Compliance is a buzz word today that goes right along with Regulations, Oversight, Rules and Standards. The questions are; does compliance really matter and how do we manage our industry’s compliance?
As a member or prospective member of an industry association we all hold ourselves to the standard of Compliance. Whether it’s an associations own rules and standards, or a compliance group or code like Occupational Health & Safety Association (OSHA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Fire Code (IFC) or one of the other international groups, we believe that association members are the best qualified to provide industry specific services to the market.
Many of the challenges we faced by a national organization that has uniform standards throughout the United States is that the Regulations, Rules and Standards that govern each jurisdiction may not be uniform. The lack of a nationally accepted standard for many industry associations lends to the inconsistency in the quality of work provided on a national level, sometimes even among industry members.
Helping to fuel this issue is that industry non-compliant companies compete with compliant companies and cut corners that can allow them to offer lower prices on products and services that generally to not meet the standards expected by most associations.
Another issue facing many of us is that we have looked the other way with some compliance issues that may not have been required by the jurisdiction, but is required by a standards organization; then the jurisdiction adopts the latest national or industry standard and we have to present the customer with a new requirement. Even though many industry associations have been beholden to larger national or international associations, we may not have felt it was necessary to keep a customer compliant if the jurisdiction did not require it; a potentially difficult discussion to have with a long standing customer.
Finally there is interpretation and definition. Most standards documents is in some ways ambiguous and gives the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) leeway in the determination of Compliance. The issue here is what one AJH deems compliant, another may determine does not meet the definition. One example of this is NFPA96 18.104.22.168 that states that Upblast Fans will have a “Service Hold-Open” retainer. There are AHJ’s that deem a Chain sufficient as a Service Hold-Open Retainer and others that say the Retainer must actually hold the fan in place. This and many other interpretations put at risk the validity of solutions and us as providers if there is a loss at our client’s business caused by an issue defined so broadly.