October 28, 2021 / John Suter

Having a Voice in Voluntary Consensus Standards

Are voluntary consensus standards for health and safety really “voluntary?” Do you want to have a voice in developing voluntary standards?

High-performance organizations understand that employee safety, health, and well-being are critical to their competitive advantage. Mandatory regulations and governmental enforcement represent the minimum level of health and safety that society is willing to tolerate, and compliance with the minimum is not a roadmap to organizational success. The cost of OSHA penalties and increased insurance premiums pales in comparison to potential lawsuits, loss of employee trust, and ultimately poor company performance.

On the other hand, consensus standards represent the best practices assembled by experts in a particular field. They are reviewed and updated regularly by a balanced group of stakeholders. The committees developing these standards are managed by Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs). A few of the many SDOs that develop standards relevant to industrial hygiene include ASTM International, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), and ASHRAE.

Considering how important consensus standards are to your organization and to your own professional success, it seems that firstly, consensus standards aren’t really “voluntary” and secondly, you need a voice in how these standards are developed. Fortunately, AIHA represents its members’ interests on the committees that develop consensus standards through its Standards Advisory Panel (SAP).

The SAP is a group of nine volunteer members serving rotating three-year terms. The SAP works with AIHA’s volunteer groups to identify the consensus standards that are of greatest importance to AIHA members. The SAP then suggests an appropriate level of AIHA involvement in the identified standards, which could entail:

  • Appointing an official AIHA representative to serve as a voting member on the committee developing the standard.
  • Recommending that the relevant AIHA volunteer group review the standard, track any revisions, and report any developments that affect AIHA members. This could include a member of the volunteer group serving as a non-voting member of the standards developing committee or voting on behalf of another organization while keeping the volunteer group informed.

If AIHA will appoint an official representative to the standards developing committee, the SAP will send an open call for AIHA members to volunteer. The panel will then review the applications and select an AIHA representative and an alternate.

Would you like to learn more or get involved in this process? Here are some things you can do:

  • Learn more on the SAP webpage.
  • Join an AIHA volunteer group focused on a topic that interests you.
  • Check AIHA’s open calls webpage for opportunities to serve as AIHA representatives to standards developing committees or as members of the Standards Advisory Panel. Open calls are also emailed to AIHA members as opportunities arise.

John Suter

John Suter, CIH, CSP, ARM, CSP, is chair of the AIHA Standards Advisory Panel.


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