We in the safety profession have our egos and sometimes our politics. Sometimes egos and politics can be a problem in governing, as we have seen in the United States Congress. Egos and politics can get in the way of solutions, and these egos and political problems have interfered with progress necessary in the development of standards. Many dedicated safety and health professionals want to put their own "spin" values or technical expertise into a standard and some of them want the standard to facilitate and enhance their own professional standing. A dose of humility might be in order when it comes to standards development in the future. My experience at OSHA in industry and then in the private sector as a small businessman has opened my eyes to some common problems that occur with the development of safety and health standards, some of which have nothing to do with the standards themselves.
Experience working on different sides of issues has resulted in a perspective that includes:
There are serious problems with many current standards that specify action on the part of the employer or user;
No standard is perfect and there is no room for flexibility when human protection is involved;
The process of developing a standard is necessarily about compromise; and
Successful standard promulgation means everyone gets about half of what they want.
Standard development is a frustrating activity, but one that can make a real difference for the people in the workforce when the standards are simple, straightforward, and workable. This can be accomplished when the experts leave their politics and egos at the door and open their minds to the fact that most of the safety standards today are directed at humans, not equipment or materials.