BSI Kitemark certification symbol

British Standards (BS) are the standards produced by the BSI Group which is incorporated under a royal charter and which is formally designated as the national standards body (NSB) for the UK.[1] The BSI Group produces British Standards under the authority of the charter, which lays down as one of the BSI's objectives to:[2]

Set up standards of quality for goods and services, and prepare and promote the general adoption of British Standards and schedules in connection therewith and from time to time to revise, alter and amend such standards and schedules as experience and circumstances require.

— BSI Royal Charter, Faller and Graham[2]

Formally, as stated in a 2002 memorandum of understanding between the BSI and the United Kingdom Government, British Standards are defined as:

"British Standards" means formal consensus standards as set out in BS 0-1 paragraph 3.2 and based upon the principles of standardisation recognised inter alia in European standardisation policy.

— Memorandum of Understanding Between the United Kingdom Government and the British Standards Institution in Respect of its Activities as the United Kingdom's National Standards Body, United Kingdom Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills [3]

Products and services which BSI certifies as having met the requirements of specific standards within designated schemes are awarded the Kitemark.[4]


BSI Group began in 1901 as the Engineering Standards Committee, led by James Mansergh, to standardize the number and type of steel sections, in order to make British manufacturers more efficient and competitive. Over time the standards developed to cover many aspects of tangible engineering, and then engineering methodologies including quality systems, safety and security.


The BSI Group as a whole does not produce British Standards, as standards work within the BSI is decentralized. The governing board of BSI establishes a Standards Board. The Standards Board does little apart from setting up sector boards (a sector in BSI parlance being a field of standardization such as ICT, quality, agriculture, manufacturing, or fire). Each sector board, in turn, constitutes several technical committees. It is the technical committees that, formally, approve a British Standard, which is then presented to the secretary of the supervisory sector board for endorsement of the fact that the technical committee has indeed completed a task for which it was constituted.[5]


The standards produced are titled British Standard XXXX[-P]:YYYY where XXXX is the number of the standard, P is the number of the part of the standard (where the standard is split into multiple parts) and YYYY is the year in which the standard came into effect. BSI Group currently has over 27,000 active standards. Products are commonly specified as meeting a particular British Standard, and in general, this can be done without any certification or independent testing. The standard simply provides a shorthand way of claiming that certain specifications are met, while encouraging manufacturers to adhere to a common method for such a specification.

The Kitemark can be used to indicate certification by BSI, but only where a Kitemark scheme has been set up around a particular standard. It is mainly applicable to safety and quality management standards. There is a common misunderstanding that Kitemarks are necessary to prove compliance with any BS standard, but in general, it is neither desirable nor possible that every standard be 'policed' in this way.

Following the move on harmonization of the standard in Europe, some British Standards are gradually being superseded or replaced by the relevant European Standards (EN).

Status of standards

Standards are continuously reviewed and developed and are periodically allocated one or more of the following status keywords.[6]


See also: List of British Standards

BSI Group headquarters in Chiswick, London.

PAS documents

BSI also publishes a series of Publicly Available Specification (PAS) documents.

PAS documents are a flexible and rapid standards development model open to all organizations. A PAS is a sponsored piece of work allowing organizations flexibility in the rapid creation of a standard while also allowing for a greater degree of control over the document's development. A typical development time frame for a PAS is around six to nine months. Once published by BSI, a PAS has all the functionality of a British Standard for the purposes of creating schemes such as management systems and product benchmarks as well as codes of practice. A PAS is a living document and after two years the document will be reviewed and a decision made with the client as to whether or not this should be taken forward to become a formal standard. The term PAS was originally an abbreviation for "product approval specification", a name which was subsequently changed to "publicly available specification". However, according to BSI, not all PAS documents are structured as specifications and the term is now sufficiently well established not to require any further amplification.


Further information: Publicly Available Specification § List of specifications


Copies of British Standards are sold at the BSI Online Shop[9] or can be accessed via subscription to British Standards Online (BSOL).[10] They can also be ordered via the publishing units of many other national standards bodies (ANSI, DIN, etc.) and from several specialized suppliers of technical specifications.

British Standards, including European and international adoptions, are available in many university and public libraries that subscribe to the BSOL platform. Librarians and lecturers at UK-based subscribing universities have full access rights to the collection while students can copy/paste and print but not download a standard.[citation needed] Up to 10% of the content of a standard can be copy/pasted for personal or internal use and up to 5% of the collection made available as a paper or electronic reference collection at the subscribing university. Because of their reference material status standards are not available for interlibrary loan. Public library users in the UK may have access to BSOL on a view-only basis if their library service subscribes to the BSOL platform. Users may also be able to access the collection remotely if they have a valid library card and the library offers secure access to its resources.

The BSI Knowledge Centre in Chiswick, London can be contacted directly about viewing standards in their Members' Reading Room.[11]

See also


  1. ^ H.M. Glass G. Weston (1959). "Standardization in the United Kingdom". International Symposium on Plastics Testing and Standardization. ASTM special technical publication. Vol. 247. American Society for Testing Materials International. pp. 37–38.
  2. ^ a b J.M. Faller and M.H. Graham (2003). "Standards, Specifications, and codes of practice". In Geoffrey Stokes (ed.). Handbook of Electrical Installation Practice (4th ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 305–306. ISBN 978-0-632-06002-3.
  3. ^ "Memorandum of Understanding Between the United Kingdom Government and the British Standards Institution in Respect of its Activities as the United Kingdom's National Standards Body" (PDF). United Kingdom Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills. 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 6, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  4. ^ "BSI Kitemark - When it matters most for consumers". BSI Group. Archived from the original on September 20, 2019. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  5. ^ Harm Schepel (2005). The constitution of private governance: product standards in the regulation of integrating markets. International studies in the theory of private law. Vol. 4. Hart Publishing. pp. 121–124. ISBN 978-1-84113-487-1.
  6. ^ "Guide to using the BSI shop". Archived from the original on April 7, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  7. ^ "Wartime Camouflage Colours". Patrickbaty. Archived from the original on May 14, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  8. ^ Baty, Patrick (December 2, 2011). "Colours for Flat Finishes for Wall Decoration". Archived from the original on February 8, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  9. ^ "BSI Online Shop". Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  10. ^ "British Standards Online". Archived from the original on July 14, 2009. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  11. ^ "BSI Knowledge Centre (includes library)". Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2014.