Written in 2006, a year after the publication of the ANSI Z10 standard, the article offers well-thought-out points to consider regarding the legal applications of the national consensus standards.
The case is made that OSHA and other federal agencies could use consensus standards during enforcement actions and tort litigation. ANSI Z10 was introduced as guidelines to assist organizations with integrated management of environmental and quality management systems. The essential elements of the standard address leadership, employee participation, planning, implementation, evaluation, corrective action, and management review. The same principles are included in OSHA’s guidance on safety management systems and were addressed in the draft Safety and Health Management Standard, which was withdrawn from the regulatory agenda. The ANSI Z10 standards exceeded the draft standards and OSHA guidance by including provisions for risk control, audits, incident/accident investigations, responsibility, and authority. The author asserts that because of similarity in guidance, OSHA could take action under the General Duty Clause as the General Duty Clause charges every employer with the legal duty to keep the workplace free from recognized hazards. In the 29 CFR 1926.21 regulation, employers are responsible for safety training and management programs. The author asserts that OSHA could cite an organization for not implementing ANSI Z10 because it is a method for addressing known hazards. Many examples of supporting case law were included in the article.
At the time of publication, there was little reference incorporated into the national or state laws regarding ANSI Z10. The standard lacks influence over the industry. A consensus standard “known generally” could support legal action brought by OSHA or third parties. The author further asserts that ignoring the standard or failing to implement the standard under the direction of a safety professional could lead to other tort and professional liability. In general, ANSI Z10 may also have value in settlement agreements. With case law examples and well-thought-out suggested prudent courses of action, the author makes a compelling argument for employers to at least consider implementing ANSI Z10 or some other safety management system framework.
Adele L. Abrams, Esq., CMSP