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Oxebridge has learned that ISO is reconvening its Technical Management Board (TMB) Joint Technical Coordination Group to conduct a two-year revision to Annex SL, the controversial document that acts as the structural backbone for dozens of ISO management system standards, including ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

Dr. Nigel Croft has been named the convenor of the task group; Dr. Croft is considered the architect of ISO 9001’s “risk-based thinking” and previously acted as Chair of ISO TC 176 SC2, the subcommittee responsible for drafting the ISO 9001:2015 standard.

Incoming TC 176 SC2 Chair Paul Simpson had hinted that an Annex SL update may be forthcoming, with some cryptic tweets and LinkedIn messages asking users for their input on a theoretical revision. ISO itself had also issued a members-only survey hinting at a possible early update to Annex SL.

Oxebridge has confirmed that ISO is underway with the formal process to update Annex SL, through the much-maligned TMB. The ISO TMB is not comprised of the full set of ISO member nations, but instead a fixed set of 15 nations, with no other nations allowed to participate. The prior release of the mandatory Annex SL document was criticized by Oxebridge and others as having violated ISO’s own rules which demand that standards be developed by representative TC bodies, comprised of ISO member nations and industry experts. The TMB is instead comprised of non-elected ISO staffers and restricted only to members of the 15 TMB nations, and is answerable to only to the ISO executive. Oxebridge has argued that the original Annex SL mandate violated all six of the principles defined by the World Trade Organization for ISO’s standards development process, but the WTO has admitted it has no mechanism to force ISO to adhere to its regulations.

The new changes are reportedly focused on “risks and opportunities,” and are not expected to result in changes to the overall paragraph structuring or numbering. A limited number of Technical Committees will be invited to send delegates to work on the draft, but the TMB will hold final approval over the resulting document. The US Technical Advisory Group, led by Paul Palmes, has been supportive of Annex SL to date, so is unlikely to send any delegates which represent the overall user dissatisfaction with the rules.

The original Annex SL was originally planned to be released as ISO Guide 83, but that standard barely survived an approval vote and was dropped by ISO at an early draft stage. The resulting text was instead pasted into a mandatory document called the “Consolidated ISO Supplement” as annex number “SL”, where it subsequently got its name. The Consolidated ISO Supplement is a mandatory set of procedures for TCs to follow, upon threat of disbanding and is not subject to any international approval before publication. Only 25 out of 162 ISO member nations participated in the vote of Guide 83, and only 19 of those voted to approve it, yet ISO has falsely insisted that Annex SL was developed with international participation. Oxebridge has also put together reports showing that Annex SL was not developed under international consensus.

Annex SL began its life as a document intended to develop a uniform paragraph structure and formatting rules for ISO management system standards, but the JTCG quickly petitioned ISO for authority to develop mandatory content as well. ISO granted this authority, thus setting itself in violation of its own rules and those of WTO.

An Oxebridge source indicated the changes should not force early revisions to Annex SL-based standards, but any such revision is likely to enrage users who are already abandoning ISO 9001 certification after frustration over the new ISO 9001:2015 standard and the arbitrary “transition deadline” set by ISO and the IAF. ISO has lost 5% of global ISO 9001 certificates since the release of Annex SL and ISO 9001:2015; if the numbers for China are removed, ISO lost over 14% of certifications.

If history is a precedent, then it is unlikely that ISO members or users will be allowed to vote on the revised Annex SL.