Metrology is the scientific study of measurement.
A mammoth task has been given to the Legal Metrology Inspectorate (LMI) of the TT Bureau of Standards (TTBS), but Business Day was assured the unit is more than up to it.
Head of the Metrology Division Erica Caruth and Keith London II, marketing, sought first to clarify a reference to the TTBS in an article on November 7. President of the Petroleum Dealers' Association (PDA) Robin Narayansingh had referred to the TTBS as one of the independent bodies that had inspected and verified devices at National Petroleum service stations.
This came on the heels of queries from the public about the accuracy of the fuel being dispensed and bought at service stations.
However, Caruth said the LMI's drive to verify all measuring devices at service stations has only been done at Unipet stations so far.
Inspectors from the LMI, said Caruth, did the first fuel verification exercise on June 4.
London noted that the TTBS had since spoken with Narayansingh, who the TTBS believed had made a genuine error.
As for how soon the LMI will visit other service stations across the country, Caruth said, "in the very near future," as the process starts with stakeholder meetings.
The Metrology Act mandates that the LMI monitors and verifies "prescribed measuring devices used in trade, such as fuel dispensers, to ensure that they have been verified and are accurately dispensing fuel".
The LMI is also tasked with ensuring the public is made aware of the law on the use of measuring devices for trade, to offer a "sense of assurance and confidence to consumers, that what they pay for is what they actually do get".
The Metrology Act, Caruth said, was proclaimed on May 1, 2015. This country had to be in compliance with an international treaty (Safety of Life at Sea) by July of the following year. Under the act, the first verification began in the shipping and export industry on June 1, 2016, and is now is in its third cycle of verification across the country.
Supermarkets, mini marts, shops etc, were the second industry inspectors treated with.
The TTBS then began engaging stakeholders between October and November 2016 and inspections began by January last year.
"It is an ongoing exercise," stressed Caruth. "There is no stopping once it has started. As one sector is going, another starts up and keeps going. This is not done by sample: the LMI has to verify, pass and continue to monitor all measuring devices, regardless of the industry it's being used (in), once it's being used for trade. It is not a today-for-tomorrow exercise."
Yesterday, the TTBS conducted an exercise at the Piarco airport where baggage scales were verified.
Verification means a brightly-coloured sticker of approval is placed on the device/s and made visible to consumers. In instances where the device is used behind closed doors and not visible to the public, London said, a poster was presented to proprietors. Those posters, he said, are entirely voluntary and not a mandate of the Metrology Act. However, London said, they have met with complete willingness so far. Verification is then done every six months.
Additionally, a list of establishments within that industry which have already been verified is compiled and posted to the TTBS website at www.ttbs.org.tt.
Caruth noted that verification benefits both consumer and owner, as often devices are inaccurate and can amount to losses for either party.
Consumers often seek redress in instances when they feel cheated. Caruth said there are penalties if owners are found to be verified, but failed to comply with the act after inspection.
"To maintain quality control, subsequent checks are conducted by the inspectors of metrology. If the verification label is found to be tampered with or removed without permission, the operators or owners can face prosecution according to the Metrology Act Chapter 82:06," said a release from the TTBS.
So far, Caruth added, they are in the second cycle of inspections in the supermarket industry.
Meetings with regional corporations and vendors are scheduled to begin in March for the inspection and verification of devices used at municipal markets nationwide.
On another note, Caruth said 2019 is a big year for metrology, as it rings in the redefinition of the international system of units (SI). The SI consists of seven base units, of which the kilogramme is one.
The kilogrammes’s redefinition is based on its relationship with Planck's constant, which has now been determined with an overall uncertainty of only ten parts per billion. That redefinition will affect the most accurate of measurements for use in research and innovation, she noted.
SI units redefined
A convocation of delegates representing 60 countries voted on November 16, 2018 in Versailles to implement the most significant change to the International System of Units (SI) in more than 130 years. For the first time, all measurement units will be defined by natural phenomena rather than by physical artefacts. The event was the 26th General Conference of Weights and Measures and was hosted by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.
While consumers and most industries will not notice immediate impacts, scientists expect the change ultimately to inspire new technologies and to reduce the cost of calibrating industrial processes and scientific instruments.
After decades of groundbreaking scientific work by national measurement institutes (NMIs) from around the world, the delegates have voted to redefine the kilogram and three additional basic SI units: electric current (ampere), temperature (kelvin) and amount of substance (mole). The new definitions will be effective on May 20, 2019, World Metrology Day, which celebrates the establishment of the SI, or metric system, in 1875.
(Courtesy the National Institute of Standards and Technology)