The ANSI Z10 committee on Occupational Health and Safety Systems meeting in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this summer brought the group one step closer to releasing a voluntary standard detailing how companies can manage and document their overall health and safety programs.

The committee has 42 voting members, and interest in its work grows as a proposed standard comes closer to reality.

One measure of interest: attending the Charlotte meeting were representatives from almost every major professional safety and heath society, several major labor unions, a number of Fortune 500 corporations, and OSHA.

Some concern has been raised over the large number of members from the "industry" sector in Z10. But the American Industrial Hygiene Association, acting as the committee's secretariat, has concluded that the diversity of Z10's industry participants is sufficient to ensure compliance with American National Standards Institute requirements for balanced committee representation. AIHA did say that the Z10 committee should not accept any additional industry candidates.

An "Editing Subcommittee" has been charged with drafting the voluntary standard's initial language. Subcommittee members include representatives from OSHA, the United Auto Workers, General Motors, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Siemens, and several industry consultants. The Editing Subcommittee benchmarked its draft against these standards: ILO, ISO 14001, BS 8800, and OSHA's VPP.

Several issues have come up which will spark wider reactions as the Z10 draft makes the rounds for public comment (perhaps in 2003):

  • In terms of the standard's language, what's the difference between "Manage" versus "Control"? This might seem like a minor point, until you consider potential liabilities for employers if the Z10 standard one day becomes the model for an ISO or OSHA safety management standard.

  • Likewise, how do you define "Management Leadership" and "Employers Active Participation"? What, exactly, are employers liable for - what are they expected to do for safety and health?

  • What about the role of employees? How involved should they be in the management of a safety and health program? This is a very delicate subject - every employer has different ideas about the extent of employee rights and participation. Existing labor laws must be considered, too.