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100 years


As secretariat for eight standards projects, ASSE organizes the committees that develop and maintain standards, ensures that the standards revision process follows ANSI procedures and publishes the final product of the consensus process.

ASSE’s standards activities have a long, rich history that dates back nearly 90 years. This article outlines ASSE’s beginnings as secretariat and the status of each of its current standards projects.

Early Days: Sponsorship/Secretariats
The first secretariat was obtained in December 1921, when ASSE, headquartered in New York City, accepted sponsorship of the A14 ladder standards project. The project was officially inaugurated only ten days after ASSE accepted the offer. Today, obtaining ANSI approval from its Executive Standards Council can take anywhere from six to ten months.

The A14 project had several co-secretariats, but ASSE remained the administrative secretariat until 1973-1974 when it relinquished the A14 secretariat to the Alliance of American Insurers, then known as the American Mutual Insurance Alliance.

The A92 standards project, Elevating Work Platforms, was awarded to ASSE in the early 1960s since the project was seen as cutting-edge for those days and the National Safety Council (NSC) could not take on another project. The Society assumed the role of sponsor/secretariat. At the time, only one standards project existed, namely, the cherry picker used in the electrical transmission industry.

Again, in 1973-1974, ASSE withdrew its sponsor/secretariat whereby the American Mutual Insurance Alliance became the sole secretariat of the A92 standards project. Under the Alliance, the project grew to four other standards areas of Elevating Work Platforms.

In 1980, the Alliance dropped the A14 and A92 secretariats, which were taken up by the American Ladder Institute (A14) and the Scaffolding Industry Association (A92), respectively.

ASSE Representation on Other ANSI Standards Committees

During 1966-1967, ASSE had at least 25 representatives serving on those ANSI committees sponsored by NSC. During the late 1960s, Stanley Owens served as Chair of the USASI (ANSI) Safety Standards Board. At that time, the Society had a relatively active standards committee and function, chaired by John Leggett and Robert Gidel, which was responsive to appointing its members as representatives to various committees. This activity was terminated in 1973-1974, when new leadership shaped the Society’s philosophy toward standards.

ASSE Returns to the Standards Arena

During 1981-1982, under the leadership of Tom Reilly and Del Tally and with the help of members Bill Atkinson, Nixon de Tarnowsky, Tom Bresnahan and Tom Murray, the Society returned to the field of standards development. ASSE assumed several secretariats and standards projects. ANSI also changed its policy to allow secretariats to print, publish and sell the standards developed by its standards committees.

A1264 Standards Project
This project consolidates two previous standards, each held by NSC until it began to deemphasize standards secretariats. The A12 standard addressed railings, toe boards and wall openings, while A64 focused on specifications for industrial stairs. The impetus for ASSE assuming these secretariats, or this single secretariat combined, was ANSI staff (Nixon de Tarnowsky), the Machinists Union (Herb Johnson) and the insurance industry (Tom Murray and Tom Bresnahan). While ASSE saw a good to moderate sales record of these two standards, the motivator for taking them on was the efficiency of combining both standards, getting back into the standards business, accommodating ANSI by taking on two withdrawn standards projects and serving the interests of its constituents who wanted the Society back in the business of standards but who also saw the essential need for these two standards to be continued.

In 1993, a second project was initiated to address the provisions of slip resistance, which are cited in the A1264.2 standard. The addition of this project, based on member input, was balloted by the full committee and approved. Accordingly, ANSI registered the project in its PINS system, which was voluntary at this time, and the subcommittee’s work began. The A1264.2 standard for slip resistance was originally approved in 2001 and then revised in 2007.

This standard sets forth provisions for protecting persons where there is potential for slipping and falling as a result of surface characteristics or conditions. Three basic areas are addressed in the standard: 1) provisions for reducing hazards; 2) test procedures and equipment and 3) slip-resistance guidelines. The intent of this standard is to help in the reduction of falls due to conditions, which in some fashion are manageable. The standard in its present form provides for the minimum performance requirements necessary for increased safety on walking/working surfaces in the workplace.

In January 2008, ANSI registered a new technical report, “Using Variable Angle Tribometers (VAT) for Measurement of the Slip Resistance of Walkway Surfaces” (ANSI/ASSE TR-A1264.3-2007).

The report covers the technical aspects, research, legislation, standards activities and operation of the two widely used VATs commercially available for testing of walkway surface slip resistance—the Brungraber Mark II and the English XL.

Z359 Standards Project
Around 1985, the Z359 standards project for fall protection equipment began. Some believed this project would help ASSE enter the international standards arena.

The President of Rose Manufacturing Company became the first Chair of the Z359 project. NSC’s A10 Construction Standards Committee questioned development of this project for general industrial use of fall protection equipment, rather than for just the construction industry. For nearly two and a half years, the A10 Committee and its secretariat continued to question ANSI approval of this ASSE standards project. However, in 1988-1989, ANSI registered the project in its PINS system. The Z359 Chair presented the need for use of these standards in general industry. In effect, the Society wanted to cover a gap in the mosaic of general industry standards.

Shortly after the Z359.1 standard was approved in 1993, initiatives were begun to establish three subcommittees to work on other phases of the project. Around this time, restructure of the Society began whereby a Director of Practices and Standards was hired in 1995, who later in his tenure established four other standards projects within the overall Z359 project. The original Z359.1 was approved in 1992 and reaffirmed in 1999.

In October 2007, the ANSI/ASSE Z359 Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) for Fall Protection announced an extension of the Z359 Fall Protection Code’s effective date from October 15, 2007 to November 24, 2007.

The ANSI/ASSE Z359 Fall Protection Code is a series of newly approved voluntary national consensus standards written to offer more resources for employers to protect workers from fall hazards, which are one of the top four causes of on-the-job fatalities in the United States. By offering employers these new standards, the Code intends to prevent fall-related injuries and deaths especially when, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2006, fatal work-related injuries due to falls in the private industry amounted to 809 deaths, a 5% increase since 2005. Since the fatality census began, the 809 fatal falls in 2006 was the third highest total since 1992. BLS also noted that in 2005, non-fatal injuries and illnesses involving falls in the private industry totaled 255,750.

Z87 Standards Project
The Z87 eye and face protection standards project was obtained in 1988 from the American Society to Prevent Blindness, which withdrew its secretariatship. This standard was maneuvered to the Society through the ANSI Safety and Health Standards Board and was approved in February 1989. In 2003, this secretariat was transferred to the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA).

Z117 Standards Project
The Z117 confined space standards project had lain fallow since the American Petroleum Institute dropped it as one of its projects in/around 1975. However, with OSHA moving towards a regulation, the project was revitalized under ASSE’s auspices and was accordingly registered within ANSI’s PINS system whereby work began on the project around 1985. The most current version of the standard was approved in 2003 with a revised standard expected for release sometime during 2008.

A14 Standards Project
In 1990, ASSE negotiated to return the A14 Ladder Standards Project to the American Ladder Institute (ALI). While ASSE was administrative secretariat for seven years, servicing nine subcommittees and the full committee, it was decided that ALI was a better fit as secretariat. Accordingly and on the advice of the A14 Chair, staff and the Vice President for Standards and Research, the relationship was severed, and ALI became the sole secretariat of the A14 standards project.

Z390 Standards Project
In 1992, the Z390 H2S Training Standards Project was initiated. The project was approved and registered within the ANSI PINS system on October 5, 1992. This standard, first approved on May 26, 1995, has been translated into Spanish for training purposes in Mexico and in other South American countries. A revised version of the standard was released in 2006.

Z490 Standards Project
The Z490 Best Practices for Safety, Health and Environmental Training project began as a result of a former ASSE President’s proposal to address the need to improve SH&E training. With Board approval for an ANSI project, staff obtained ANSI approval of the Z490 standards project on September 19, 1997. After organizing the full committee of 40 members, the first committee meeting was held on April 1, 1998, from which a standards development project began, which culminated in a standard submitted to ANSI’s Board of Standards Review on May 25, 2001. Approval of the standard, as an American National Standard, was obtained on July 2, 2001. The standard is currently under revision, and a new version is expected in 2008.

Z590 Standards Project
In January 1998, the Z590 Safety Professional Competency Standards Project was established. This project did not have an economic driver, but rather one, which the Society concluded protected the safety profession from those who would damage the profession if their standards were ever to be promulgated. Currently, there is one approved standard—Z590.2, Scope and Function of the Professional Safety Position.

Z15 Standards Project
The Z15 Motor Vehicle Fleet Operations Standards Project was established, through ANSI Executive Standards Council approval, on February 27, 2001. The initiator for establishment of this project, formerly the D15, whose secretariat was NSC, was the 1999-2000 ASSE President as well as the Vice President of the Council for Practices and Standards. While promoted as the D15.1 Motor Fleet Statistical Standard, the project grew to a family of standards addressing motor fleet programs, inspections, maintenance, related equipment and statistical analysis and nomenclature of motor fleet operations. The standard was approved in 2006, and businesses of all sizes can use the standard to help reduce roadway crashes and the high costs associated with them. The standard provides guidelines for developing a motor vehicle safety program for employers with one vehicle or a fleet of hundreds.

Recent Standards Activities

A10: In 2004, ASSE took on the secretariat for the A10 Committee for Construction and Demolition Operations. This committee was originally founded in the early 1940s and is one of the oldest ANSI-accredited standards committees in the United States. The committee has almost 50 accredited standards and projects running from contractor management to ergonomics.

Z244: In 2004, ASSE took on the secretariat for the Z244 Committee for Lockout/Tagout. This committee was originally founded in the late 1960s. The committee has almost 50 accredited standards and projects running from contractor management to ergonomics. A new version of the standard is expected to be released during 2008.

Criteria for Selecting Secretariats

Having a criteria document for such selections would be helpful in setting a basic framework. However, based on the actual dynamics of any given potential project and its proponents, as evidenced above, each decision for a secretariat has its own imperative for the Society to take on a secretariat. Would any criteria document thwart taking on a secretariat? The answer would seem to be a resounding “no.” Yet, maybe the criteria document can deter more frivolous standards requests or those which may need to be referred to other standards organizations.