Understanding standards

A standard is an agreed way of doing something in a consistent and repeatable way. Standards set minimum requirements in terms of safety, reliability, efficiency and trust
Our publications

What is an international standard

IEC International Standards reflect the global consensus and distilled wisdom of many thousand technical experts who are delegated by their countries to participate in the IEC.

They provide instructions, guidelines, rules or definitions that are then used to design, manufacture, install, test & certify, maintain and repair electrical and electronic devices and systems.

IEC International Standards are essential for quality and risk management; they help researchers understand the value of innovation and allow manufacturers to produce products of consistent quality and performance. IEC International Standards are always used by technical experts; they are always voluntary and based on the international consensus of experts from many countries.

International standards also form the basis for testing and certification. 

International standards are also often adopted by countries or regions to become national or regional standards. For example, close to 80% of European electrical and electronic standards are in fact IEC International Standards.

On the other side, regulations are rules or directives that are made and maintained by a national or regional authority. Generally, compliance with regulations is a must.

However, it is quite common for technical regulations to refer to international standards because standards help avoid that the law becomes too detailed or descriptive. This approach allows laws to stay current because standards are regularly reviewed and updated.


Standardization Management Board

The SMB (Standardization Management Board) is responsible for the management and supervision of IEC standardization work. The SMB is a decision-making body which reports to the CB (Council Board).

Read the SMB Communiqué newsletter

Development process

The IEC has a clear, well-established and strictly controlled standards development process. It governs the development and publication of IEC International Standards and other types of publications and includes enough time for comments by all stakeholders at different stages of development.

IEC National Committees (IEC Members), are involved at every stage of the process.

IEC publications are developed in over 200 technical committees and subcommittees (TC/SCs) and hundreds of working groups, each responsible for a specific technology area.


Help ensure the safety and efficiency of devices, systems or services for people and the environment


Allow products to work and connect with others


Are used in testing and certification to verify that manufacturer promises are kept  


Can provide technical details in regulations


Facilitate international trade

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IEC publications at a glance

Total Publications (as of 2019-12-31)

International Standards 6952
Technical Specifications 358
Technical Reports 614
IEC Guides 14
Total publications developed by IEC CO 7976
Publications developed outside IEC CO 2724
Total publications 10700

Publications issued in 2019 (including 2 Guides)

International Standards 477
Technical Specifications 39
Technical Reports 53
Total IEC production 575
Production outside IEC CO 173
Total production 748

Active projects (as of 2019-12-31)

Total Projects 1719

FDIS (Final Draft International Standard) issued in 2019

with CENELEC parallel vote 207
Total FDIS 326

CDV (Committee Draft for Vote) issued 2019

with CENELEC parallel enquiry 346
Total CDV 444

Average development time

Months 32,5

Our publications

IEC TC/SCs (Technical committees and subcommittees) develop international standards and other types of publications for a specific area of electrotechnology.

Standards development stages

An overview of the development process of a new IEC International Standard.

A systems approach

A systems approach focuses on the whole system rather than each individual part.

Benefits of using IEC Standards & conformity assessment

Standards describe the processes and methods to ensure the safety, reliability, and performance of electrical systems and information technologies. Conformity assessment verifies that the written word is applied in the real world.

Public commenting 

Why comment? Help shape international standards in your field. Take this opportunity to provide your expert comments on draft IEC Standards (CDVs) before they are published. 

Management structure

In this section, you can find more information about how the IEC is organized.