The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has historically supported the voluntary development, promotion and use of consensus standards, and will assist in all practical ways in developing and maintaining such standards within the limits of its Charter and resources. The Society is involved in standards activities with many organizations and committees functioning under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The Society is particularly involved as Secretariat of several Standards utilizing ANSI procedures.
ASSE Standards development activities date back to the 1920's. The Society affirms that the voluntary consensus standards system as presently constituted most effectively forms the basis for protecting people, property, and the environment. It supports, where feasible, performance over specification standards in order to provide flexibility and innovation in complying with the requirements of such standards.
Consensus of knowledge and expertise in the subject area or field, usually representing consolidation of current information and data.
Authoritative guide to be used by government agencies as a basis for regulations.
A guide on the level of safety, which is reasonable and necessary in the workplace or public sector for the protection of employees or of consumers.
An approach for national uniformity, which helps employers engaged in interstate commerce and those having establishments in more than one state.
Provide the same measure of protection for workers or consumers wherever employed and whenever the product is purchased, and when generally applied, eliminates competitive advantage.
Shorter time intervals between updates, incorporating new technologies, data or other information relevant to a safety issue into the standard.
As the chairman of the ASSE Standards Development Committee (SDC) and practicing independent consult I can attest to the impact and importance that SH&E national voluntary consensus standards can have.
Past articles and materials in the Consultants Practice Specialty Newsletter would seem to make the case that consultants generally use voluntary national consensus standards to develop best practices in specific areas, use standards for training employees, technical issues with litigation, compliance concerns with government agencies, and in the development of bid contracts/technical specifications. We all know from experience that consultants routinely use voluntary national consensus standards to address specific needs where other standards/regulations either do not exist or are so ambiguous as to be useless.
During the creation of this paper we asked fifty SH&E members for their insights of how they as consultants use SH&E standards. While the list below is similar to the list above there are several differences. Perhaps the most significant differences in the answers received were the perceptual differences between civil litigation and regulatory compliance issues.