair of MS-024 Ophthalmic Optics), George Webster, Lionel Minter, Simon Pavy, and Tim Gibson.

Many have won awards in recognition of their great work along the way… and to highlight but a few achievements of these optical representatives (given they rarely sing their own praises):

Kevin O’Connor was the recipient of:

  • ISO award for outstanding contribution to the work of ISO / TC172 / SC7 / WG2 and ISO/ TC94 / SC6,
  • Excellence award for project leadership and expert in ISO/ TC 172/SC7 for ISO/ TR 20772-2018 ophthalmic optics – spectacle lenses,
  • Recognition of more than 20 years’ service in standardisation, noting technical expertise and superb writing skills to spectacle lens and eye protection standards,
  • Standards Australia ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ for 40 years’ commitment to national and international standards in the fields of eye and face protection and ophthalmic optics.

Tim McCann, former President of the Sunglass Association of Australia, has served on numerous sunglass standards committees since 2007. While Mr McCann is not a technical optical specialist, he has played an important role in helping to manage the application of the various standards into industry and assists ODMA with advice on sunglass matters.

ODMA Board Directors such as Lionel Minter, who has served as a Standards Australia representative since 2003, often take on a responsibility of a voting right on select committees to help ensure that the standards being developed are working in the best interests of the whole industry, effectively providing members with a voice in this important area.

THE NEXT GENERATION

On behalf of ODMA, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the optical representatives, past and present, who have worked tirelessly to assist our industry.

These dedicated professionals help drive innovation, keep consumers safe, and represent the optical industry in Australia and on the international stage.

We hope that there is a next generation of keen pioneering contributors waiting in the wings to get involved in Standards Australia. We seek committed individuals to take the industry forward and to learn from past valued contributors before they retire and we hope, focus on other more relaxing endeavors. If you want to be part of something bigger than your individual role, then please contact your industry associations and see how you can get involved.

At times, the standards have led technology changes… and on other occasions… have needed to quickly modify and adapt to maintain relevancy

Amanda Trotman is the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA), the peak body for wholesalers, manufacturers, and importers of optical products in Australia.