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In Search of Harmony: How Binational Standards Benefit Us

Finding the commonalities between national requirements help make doing business a little bit easier for all stakeholders. The horticultural industry represents one example of what can happen when organizations work across boundaries to harmonize varying standards.

Horticultural lighting shines on indoor plants

February 26, 2020

Doing business in the modern world should be easy. After all, we have at our fingertips multiple tools to help us manage our operations, our suppliers and even our employees. Robots, the internet, airplanes, cargo containers, voice over internet protocols; we technically have it all.

But, it’s not easy, is it?

The truth is, business is never easy. There is always a new threat on the horizon, whether it’s a disruptive technology, the entry of a new competitor or anyone and anything in between the two. What should be easy, however, is complying with the requirements and safety standards of the markets waiting for your products to be sold.

The development of harmonized safety standards is one process that benefits multiple stakeholders. Harmonization provides a uniform set of requirements that help minimize redundant or conflicting standards, reduce testing and auditing complexity and cut compliance costs. Additionally, the number of model stock-keeping units in a product family could be reduced due to the more streamlined requirements process. 

The horticultural industry represents an example of stakeholders benefitting from the harmonization of standards. Cannabis, now legal throughout Canada and in select U.S. states, faces challenges at each stage of the production process. The cannabis industry is made up of legal cultivators and producers, ancillary products and services, and code authorities.

Each stakeholder faces its own unique set of risks and challenges, many of which are now being addressed by the development of binational standards. Here are two specific illustrations that demonstrate the need for harmonized standards.

Indoor cultivation hazards

Cultivators and industrial growers need to provide specific conditions for plants to develop, such as proper temperatures, light regimen, humidity levels, watering frequency and nutrients. Depending on the growth medium, soil may or may not be required as many plants, including cannabis, can be grown indoors through hydroponics.

Indoor farming is usually the method of choice for many cultivators as it delivers an optimized environment for cultivation. Luminaires and grow systems specifically designed for horticultural applications are a critical technology in indoor environments. However, luminaires and grow systems can also represent a hazard to the health and wellness of the employees of indoor farms.

The potential adverse effects of light from grow lights on the skin and eyes of employees are one consideration that businesses should be mindful of. Other potential human hazards include injuries from fallen lights, broken glass from shattered lamp bulbs and electrical shock and burns due to the degrading effects of damp, wet environments on electrical components.

Environmental hazards can also affect luminaires and grow systems. UV exposure, either from sunlight in a greenhouse or introduced from inside the grow light, can cause polymeric materials to become brittle and more susceptible to breakage, while dust, moisture and water infiltration can compromise a light system’s performance and reliability. 

However, adherence to the safety criteria addressed in the binational standard ANSI/CAN/UL 8800, Standard for Horticultural Lighting Equipment and Systems, offers the indoor plant business an opportunity to communicate its commitment to the overall safety of their horticultural facility. Additionally, having one binational agreement between Canadian and U.S. standards development organizations means that plant cultivators can source their equipment from both countries that have UL/ULC listings to the standard.

Plant oil extraction hazards

Plant oil extraction facilities may face a different set of challenges than found in indoor grow farms, but they share in the convenience of one binational standard for Canada and the U.S., ANSI/CAN/UL/ULC 1389:2019, Standard for Plant Oil Extraction Equipment for Installation and Use in Ordinary (Unclassified) Locations and Hazardous (Classified) Locations. The use of essential oils in medical products, nutritional supplements and recreational use is rapidly increasing. However, extracting plant oil can be a dangerous activity.

Processors sometimes use flammable or combustible materials to remove the oil from the plant, which may create a potentially explosive atmosphere. Fire and explosion incidents have been reported across the country, revealing the need for greater equipment safety in the plant oil extraction processing.

The requirements in the binational standard for plant oil extraction equipment allows manufacturers to design and manufacture new processing equipment according to a consistent set of criteria, thereby evaluating the level of safety in the industry and avoiding delays in the building permit process by alleviating concerns for local code authorities.

Under the binational standard, equipment manufacturers can market their products to both Canadian and U.S. customers without the complexities of differing requirements as well as avoiding installation issues by using UL certified extraction systems.

Recognized guidelines

Whenever a binational standard is adopted and published, the standard becomes the recognized guideline for each country and can be referenced in local and municipal codes. A balanced group of stakeholders developed each consensus-based standard. Code authorities in Canada and the U.S. can be confident in referencing the two standards in their jurisdiction.

For business license holders, whether plant cultivator or plant extractor, having a balanced group of stakeholders means that the process and guidelines built into the standard were not unduly influenced by any one organization or individual.

Harmonization finds the commonalities between national requirements to provide a common standard. In the end, the development of harmonized, binational standards help make doing business a little bit easier, and that’s a big win for everyone.