Setting the Standard

© iStock/Stephan Zabel

By Jim Smith, M.S., CSP,  2017-18 ASSE President

As safety professionals, we work with voluntary national consensus standards each day. These standards are vital to our continued efforts to eliminate hazards, reduce risks and prevent injuries.

By using consensus standards, we become better OSH professionals. For example, ANSI/ASSE Z590.3, Prevention Through Design: Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Risk in Design and Redesign, can help us minimize work hazards during the design phase of new or renovation projects. The measures outlined in this standard enable us to better manage hazardous exposures by designing them out or by addressing them in the planning stages, before workers are exposed.

Consensus standards can also help us influence how our organizations manage safety. The soon-to-be-finalized ISO 45001 standard on occupational health and safety management systems is expected to be one of the most significant standards to be developed in decades. ASSE and members of the U.S. TAG have worked the past 4 years to help draft this global standard, which will provide a framework that organizations can use to effectively manage OSH objectives.

Consensus standards also help us combat well-known hazards. Falls are a leading cause of on-the-job injuries and fatalities, not just in the U.S. but around the world. In fact, four of the top 10 violations cited by OSHA involve fall exposures.

The ANSI/ASSE Z359 standards address fall protection equipment and systems for climbing, work positioning, fall arrest, rescue, evacuation and other fall hazard operations, as well as training, and hazard identification and abatement to help prevent injuries when working at heights.

Last month, OSHA issued a letter of interpretation that endorses ANSI/ASSE Z359.2, Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program, for managed fall protection training, and agreed that ASSE’s definition of competent person under Z359 and ANSI/ASSE Z490-2016, Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health and Environmental Training, also meets OSHA’s definition of qualified person. This is an excellent example of how organizations can use our standards to meet OSHA requirements.

As a leading voice in safety standards development, ASSE also addresses challenging issues. We recently formed the ANSI/ASSE Z16 Committee on Leading and Lagging Indicators. Tracking injuries after they occur reveals areas that may need improvements, while understanding where injuries could occur beforehand allows OSH professionals to direct resources and focus efforts on those areas to improve injury prevention outcomes.

The original ANSI Z16 standards, developed in the 1950s, led to current-day OSHA incident rates. These rates are often misunderstood and misused, which makes it difficult to quantify our impact on business. The Z16 Committee is working to update and better understand lagging indicators as well as to determine how best to track leading indicators so that we can demonstrate the business value of workplace safety and communicate that value to business leaders.

Through standards, ASSE is tackling several leading-edge topics as well, including use of drones during construction and demolition operations, managing automated fleet vehicles and site security plans for active shooter scenarios.

To help OSH professionals understand these standards and how to implement them in the workplace, ASSE offers online and classroom-based continuing education, from microlearning to online LearnEx courses to full certificate programs. ASSE’s first LearnEx course, Prevention Through Design, premiered last month, while our new Managed Fall Protection Certificate program will debut at SeminarFest 2018.

Standards development and continuing education offer rich opportunities for members to advance the profession. We are always looking for subject-matter experts to contribute to our standards efforts. Send an e-mail to admin@workspace.asse.org to share interest in getting involved. We are also actively seeking volunteers to create 5-minute how-to microlearning modules; perhaps yours could address some element of a consensus standard. Visit www.asse.org/microlearning to learn more about this initiative.

ASSE continues to lead the way in creating industry standards of practice and delivering high-quality continuing education that helps our members prevent work-related injuries and illnesses while improving business outcomes. These are exciting times for ASSE.


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