Acting with surprising speed, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has approved ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005, American National Standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.

ANSI Z10 provides a blueprint for widespread benefits in health and safety, as well as in productivity, financial performance, quality, and other organizational and business objectives, according to a statement issued by the American Industrial Hygiene Association, which served as the secretariat of the standards-setting effort.

Z10 is a completely voluntary set of guidelines divided into these sections: Management Leadership and Employee Participation; Planning; Implementation and Operation; Evaluation and Corrective Action; and Management Review. Appendices address roles and responsibilities, policy statements, assessment and prioritization, and audit information.

AIHA is now taking orders for the 66-page publication that contains the standard, and will start shipping the publication in September. The price is $50 for AIHA members and $65 for nonmembers. Call AIHA Customer Service at (703) 849-8888.

The question is, how many calls will AIHA get?

EHS experts familiar with the Z10 standard say interest in the U.S. will depend largely on the promotional efforts of AIHA, and putting an accreditation program in place for the standard so auditors can certify compliance, similar to ISO 9000 and 14000 standards for quality and environmental management, respectively.

Even then, Z10 faces some stiff competition from existing safety and health management systems, including many designed in-house by multinationals for their own use.

"Z10 is a U.S. system that doesn’t have that global appeal behind it," says Tom Cecich, a corporate EHS consultant. "For those companies that want just a U.S.-based third-party accreditation alone, I think they would opt for a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) approach."

"Unless Z10 gets some international acceptance I think it will be hard to supplant OHSAS 18001," says Cecich. "Companies I have benchmarked with have a wide range of views on third party accreditation. Some see little business value while others feel it gives credibility and verification to their safety and health efforts. Almost all are global companies."

International EHS consultant Kathy Seabrook agrees. "U.S. companies do not want certification for their U.S. operations, so I do not see that changing with the new Z10 standard."

Where Z10 might come into play — and a major reason why a committee of EHS heavyweights invested several years in developing it — is if ISO decides to roll out an occupational health and safety management system standard. Then Z10 will be used as a reference document, along with existing OHS management systems such as 18001 and the International Labour Organization's version, as well as standards in Japan, South Korea and Australia.

A proposal for just such an ISO standard will be brought forward from the European Union in the future, according to one EHS expert.