Safety First

Rob Vetter: Incorporated by Reference - What’s That?

Friday, 9 October 2009 ( #432 )
Not all of the employers' obligations are written in regulations.
Not all of the employers' obligations are written in regulations. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK
Rob Vetter is technical director and managing partner with the Ives Training Group, in Blaine, WA, USA, a leader in North American mobile equipment training systems since 1981.
Have you ever heard the term "incorporated by reference" (IBR) in the context of mandatory regulations? If so, did you know it means that the referenced standard carries as much weight as a regulation? In other words, a regulatory authority can hold you accountable for compliance with standards that you may not even know of. I have encountered many employers who doubt this and for them, I carry around copies of not only the applicable but the official interpretations and/or guidelines that address the significance of industry standards with respect to regulatory requirements. These interpretations clearly state that employers are responsible for safety issues and/or hazards despite the absence of a specific regulation and point to such things as industry standards, manufacturers' instructions and 'general duty' wording. General duty clauses/requirements are common to nearly every regulatory jurisdiction in North America. They are typically broad, all-encompassing requirements designed to backstop specific regulations. Without quoting chapter and verse, the general duty requirements address any type of potentially hazardous situation that presents a risk of injury to any worker. Employers are expected to seek out such hazards and take corrective action to eliminate or minimize the risk. This may involve the incorporation of manufacturer's instructions and, of course, applicable industry standards - IBR or not! That's right. Companies can be - and have - been cited because of non-compliance issues with industry consensus standards that were not IBR! Granted, these are usually cases where death or serious injury have occurred and an adjudicator has deemed that the incident could have been avoided had a particular standard (IBR or not) been complied with. So, don't get into an 'if it isn't written, it isn't so' mindset because when it comes to safety and compliance, adopting an 'if it's dangerous, do something about it' mindset is far more prudent. Always remember that industry standards IBR are as mandatory as any regulation. In fact, for all intents and purposes, they are regulations. Following are some of the industry standards commonly incorporated by regulatory reference in North America in relation to forklifts: * ANSI/ITSDF B56.1 - Safety Standard for Low Lift and High Lift Trucks. * ANSI/ITSDF B56.6 - Safety Standard for Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks. * NFPA 505 - Fire Safety Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks Type Designations, Areas of Use, Maintenance and Operation. * NFPA 58 - Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code. * UL 583 - Standard for Safety for Electric-Battery- Powered Industrial Trucks. There are many other standards incorporated by reference but they mostly deal with technical issues related to design and construction rather than safe use and operation.