Understanding the Standards’ references

By Guillaume Promé
Feb. 24, 2022 General information

This article’s objective is to clarify the Standards’ references. As you will have noticed from your research: the names of the standards are difficult to grasp and the explanations are not easy to find. This article gives the definitions of the main terms, using information from ISO where available.understanding the names of standards

The different categories of abbreviations used in Standards’ references

Four main groups of information are deduced from the title of a standard, they usually appear in this order:

  • The document type;
  • The geographic area covered by the document;
  • The organisation behind the drafting; and
  • The current stage in the drafting cycle.

Information on standards bodies

Here is a list of the standardisation bodies most active:

Abbreviation Signification Example
CEN European Committee for Standardisation FD CEN/TR 14739
ETSI European Telecommunication Standards Institute AC ETSI/TS 101456
IEEE Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ISO/IEEE 11073
IEC International Electrotechnical Commission ISO/IEC 11801
ISO International Organization for Standardization ISO 14001
UTE Union Technique de l’Electricité UTE C18-510

We note that combinations are possible in the title of standards, for example with IEEE 11073: this standard was drafted by the IEEE then adopted by the ISO and its members: ISO/IEEE 11073 and finally by the CEN: CEN ISO/IEEE 11073.

Standard validation information

Information is presented in chronological order of stages in drafting an international standard:

Abbreviation Signification Example
WD Working Draft ISO/WD 16245
CD Comitte draft ISO/CD 9001
PAS Publicly Available Specification ISO/PAS 28007
DIS Draft for International Standard ISO/DIS 15686-5
FDIS Final Draft for International Standard ISO/FDIS 13485
TR Technical Report ISO/TR 16982
TS Technical Specification ISO/TS 16949

Some documents complement or substitute for others:

  • ISO/PAS instead of a CD;
  • ISO/TS or ISO/TR (for a non-normative document) in addition to a DIS.

Information on the “area of applicability” of the standard

Having a geographical indication does not mean that the standard becomes mandatory, it has simply been adopted in the area described. It may also mean that the standard is country specific.

Abbreviation Signification Area Example
BS British Standards United Kingdom BS EN 1024
DIN Deutsches Institut für Normung Germany DIN EN ISO 9001
EN European Norm Europe EN ISO 14122-3
NBN Bureau de Normalisation Belgium NBN EN ISO 6946
NF Norme Française France NF C 15-100
SN Schweizerische Normen Switzerland SN EN 206-1

This information can also cumulate, let’s take the NF EN ISO 14971 standard on Application of risk management to medical devices :

  1. It is an international standard: ISO.
  2. The European Commission has added it to the list of harmonised standards: Software Item.
  3. The AFNOR (French Standardization Association) has published a French version: NF.

Note that the requirements of ISO, EN ISO and NF EN ISO standards are strictly the same

Only the Z annexes distinguish the different prints, for example the Z annex of ISO 13485:2016.

Regarding harmonised standards: they are harmonised with respect to the requirements of a European Directive, in the case of medical devices they are harmonised to the Directive 93/42/EEC.

The case of NF standards (France)

No official source define the codification of NF (French) standards, but one can note the use of the following codes:

Abbreviation Scope/Industry Example
NF A Metallurgy NF A 02-004
NF B Carriers, ceramics, glass, wood NF B 52-001
NF C Electricity NF C 15-100
NF C, E, X Pictograms (?) NF E 85-015
NF D Domestical economy (Housekeeping) NF D 27-402
NF E Mechanics (drawing?) NF E 02-352
NF F Railway NF F 16-101
NF G Textiles NF G 38 019
NF H Goods distribution NF H 00-060
NF J Naval Industry NF J 32-442
NF K Banks, insurance NF K 11-111
NF L Aerospace NF L 00-015
NF M Energies NF M 88-513
NF P Building, civil engineering NF P 90-306
NF Q Paper and print formats NF Q 12-008
NF R Automotive, cycles NF R 15-601
NF S Miscellaneous industries (Acoustics?) NF S 60-303
NF T Chemical industries NF T 72-150
NF U Materials and objects used in Agriculture NF U 44-051
NF V Agricultural products (fishery?) NF U 12-037
NF X Work methods and training, basic/general standards NF X 35-102
NF Z Data, document and archive management. Administration, business NF Z 42-013

Other document types

Not all documents are standards, there are also guides and other good practices:

Abbreviation Signification Example
AC “Accord” (Agreement) AC X50-178
BP “Bonne pratique” (Good practice) BP X30-120
CWA CEN Workshop Agreement CWA 14169
FD “Fascicule de Documentation” (Documentation booklet) FD X50-176
GA Application Guide GA A36-355
IWA ISO Workshop Agreement IWA 2:2007
PR PRoject (draft standard) PR NF s70-003-3
XP eXPerimental standard XP S99-223

Other considerations

Other rules are applied to construct the title of a standard, here are the most common:

Information Format Example
Amendment title/Amendment NF EN 1970/A1
Validation date title:date NF EN 60601-1:2007-01
Part(s) of standard part-title-subpart NF EN 60601-2-38
Correction AC:date EN ISO 10993-1:2009 AC:2010