When Industry and Government Cooperate

When Industry and Government Cooperate

On Dec. 2, 2010, after over a year of collaboration with industry stakeholders, California released revisions to its Construction Safety Orders, Section 1637 “General Requirements” for scaffolds, addressing requirements for Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) scaffold plank.

At that time John Warlikowski, director and industrial product manager with Vandermeer Forest Products Inc., member of the advisory council that worked with Cal/OSHA, and Scaffold & Access Industry Association (SAIA) member said, “Dec. 2, 2010 marks a milestone in safety when it comes to California workers that use LVL scaffold planks. California standard 1637 addresses badly needed clarification of manufacturing requirements for LVL scaffold planks. This new standard is an example of how industry and government can collaborate on standards that not only protects workers, but do not result in undue financial hardship for industry.”

The revisions were set in motion when Warlikowski notified the regulatory body with serious concerns about the LVL scaffold products being imported into the U.S.—specifically California—at that time. Warlikowski reached out to Cal/OSHA after hearing an alarming amount of complaints from peers concerning defective scaffold plank that in at least one case resulted in an accident.

The process of amending the standard from that point on was a collaborative effort between Cal/OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board), and countless other industry stakeholders that resulted in revisions that made the scaffold industry safer. (The Standards Board is the Agency in California’s Safety and Health Program that adopts standards that are enforced by Cal/OSHA).

SA recently conducted an interview with George Hauptman, senior engineer with the Standards Board who was assigned to develop the proposed new standards after Warlikowski’s concerns were vetted. Hauptman discusses with SA, from the Standards Board perspective, how industry and government can and did work together to make change happen.

"Cal/OSHA listened and was wise enough to reach out to the industry and work towards a solution without bureaucratic chains. There couldn’t have been a better person to work with than George Hauptman. He began the process with no personal opinion and went to extraordinary lengths to gather all the facts and information. He asked the right questions and allowed the industry to help form the standard,” stated Warlikowski.

Q: How difficult is it to make a change or amendment to an existing standard?

A: “When a standard already exists it’s not necessarily problematic to make a change to one or several requirements when the need for revisions are evident either because of advancing technology, or in some cases, accidents and injuries identify the need for amendments to address safety hazards. When amendments will result in substantial changes such as new standards for LVL and other types of manufactured planking, there are design and manufacturing considerations that by nature, involve contacting stakeholders and convening an advisory committee consisting of Cal/OSHA representatives, scaffold users and organizations, manufacturers, labor groups, and other industry experts. This process can take a year or more time from the initial assignment of rulemaking to the adoption of a new regulation.”

Q: Around how much time lapsed from when the issue was brought to Cal/OSHA’s attention till it was assigned to you?

A: “It is my understanding that Cal/OSHA became aware of concerns about certain manufactured planning in 2006 and 2007. In late 2006, Cal/OSHA submitted a request to the Standards Board to consider a rulemaking action that would address standards related to LVL scaffold planking. Due to a number of existing assignments, this matter was assigned to me in 2009.”

Q: After John’s concerns were vetted by Cal/OSHA’s Research and Standards Unit and you were assigned what was the next step?

A: “In this case, and commonly, we review the language we believe appropriate based on the request for amendments. We then review that language with industry stakeholders, Cal/OSHA staff, and other industry experts. We then modify the language as a result of the feedback received until we feel it’s ready for the review and consideration of an advisory committee.”

Q: Who makes up the advisory committee, and is having the input of such a group standard when it comes to regulatory amendments?

A: “In this scenario the committee was made up of key industry stakeholders, the Scaffold & Access Industry Association, manufacturers, and lumber inspection agencies. A safety engineer and other staff members are responsible for developing a balanced committee of affected employers, management, labor representatives, safety specialists, engineers and other industry experts. With extensive, complex, or new standards, it is beneficial for the involved industry, the Standards Board staff and Cal/OSHA to include industry stakeholders in the rulemaking process from start to finish.”

Q: From your perspective, how critical or not is it to have industry involved throughout the entire process?

A: “In order to ensure a standard or amendment is in concert with good safety practices and industry’s expectations, it’s critical to include industry in the process. When the advisory committee meets we are able to review the regulatory language with stakeholders and get the feedback necessary for effective and protective standards. In this rulemaking, it was critical to have experts discuss the issues and impact changes would have on the manufacturing process. By the time the revised standard was released for public comment the language had been reviewed, edited, and recommendations were received by the advisory committee members—which meant no surprises regarding requirements.”

Q: What did the industry do right when approaching Cal/OSHA with an issue it wanted resolved?

A: “What the industry did right was to contact Cal/OSHA, explain the scenario, voice the concern that something needed to be done, and then be willing to participate in a full two-day advisory committee meeting. I believe at the time, Cal/OSHA was already becoming aware that there was a situation with inferior scaffold plank products coming into the state, so John’s call really was the trigger that set change in motion. Following that, it was invaluable to have key industry stakeholders participating in the process, helping us really understand the products in order to develop the right regulation.”

Q: Has there been a tangible impact of the standard since 2010?

A: “What was developed was a consensus standard that is now complied with by the manufacturers, so we’re not seeing problematic scaffold plank products to the extent we did then. Today, in general we’re seeing better regulations and guidelines for manufactured products. In this scenario, we attempted to have the language address not only the manufactured scaffold planks on the current market, but also write provisions with a broad scope that could also be applicable to planking products in the future that may use new technologies or materials in the manufacturing process.”

Q: When it comes to industry and government coming together for safer work environments, what can other industries learn from how this process went?

A: “There has to be a willingness to be involved in the process. In this type of rulemaking we seek out the most knowledgeable experts in the field and that often includes individuals who manufacture or distribute products in California and, therefore, have to travel to attend the meetings. Some individuals were unable to attend the advisory committee meeting but they requested the proposal and submitted their feedback in writing. What other industries can learn from the way this revision process went is to not just voice concern, but get involved in the change.”

Q: In reality, could you see the collaborative effort that takes place in California being applied at the federal level?

A: “Yes, however, federal OSHA oversees OSHA standards in many states and the pressures and concerns involved in a rulemaking action are experienced on a much larger, more extensive level. Yet, federal OSHA has had several successful committee negotiated rulemakings, including the provisions related to its Final Rule published on Aug. 2, 2010, addressing the use of cranes and derricks in construction activities.”

To download plank and platform guidelines go to: http://www.saiaonline.org/PlankAndPlatform

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Lift & Access is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.