In his Jan. 19, 2006 article about fall protection, Dave Gouthro referred to "voluntary" standards published by organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Some of you expressed confusion. Aren't ANSI fall protection standards mandatory, you asked. We promised to explain the difference between an OSHA rule and an ANSI standard in a future issue. The time has come to deliver on that promise.
This series will explain the legal effect of ANSI standards and their impact on the liability of you and your company. After reading the story, you'll have a better idea of how to factor the various ANSI standards into your compliance strategy.
Clarifying Our Terms
The principles in this article apply equally in the U.S. and Canada. For simplicity's sake, we'll use U.S. terminology. So, unless otherwise noted, "ANSI standards" refers collectively to standards of ANSI, CSA and other such organizations. "OSHA" refers collectively to U.S. OSHA as well as Canadian OHS laws and regulations.
If you're a safety director in the U.S. or Canada, you might have a hard time figuring out what to do about ANSI Standards:
- Is an ANSI standard a law?
- Do you have to follow it?
- What can happen to you if you don't?
This confusion is understandable. After all, ANSI standards look a lot like regulations. They're detailed, technical instructions for addressing hazards. Moreover, many ANSI standards cover exactly the same issues addressed in OSHA standards.
Example: The 2005 CSA Lockout Standard, CSA Z460, sets out procedures and measures for controlling machine energization risks. Canadian provinces do the same thing in their OHS laws (and OSHA does it in its Lockout Tagout Standard).
But there are also important differences between OSHA and ANSI. One difference has to do with the scope and character of the information. OSHA laws typically set out only a general framework, procedure and/or set of standards to guard against a hazard. An ANSI standard is usually consistent with the law but goes into much greater depth. It provides the technical, nuts-and-bolts details that the statutes and regulations leave out. ANSI standards also typically go much further than the laws in protecting workers.
Here's a hypothetical example to help you understand the interplay among statutes, regulations and ANSI standards:
- The OSHA statute says that employers must maintain the physical premises of the workplace in safe condition.
- The OSHA standard might flesh out this requirement by mandating adequate lighting.
- The ANSI standard might then set out precise illumination standards, specify which bulbs to use and say how often they must be changed.
Next week, in Part 2 of this series, we'll explain the four principles underlying the legal effect of ANSI standards.
YOU MAKE THE CALL
Is Company Responsible for Worker's Failure to Follow Safety Rules?
What Happened: An Alabama construction worker is electrocuted while installing power lines along a highway. He wasn't wearing PPE, even though he had been trained and repeatedly warned to use PPE when working with power lines. OSHA cites the company for failing to prevent the victim from approaching exposed energized parts without PPE. The company appeals.
Question: Is the company guilty?
Answer: No. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission says the company did everything possible to protect the worker and isn't to blame for his "unpreventable misconduct" [Secretary of Labor v. Davis H. Elliott Const. Co., Inc., OSHRC Docket No. 04-0836, June 1, 2005].
THIS DATE IN HISTORY
February 27, 1813
|Child Vaccination a la 1813.|
Congress enacts the first public vaccination law in history. The Act to Encourage Vaccination of 1813 establishes a national agency for smallpox vaccine run by James Smith, a Baltimore doctor who has championed the cause of vaccination and campaigned tirelessly for the Act's passage.
But things go wrong. In 1822, Dr. Smith sends the wrong sample to doctors in Tarboro, NC. Instead of the vaccine which is made of cowpox, he sends actual smallpox. As a result 60 people in the town contract smallpox. 10 of them die. Congress repeals the Act shortly thereafter.