Standards ensure quality, safety and legal certainty.
When cyclone Emma raged over Lower Austria in March 2008, a tragic accident happened in St. Pölten: an old, 20-metre-high poplar fell due to the violent winds and hit a BMW convertible driving past. The front-seat passenger died, the three other persons in the car - including a little child - suffered severe injuries. Being the owner of the tree, the City of St. Pölten was ordered to pay damages.
"Local government involves great responsibility for the citizens and high risk for the city or town in question. When I heard about the tragic accident in St. Pölten, I initiated the preparation of a tree register in my town," says Arno Guggenbichler, Mayor of Absam in the Tyrol.
ÖNORM L 1122 "Tree inspection and tree care" recommends such a tree register that should record all trees growing in the built-up and traffic areas of a city, their inspection for stability and the results of regular status checks.
"After the initial inspection by experts, we had to prune strongly more than ten percent of our approximately 570 trees. In addition, we even had to log some trees because their trunks were already hollow or rotten and therefore resulted in serious hazards," Guggenbichler continues.
"The relevant employees of the town have taken a course so that they know precisely what they have to bear in mind during tree care work in order to minimize potential risks. My primary concern is not to avoid financial liability but it rather is a matter of conscience," the Mayor adds. "The citizens of our town rely on those in charge to do their utmost to ensure safety and quality of living in the town. We must not abuse their trust."
Absam's Mayor gives top priority to the safety of the town's 6,800 citizens. From adequate safety for children at care facilities, schools or playgrounds to optimum lighting at pedestrian crossings and from compliance with quality standards for drinking water to nursing care for senior citizens - the spectrum of responsibilities to be fulfilled by him and his team is broad.
"Of course, I need to rely on expertise," admits Guggenbichler. "Standards contain condensed know-how and, thus, they provide invaluable support and practical assistance in our day-to-day work. How else would my team or contracted experts know, for example, how well the pedestrian crossing has to be lit during the night so that pedestrians are visible for drivers in time?" Absam's Mayor gives particular attention to strict compliance with standards especially in tendering and procurement processes as well as the design, construction and maintenance of playgrounds, kindergartens and schools.
The municipality is particularly proud of Absam's retirement home - the first Austrian care institution certified according to ÖNORM EN 15224 "Health care services - Quality management systems". ÖNORM EN 15224 contains all the requirements of the international standard ISO 9001 (quality management systems) together with additional healthcare-related specifications on risk management as well as patient and occupant safety.
"Compliance with standards assures me - in my function as mayor - that everything is done in line with the current state of the art and that safety and quality standards are implemented for the benefit of the citizens. Without the standards package that we customized with the help of Austrian Standards, it would be very difficult to keep always abreast of the state of the art," emphasizes Guggenbichler.
"Based on the standards relevant for our town, I have access to sound technical knowledge whenever needed. For me, the standards portfolio is, so to speak, a herald, guide and supervisor for municipal activities. There is hardly anybody who has more bosses than a mayor - no matter whether a public building is constructed or administrative tasks are performed: in Absam our work is scrutinized by 6,800 pairs of eyes. They check whether everything is done properly. Our citizens don't let themselves be fobbed off with empty promises. They call for transparency and traceable decisions. Standards help us fully document processes and give us the assurance that we act diligently and properly in decision-making," concludes Guggenbichler.