By Gary T. Torosian, Chief Operating Officer, Geocomp/GeoTesting Express
ASTM is the abbreviation for the American Society for Testing and Materials. ASTM International is a consensus standard writing organization that is involved with almost every type of material engineers work with, including soil, rock, geosynthetics, concrete, steel and plastic. If you’ve worked on a tunnel, highway, deep foundation, dam, waste containment facility, canal, offshore application, commercial development or any number of other types of projects, you’ve certainly either referenced, specified or used an ASTM standard. These standards are not just used in the U.S., they are used worldwide. Of the almost 13,000 standards ASTM has published, more than 8,000 have been adopted or referenced outside the United States. In fact, 148 countries are represented in the ASTM membership.
By collaborating with private businesses, governments, academia and other experts, ASTM harnesses its members’ expertise to produce relevant and technically exceptional standards. The best part about this is that each of us can participate and have a say in shaping these standards. ASTM encourages new members and new voices to be heard.
Joining a committee
ASTM committees usually meet in person twice per year—but it is not mandatory for each member to attend. However, these meetings are where much of the business in “task groups” gets accomplished. A task group is a group of people who have an interest in a particular ASTM standard. Task groups are led by a task group leader. They facilitate in-person meetings and after receiving direction from the task group, draft a new or edit an existing standard. The draft is then submitted to ASTM for balloting. ASTM sends out electronic ballots to its members to vote on standards. This is the real beauty of ASTM—all members of a subcommittee get to vote on the ballot and if a single person votes against the ballot, the ballot is paused and the person who voted against it can explain his/her reasons why. If those reasons are deemed persuasive (by the task group) then the ballot is stopped, and a different approach must be taken. This is how ASTM assures all voices will be heard.
I’m personally involved with the ASTM Committee D35 on Geosynthetics. It is an incredibly rich and robust group. We write standards for all sorts of geosynthetic materials including geomembranes, geotextiles, geosynthetic clay liners, geocells, geogrids and more. Endurance, mechanical and hydraulic properties are just some of the things these standards help measure on geosynthetics.
So, if you’ve had concerns about specifics of a particular test, have a need that hasn’t been addressed yet by ASTM, or want to help improve the industry and have a hand in shaping the future, you should consider joining ASTM. An extremely economical membership fee also gets you a free ASTM International standard volume of your choice. You will work alongside your peers in the industry, network and earn PDH credits for your P.E. license.
This article originally appeared on the Geocomp blog, https://www.geocomp.com/company/blog.