Value of StandardsBy Jason Malcore, AEM Director of Global Standards & Compliance


On March 20, 1905, at 7:50 AM, a massive blast rocked the town of Brockton, Massachusetts when the backup boiler at the R.B. Grover Shoe Factory exploded; hurtling the boiler through the floors above and lodging itself in a living room a half block away.  

The explosion collapsed the five-story factory on top of the 300 workers inside, killing 58 and injuring 150. In the months that followed, investigators determined that the explosion was the result of boiler design flaws, inadequate inspection procedures, and improper maintenance practices at the factory.  

It remains one of the worst industrial accidents in American history.  

Boiler explosions were a common occurrence in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Between 1880 and 1890, the United States experienced over 2,000 boiler explosions, with over 100,000 similarly defective units in operation throughout the nation. The aftermath of the Grover Shoe Factory accident prompted urgent calls from politicians and members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) to address the ongoing crisis once and for all. The resulting efforts led to the formation of the ASME Boiler Code Committee in 1911, and the publication of the first Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) in 1914. The BPVC established one of the earliest models of standards-development for product safety in the modern world.  

Increasing safety concerns, the need for precision in design specifications of machinery, and the growing demands for interoperability for new technologies drove the rapid growth of standardization on the international level. These voluntary consensus standards helped modern industries achieve economies of scale, boost efficiencies in production, and increase safety for workers and consumers across the world. Without standards, industries built on complex technological infrastructure would lack key operational characteristics that ensure smooth transactions between companies and their customers.   


In today’s world of safety and product standards, an organization like ASME is commonly recognized as a Standard Development Organization (SDO). An SDO is a group dedicated to the creation of technical, safety, process, and test standards intended to foster uniformity of accepted practices across industries, polities, and people. There are hundreds of SDOs around the world providing the intellectual, financial, and administrative infrastructure of the standards development universe. These organizations are the rule-setters and gatekeepers, providing the administrative and financial backing that empower subject matter experts to share ideas, debate, and provide content during the standards writing process. As a collective, the SDO community will focus on a variety of topic areas ranging from organizations like the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), which focuses on agricultural, food, water, and biological systems, to wide ranging organizations like the International Standards Organization (ISO), which overseas many different industries and issues.   

As important as an SDO is for providing the overarching organizational and administrative framework for the standard development process, the Technical Committees represent the actual platform where standards are produced. The Technical Committees provide the working platform for subject matter experts and stakeholder groups to debate issues, produce documents, and produce consensus on the standard’s final version.  It is the Technical Committee level where AEM invests much of its time and resources to help member companies voice their ideas, comments, and concerns to the international community.  


While the development and adoption of global safety and product standards over the last two centuries has made the world a safer, more productive place, the future will likely be defined by increasing competition among countries striving to influence the standard-setting agenda. Deciding which standards are written and revised, controlling who participates in the relevant Technical Committees, and shaping the overarching direction of international standards bodies will have profound effects on the global economy. 

As a former president of ISO stated, “Whoever leads in standard-setting will be the leader of the [sic] technology and the controller of the market.” Understanding these truths should warn affected stakeholders of the importance of continued engagement with and participation in the SDO community, and their associated technical committee work. 

AEM remains dedicated to addressing these growing issues by continuing to coordinate resources, time, and energy toward future standards development. Our efforts to finance, administer, and host various relevant Technical Committees, in addition to a continued cooperation with relevant SDOs, will ensure the industry’s voice remains heard on the global stage far into the future. In this manner, AEM’s member companies will help build a world open to competition, efficient in operation, and safe for both worker and consumer alike.

AEM Safety & Product Leadership

"Do it once, do it right, do it globally" has been the longstanding motto of AEM’s Safety & Product Leadership Department, and it guides efforts to address ever-increasing global demands on equipment manufacturers to develop machines that are safe, productive and compliant. To learn more, visit

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