Solutions for Safety & Workplace Communication
Written by Steve Hudgik
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is just one of many organizations that plays a role in the regulation of products and facilities, and it can be hard to keep all the acronyms straight. In a nutshell, what is ANSI?
One potential answer to the question 'What is ANSI?' is that ANSI is an organization which oversees standard-making processes. Various privatized organizations such as ASME, NFPA, IIAR and others work to create safety and best practice standards to guide industry activities. Despite the fact that these standards often technically carry no legal obligation, they are known as consensus standards because the industries they affect widely agree that they are valid and important. ANSI works to make sure that the process by which these standards are decided is neutral, fair and relevant.
ANSI also focuses heavily on encouraging the adoption of its accredited standards internationally, which provides more opportunities for U.S. business abroad.
In short, ANSI does not really apply itself exclusively to one specific industry. Rather, it functions as an umbrella organization, overseeing the creation of standards performed by many different industry-specific organizations. ANSI-accredited standards are known as American National Standards, meaning that they have been approved but not necessarily developed by ANSI. This standard watchdog role allows ANSI to provide oversight to a vast variety of industries and audiences.
ANSI's website describes the range of topics its approved standards address: "American National Standards provide dimensions, ratings, terminology and symbols, test methods, and performance and safety requirements for personnel, products, systems and services in hundreds of industries." Many such standards are created for the protection of consumers.
The ANSI Z535 standard series has hugely impacted the effort to communicate hazards effectively, and its widespread use is a solid evidence of its success as a safety campaign. What is ANSI Z535? Specific practices addressed by this series include:
Common verbal safety messages such as "DANGER" and "WARNING" as well as the bright colors and symbols that accompany those headers are examples of visual communication in line with the ANSI Z535 standard. The more universal these elements of safety signage become, the more effective they are at protecting workers and consumers.
ANSI is not a government agency and the standards it accredits and endorses are not "law" - which is why they are frequently referred to as voluntary consensus standards. In the attempt to regulate and standardize industry practices, however, they inevitably encounter some overlap with the efforts of government-sponsored regulatory organizations.
ANSI enjoys a cooperative relationship with public sector regulatory agencies. It functions as a liaison between industry and government, monitoring relevant public policy discussions and providing insight to both sides on a variety of issues. Federal agencies are also relying increasingly upon ANSI-approved standards to inform their own regulations, and in some cases of noncompliance even making mention of them in formal citations.
ANSI membership is open to government agencies, educational organizations, companies, international bodies and individuals. Because ANSI relies heavily on information from the ground floor of diverse industries to direct its efforts, members have many opportunities to weigh in on timely industry issues.
More information on specific requirements and benefits is available at ANSI's website, www.ansi.org.