Work on voluntary guidelines for how to manage occupational safety and health programs continued at a two-day meeting of the ANSI Z10 committee in Florida on Feb. 28-March 1.

Guidelines will cover management leadership, employee participation, planning and implementation, program objectives, contractors, risk assessment, monitoring, training and other areas of safety and health programs.

Sources say the main debate on the committee now centers on how much detail the standard will delve into. Similar disputes flare up over many OSHA standards.

Some corporations and business groups want to skimp on the specifics - they already have their own internal standards. Other members want the Z10 document to be used by smaller companies, with 50 or more employees, and argue that these firms need more details and tools such as checklists, which could be put in appendices.

This big company-small company split also surfaced in a committee debate over whether employers should be required to pay for safety training, according to one source. Most large corporations already do; small firms might not have the resources.

What about auditors?

An even more contentious issue hasn't made it on the table yet - whether or not the standard should require third-party auditing and certification, like ISO standards. This would be a boon to safety and health consultants, and a cost to employers. One reason some business reps opposed the ANSI standard at the outset was that they saw it as a "consultant's full-employment act," in the words of one.

Third-party certification is important and deserves study in the future, says Dr. Manuel Gomez of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the secretariat of the committee. "But it is not part of the scope of Z10 and almost certainly is not going to be addressed by the committee."

At the first Z10 committee meeting last year, big business reps such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tried to kill the standard, but were voted down (25 members voted "yes" a standard was needed, ten voted "no," and four abstained).

Global reality

Now the 46-member committee of management, labor, academic and other reps is developing the standard's framework more rapidly than many expected. They're propelled by this reality: If the U.S. doesn't come up with its own occupational safety and health systems standard, American multinationals will have to live by someone else's - such as the recent International Labor Organization standard or the British 18001 standard.

Organized labor reps on the committee are participating but keeping a low profile for the most part, according to sources, to the point where one committee member at the recent Florida meeting accused them of "wimping out" on the debate over pay-for-training. In the past, unions have criticized ANSI standards for being dominated by industry interests.

Next up for the committee: an editorial work group will take the first crack at writing language for the standard. Several sources say the plan is to issue a formal proposed standard for the public to pick apart by early next year.