December 30, 1999

U.S. Department of Defense
Defense Acquisition Regulations Council
Attn: Ms. Melissa Rider
3062 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-3062


The purpose of this letter is to provide comment from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) addressing the DOD 11/9/99 Federal Register request for insight on the use of voluntary national consensus standards and OMB Circular A-119. To this end, we present the following:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), is the oldest and largest Society of Safety Professionals in the world. Founded in 1911, ASSE represents almost 33,000 dedicated safety professionals. Included in this membership are Certified Safety Professionals, Professional Engineers, agronomists, academicians, fire protection engineers, system safety experts, industrial hygienists, physicians, occupational nurses, and an impressive collection of other disciplines, skills, and backgrounds. We pride ourselves on our dedication to excellence, expertise, and commitment to the protection of people, property, and environment on a world?wide basis.

ASSE serves as Secretariat of seven (7) American National Standards Institute Committees (ANSI) developing safety and health standards which are used by private sector organizations as well as state/Federal governmental agencies such as MSHA, OSHA, etc... ASSE members also sit on over forty (40) additional standards development committees and the Society sponsors educational sessions on standards development. The Society also has twelve (12) technical divisions consisting of: Construction, Consultants, Engineering, Environmental, Health Care, International, Management, Public Sector, Risk Management and Insurance, Mining, Industrial Hygiene, and Transportation. The ASSE members included in these divisions are leaders in their field with the knowledge and expertise needed to move safety and health forward on a global level, (Fact Sheet attached).

Comment Insights
The intent of ASSE is not to speak either for or against the proposal, but rather to make comments based upon our member views, existing data, and anecdotal information. Based upon this collective insight, we submit the following:

ASSE members working with defense related industries and contractors have pointed out that the DOD needs to carefully review its policies and procedures before moving forward with this initiative. The concern is that the elimination of military specifications could significantly increase product liability concerns for contractors. Due to the complexity of military applications and technology the issue for consideration is whether elimination of such specifications would open up contractors to litigation from anybody who could ever claim to be injured by a system or product failure.

Regardless of the military specification issue, and in the interest of good public policy, we suggest that the DOD should consider working with voluntary national consensus standards development organizations like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), etc… Using voluntary national consensus standards would be a win-win approach since the Office of Management and Budget Circular #OMB A-119 and Public Law 104-113 call for the increased utilization of voluntary national consensus standards in federal regulatory rulemaking. We commend the DOD for being proactive on the issue of increased utilization of voluntary national consensus standards.

National consensus standards reflect the opinions of the professionals who work at all levels of the public and private sectors in technology development, manufacturing, training, financial analysis, personnel, academia as well as insight from the final end user. This balanced insight enables standards to be crafted in a way which not only benefits and protects users of the standard, but also furthers the interests of the businesses which need to meet user demand. ASSE advocates initiatives to encourage the utilization of national consensus standards as an effective/efficient option for meeting the demand of increased regulation/legislation in all venues of safety and health since:

  • National consensus standards have fewer procedural burdens
  • The consensus method provides for a balance between competing interests
  • The voluntary nature of consensus standards enables users to adapt provisions to meet unusual circumstances.
  • Much lower standards development cost are obtained.
We believe it would make sense for DOD to have some type of action plan to accommodate the increased usage of voluntary national consensus standards. Also, ASSE suggests that DOD meet with other executive branch agencies to ascertain how these agencies use the national voluntary consensus standards in its regulations and in implementing the provisions of the Morella Amendment to the Technology Transfer Act (Public Law 104-113) and OMB Circular A-119. In addition, a strategy should be that the DOD should appoint a specific liaison for the voluntary national consensus standards facilitating bodies, (e.g. ANSI). Finally, ASSE has a position statement on the use of voluntary national consensus standards which is attached to this letter as an integral part of our overall comments.

We thank you for your attention to this matter, and look forward to working with you in the future. If you should have any questions or issues please do not hesitate to contact the Society.


Frank H. Perry, CSP, PE
Society President, 1999-2000

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