The Weights and Measures Act cap. 331 could soon be replaced by modern legal metrology legislation.

Director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Terry Bascombe, said measurement activities were still governed by weights and measures legislation.  “However, new legislation addressing the transformation from weights and measures to legal metrology has already been drafted,” he revealed. “The new piece of legislation will eventually replace the Weights and Measures Act, which has a relatively narrow focus on matters related to industrial metrology; albeit, some activities are of a legal metrology nature.” 

Mr. Bascombe made these disclosures during a seminar sponsored by the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI), Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), on the Importance of Traceability, Verification and Calibration Services.  The event took place last Wednesday at the Bagnall’s Point Gallery, Pelican Craft Centre, Princess Alice Highway, St. Michael.

Mr. Bascombe was one of the speakers who made presentations on the proposed Regional Quality Infrastructure (RQI) system which Barbados and other Caribbean countries are seeking to implement.

According to him, legal metrology is concerned with the regulatory requirement of measurements and measuring instruments for the protection of health, public safety, the environment, taxation, fair trade and consumer protection. Noting that Barbados still had a long way to go regarding the development of its metrological capabilities,                         

Mr. Bascombe called for greater public awareness about metrology and its benefits to the island’s social, environmental and economic development.  “The Ministry makes its contribution in this regard.  Every year on May 20, we celebrate World Metrology Day and we use the occasion to share as much information as possible with the public, usually based on the theme chosen for the day.  We also visit schools around the island and give lectures.  From time to time, we disseminate information in the print and electronic media; but as the saying goes, more can be done,” he said.

Underscoring the need for improved standards, Mr. Bascombe said the new rules that governed the international trading environment, had forced the region to pay “rapt attention to technical trade barriers, as it related to product standards and the measurement of accuracy”.

The Director further stated that “in an era when small developing countries no longer benefit from preferential treatment, especially prices, issues related to market access and competitiveness automatically determine economic survival.  So, it is imperative that our trading mechanisms are complemented and supported by capable standards and metrological frameworks,” Mr. Bascombe added.

The BNSI’s Chief Technical Officer (Specifications), Fabian Scott, pointed to the links between metrology, the science of correct and realiable measurements; effective calibration, determining the validity of measurements taken by measuring instruments, and traceability, following measurements that had been recorded to ensure that the instruments used in the respective industries were up to national standards.

He opined that in an era of globalisation and trade liberalisation, it was imperative that a country’s standards were aligned with the international community. “Precise measurements in quality-related aspects, are becoming increasingly important in a globalised production environment from transnational firms and to our local suppliers.  Therefore, we must aim to guarantee reliable traceability and inter-comparison measurements that will vouch for our technical competence,” Mr. Scott added.

The Chief Technical Officer said the BNSI was the national custodian and verifier of reference standards and as part of its mandate, the organisation must obtain, develop, conserve and disseminate, the basic measurement units and uphold the highest calibration standards.
Mr. Scott also reminded the more than three dozen participants about Government’s plan to modernise the Barbados National Standards System, a project which would harmonise the island’s national standards system, so as to improve competitiveness, consumer protection, trade facilitation and market access.

On completion of the project, Mr. Scott hoped that local producers would be in a better position to compete in both the local and external markets and consumers would benefit from better products and improved quality of life. “It is anticipated that the project will ultimately contribute to the support of a competitive export-led development path.  The main benefit of the project comes from the adoption and implementation of the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) Model. The new Model will align and standardise Barbados with other Caribbean countries in terms of quality of products and services and legislation that would contribute to the facilitation of regional trade, he stressed.

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