Every company and organization must explore the balance between compliance with mandatory regulations and the need to protect employees and the company from risk. Decisions must be made regarding the proper level of effort aimed at enhancing workplace safety once regulatory compliance is achieved. OSHA standards detail the minimum legal requirements, yet often fall far short of ensuring employee safety and controlling risk to the company. Excepting the General Duty Clause, many operations and activities are unregulated or inadequately regulated.

Companies that have established safety programs and are ready to move beyond compliance, as well as those in the initial phases of safety program development, should explicate a detailed risk management program. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure a comprehensive review and analysis of the company's exposures with the intent of ensuring the presence of adequate controls. Regulatory compliance, conformance with consensus standards, coordination of insurance coverages, integration of corporate policies, and adherence to industry practices are considerations during this process.

Risk Management vs. Regulatory Compliance

Every company has a natural progression related to safety and risk management. Management of many young, growing companies mistakenly believes that compliance with the plethora of regulatory standards is sufficient to ensure a safe workplace. However, as companies mature, most realize that these regulations are minimal in many instances. Indeed, the standards fail to address many aspects of the operations that expose employees and the company to potential harm. The company's safety efforts evolve from an attitude of 'if only we could comply with the regulations' to a realization that much more is often required.

Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.

George S. Patton

Incorporation by Reference

A quick read of the OSHA standards might give a false sense of security regarding the level of safety within a company, and even with the level of regulatory compliance. However, the standards themselves are the proverbial "tip of the iceberg."

Included within many OSHA standards are notations regarding standards of other agencies of the U.S. Government, as well as those of organizations, which are not affiliated with the government. These standards are incorporated simply by the reference and have the same force and effect as those standards that are explicitly detailed. The mandatory provisions (containing the word 'shall' or similar mandatory language) of those standards are adopted as standards under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. See 29CFR1910.6.

By virtue of this method of incorporation, it is necessary for the safety professional to become familiar with a myriad of standards from a wide variety of alphabet-soup organizations even to be in regulatory compliance. These include the AGCIH, ANSI, AAI-RMA, API, ASME, ASTM, CGA, NFPA, NIOSH, SAE, and UL. These are:

  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists

  • American National Standards Institute

  • Agriculture Ammonia Institute-Rubber Manufacturers Association

  • American Petroleum Institute

  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers

  • American Society for Testing and Materials

  • Compressed Gas Association

  • National Fire Protection Association

  • National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety

  • Society for Automotive Engineers and

  • Underwriters Laboratories and many others.

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