We hear often about the value of voluntary consensus standards. I first learned about safety and fire protection codes and standards during college, but I really came to appreciate their impact on workplace safety and ASSP’s leadership in this area while serving on the ASSP Standards Development Committee.
Standards development is one of our four strategic pillars. As a leader in the evolution of voluntary OSH standards, our goals for the next 5 years are to:
- Build a robust, balanced line of business to reflect the full life cycle of OSH standards that affect members and the profession.
- Streamline processes within each stage of developing voluntary consensus standards and technical reports.
- Collaborate and cooperate with a diverse group of private and public sector stakeholders to move ASSP standards forward to serve a wide range of OSH professionals and associated audiences.
Why We Develop Standards
In the U.S., the federal OSH rulemaking process faces many obstacles, including legal challenges that often delay the enactment of updated regulations. Voluntary consensus standards such as those we develop via ANSI and ISO help fill that void by documenting industry best practices that help prevent occupational injuries and fatalities related to causes such as hazardous energy, confined spaces and work at height. In addition, consensus standards supplement employers’ efforts to meet the intent of OSHA regulations, as well as to provide better levels of protection, improve work sites, elevate organizational performance and enhance corporate reputation.
Consensus standards also enable our profession to nimbly address emerging issues such as the use of drones in construction, automated vehicle fleet management, prevention through design and leading safety indicators. By developing standards in these areas, we help ensure that worker safety, health and well-being are fully considered as technology and practices evolve quickly.
Our standards are perhaps best represented by the word integrity. ASSP is an ANSI-accredited standards developing organization (SDO). As such, we follow ANSI’s essential requirements in all of our standards development. These requirements include balance, fairness, and transparency and openness. For ASSP, these are inviolable requirements that enable us to meet the due process criteria while serving both industry and the public good.
To achieve balance, we ensure that no single interest category, individual or organization dominates the process or controls the outcome. That is why no interest group can constitute more than one-third of the total roster.
In some contexts, fairness could be perceived as a complex aspect, but in the standards development arena, it is a relatively simple element. Essentially, dissenting voices and objectors must be heard and given consideration. While unanimity is not needed to write, develop and approve standards, it is critical that all voices are allowed to be heard and addressed during the process.
By using an open, transparent process to develop standards, we ensure that all interested parties can learn about the standards, participate in their development and support the standard after approval. A standard can only be viewed as credible if it is developed in an open forum.
ASSP continues to invest in infrastructure, and is focused on updating processes and procedures needed to develop and publish high-caliber OSH standards and technical reports. We recently implemented a tool that has helped modernize our standards development process. This tool allows us to better track our standards, increase participation from business and industry, and reduce the average standard development time from 3 years to 2 years.
ASSP is always recruiting individuals to participate in our technical subgroups and organizations to participate in our full committees. If you want to get involved with standards development, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application. We need and welcome your engagement in this strategic area.
ASSP is a leading voice in developing national and international voluntary consensus standards that improve worker safety, health and well-being, and elevate organizational performance. Great opportunities lie ahead in this area and ASSP will continue to take a leading role.