Author(s): Gregory Cade. Published on March 1, 2017.

Coordinated Effort

A new administration provides a new opportunity to spread the NFPA safety message in Washington

During the recent presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump said energizing the nation’s economy depends on reversing, eliminating, or otherwise modifying the current federal regulatory environment. However, President Trump, his administration, and others who share this objective maintain that the aim is to accomplish this without any adverse impact on the safety of citizens, workers, or the environment. That is good news for citizens who rely on and expect government to keep them safe, and an opportunity for NFPA to reinforce the role codes and standards play for government.

While those of us who work in this area understand that the development of codes and standards is one of the oldest and most successful public-private partnerships, it is not as widely known or understood that NFPA, like other standards development organizations, provides a valuable service to government and private businesses alike when it comes to safety. Privately developed standards that can be adopted or referenced by governments on all levels save those governments money, incorporate broad-based thinking, harness the latest research and technologies, and promote efficiencies.

As a former fire chief and later as head of the United States Fire Administration, I know that successful leaders must try to picture the most desired outcome through a hazy future. It is often a given that everyone agrees safety is a priority, but the challenge is always in the details. I believe the best approach to achieving safety is through the adoption, use, and enforcement of current codes and standards. This is done with a coordinated strategy involving our partners at every level of government. NFPA is proud of its long history of bringing together diverse groups to find solutions to complex safety problems.

To ensure this respect for the importance of safety remains at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds, we are working with many of these partners, including Congress, federal agencies, and private organizations that share our safety goals. We are promoting, first and foremost, the updating of all federal agency code and standard references that are more than one code cycle out of date. We meet with Congressional leaders with influence over legislative actions that matter to NFPA, and we make sure the law continues to respect the intellectual property rights of standards development organizations.

We also work to ensure new government staffers understand the role standards developers play in protecting the health and safety of the public and facilitating economic productivity. We continue to build relationships with federal agencies important to NFPA’s mission, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Chemical Safety Board, agencies that are critically important in a number of ways, from volunteering on NFPA committees to helping disseminate NFPA’s safety message. We’ve partnered with other private organizations, including the Build Strong Coalition to improve community resiliency and the Smarter Safer Coalition to improve the safety of homes built in flood-prone areas.

As we work with the new administration, we are starting from a strong position. NFPA codes and standards already underpin many federal safety regulations and serve as best-practice examples to guide regulatory compliance. Agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, use NFPA codes and standards and encourage others to use them as best practices.

We are encouraged by the early mentions of the importance of safety, and it is critical to build on that awareness. Governments and citizens have benefited from NFPA codes and standards for more than 100 years, and it is essential that we continue to work together to keep safety front and center.

GREGORY B. CADE is division director of government affairs for NFPA.