“Sometimes, we squabble over ‘shoulds’ or ‘shalls,'” says LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Director Scott Schneider, speaking of labor-management relations on the A10 committee of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). “But we all know that the standards compile the best safety practices in construction. Responsible contractors want to know and use them.”
“Contractors value ANSI standards because they represent the consensus in the industry,” says Wayne Rice, Vice President of Association Services for the NEA – the Association of Union Constructors. The NEA participates in several ANSI committees and chairs the A10.13 Steel Erection subcommittee. “A myriad of people – management and labor, some owner groups and technical and professional people as well – work together to develop these standards, and they’re consistently ahead of the regulatory curve. That’s why a lot of OSHA regulations cite ANSI.”
Reviewed Construction Standards
Safety and Health Program Requirements for Multi-Employer Projects
This standard provides guidelines for the basic duties of senior contractors and project supervisors in providing a safe construction workplace. The standard covers senior supervisor responsibilities, corrective actions and presence at a project, as well as site safety and health requirements, disciplinary procedures, construction process plans, training and pre-work plans. It also includes samples of job hazard analysis, project safety and health forms and job site surveys.
Safety Requirements for Masonry and Concrete Work
This standard covers concrete construction and masonry work requirements from concrete placement and shoring to the handling and storage of pre-stressed and pre-cast concrete. It also addresses the design, erection, operation and maintenance of concrete mixing processing plants, machinery used in transportation and aggregate processing plants.
Safety Requirements for Work Platforms Suspended from Cranes or Derricks
This standard sets safety guidelines to ensure workers are safe while being transported to an elevated work site and while working on a suspended platform from cranes and derricks. Platforms suspended from the load lines of cranes or derricks are typically used at construction sites to perform work at elevations when other means of access such as scaffolding or aerial platforms are unsafe or impractical.
Safety Requirements for Temporary and Portable Space Heating Devices
This standard establishes construction operation guidelines for the safe use and inspection of portable and temporary space heater equipment that run on solid fuel, liquid fuel, natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. It provides minimum safety requirements for the selection, installation, operation and maintenance of these space heating devices and equipment.
Source: ASSE News Release (September 14, 2004).
Founded in 1918 and based in Washington, DC and New York City, ANSI is a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the ongoing development of standards to guide all aspects of American production. In 2002, it had more than 10,000 standards, 40 of which address safety issues in the construction and demolition industry.
ANSI standards seek to standardize both the process and the output of American production. Further, through its participation in the International Organization for Standardization, ANSI is able to ensure that imported products meet American standards and, often, that standards developed in the United States are adopted as national standards by other countries. Its mission [www.ansi.org] is “to enhance both the global competitiveness of US business and the US quality of life by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems and safeguarding their integrity.”
Despite an $18 million annual budget and more than 75 employees, ANSI’s standards are developed through the volunteer efforts of its member organizations. These include more than a thousand commercial, governmental, union, institutional, organizational and international members.
The members participate in committees which develop the standards for the areas of their own concern. All standards are voluntary; no one is forced to follow them. They are adopted by two-thirds majorities of the committee participants.
Construction Safety Standards
The A10 committee develops safety standards for the construction and demolition industry. It has subcommittees that focus on specific areas of standard development. Currently, the A10 has 66 members, including representatives of each of the construction craft unions and the major contractor associations. According to Schneider, who chairs the A10 subcommittees on hearing loss prevention and work zone safety, “More labor participation is needed. Most participants are employers.”
In addition to Schneider’s subcommittees – both of which are working on standards that they hope will be adopted in 2005 – the LHSFNA is active in the ergonomics and the emergency response subcommittees.
Ergonomic Standard Under Consideration
The ergonomics subcommittee has been working for more than a year on an ergonomic standard. Its draft was circulated to the full A10 committee for a vote over the summer. Though it won a majority, it did not get the two-thirds required for adoption, in part, because many members did not vote.
According to ANSI procedures, those who vote against a standard are required to explain their opposition so that the committee can address their concerns. The ergonomic subcommittee reviewed the criticisms, responded to each, made some changes in the draft and circulated it for another vote. That vote was concluding as we went to press (November 30).
“The adoption of a voluntary ergonomic standard for construction would be a big step forward,” says Schneider, “because, under direction from Congress, OSHA has backed off efforts to establish a compulsory regulation. Meanwhile, ergonomic injuries remain the most costly of all construction injuries. If the A10 committee adopts our standard, it will help the whole industry focus on preventing MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders).”
Value of ANSI Standards
The ergonomic situation illustrates one of the important uses of ANSI standards. They fill gaps in the regulatory structure. “Government regulators can take years to develop and adopt safety procedures,” says Schneider. “With ANSI, employers, employees and technical experts can put their heads together and reach their own agreement on best practices.”
“Just like they find out about new products to improve their bottom line, contractors use trade journals and their association relations to keep up with ANSI standards,” says Jim Lapping, who is the former director of safety for the building trades (AFL-CIO) and, presently, the Illinois Director, Division of Elevator Safety. Citing his current situation, Lapping also notes, “ANSI standards frequently find their way into legislation.” The law that created his division contains four ANSI standards.
One important reason why ANSI standards are so broadly recognized and accepted is the consensus process through which they are developed.
According to ANSI, “the fair and open ANSI process ensures that all interested and affected parties have an opportunity to participate in a standard’s development. It also serves and protects the public interest since standards developers accredited by ANSI must meet the Institute’s requirements for openness, balance, consensus and other due process safeguards.” By ANSI procedures, accredited standards must be revised, reaffirmed or withdrawn every five years to ensure that they remain relevant and up-to-date.
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) serves as secretariat to the A10 committee. The job of the secretariat is to manage the accreditation process, ensuring broad participation as well as timely analysis and reporting. To that end, over the past summer, the A10 committee reviewed and reaffirmed four construction safety standards (see box).
“These reaffirmed A10 standards,” said Richard F. King, the current A10 chairman and an ASSE member, “each cover a specific construction safety topic, but they are all unified with the same goal of reducing construction injuries and ensuring the safety of our fellow workers.”
All ANSI standards are available for purchase from the ANSI eStandards Store.