Canvassing for Consensus
Once satisfied that industry representatives had no major objections to the standard, UL began a separate process to obtain acceptance from the American National Standards Institute that UL 1482 was a "na-
tionally recognized consensus standard." ANSI aims to be a central clearinghouse and general overseer of nongovernment standards-writers. However, the organization has limited resources, no technical staff, and no information collection system. It depends on the voluntary cooperation of standards-writers. Although UL routinely submits its published standards to ANSI for such approval, the gesture is largely a matter of courtesy without any practical significance for the recognition or use of UL standards.
There are three separate procedures for gaining ANSI approval. UL uses the one subject to the most criticism: the canvass process. Under this procedure, UL developed (and ANSI reviewed and approved) a "canvass list" of parties thought to be interested in reviewing the woodstove standard. A professor at Auburn University who had conducted research on woodstoves for the CPSC was the only individual on a list of twenty-six. The rest represented organizations ranging from the Alliance of American Insurers to UL's Consumer Advisory Council and the National Safety Council. The standard was distributed to those on the list with a request for comments and an affirmative or negative vote. ANSI also solicited "public review comments" through a notice in its newsletter, Standards Action .
Under ANSI's canvass method, public comments and a compilation of canvass votes are submitted to ANSI's Board of Standards Review (BSR), whose job is to certify "consensus." They do so mainly by examining any "unresolved negatives" that emerge from the process. In the terminology of the BSR, UL 1482 was a "clean case." It was submitted to ANSI with no "unresolved negatives." No comments were received from the general public during ANSI's own comment period. On the basis of that information, the BSR approved UL 1482 without discussion on January 28, 1981.
What appeared to be a "clean case" to the BSR was not nearly so straightforward for UL. The canvass process took UL over twenty months—longer than it took from official proposal to publication of the standard—and it generated numerous negative comments along the way. Negative ballots were cast (at least initially) by members of five organizations on the canvass list, including NFPA, the National Bureau of Standards, the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Others voted affirmatively but registered negative comments.
The objections were to the scope and severity of the standard. Rep-
resentatives from NFPA and NBS objected to the lack of any provisions concerning the tendency of stoves to produce creosote. Representatives from ICBO and ASHRAE objected to the stringency of various test methods. The former considered an aspect of the fire tests too weak, while the latter argued that the impact test for glazing was unreasonably stringent.
UL responded to each party that cast a negative vote, seeking to elicit a vote in favor. The Standards Department at UL is charged with this task. The department, with almost fifty employees, acts as an intermediary between commenters and UL engineers. The department aims to defuse opposition and gain acceptance for UL's standards by informing commenters of the reasons for the provision in question and, if this fails, by trying to convince them that improvements can be made in the future. Commenters often agree to vote in favor of a standard on the assurance of the Standards Department that the issue will be addressed in the future. This tactic changed all of the votes against UL 1482 but that of the International Conference of Building Officials. UL had to request a six-month extension from ANSI in order to bring ICBO around.
Several of the objections to UL 1482 were dismissed by UL in a rather perfunctory fashion. Those who objected to the lack of provisions governing creosote formation were told that ongoing research in the scientific community was expected to provide a data base upon which a future test method might be developed. This response appears less than forthright given the events preceding the canvass. There, in response to questions about how (and whether) to deal with creosote formation in chimneys, the matter was dropped because, according to UL's report of the meeting with industry representatives, "the discussion indicated that it was primarily an installation consideration and not a product construction or performance requirement for inclusion within the body of UL 1482." An internal UL memo dated March 19, 1985, indicates that UL is still "not in a position to include any creosote tests." And a UL engineer confirms that without a request and financial support from industry, there are no plans to develop such a test.
Other objections to UL 1482 were also "resolved" in an unresponsive manner. A building code official objected that the glazing impact test would "increase the cost of glass doors without producing a safer product." UL's response: the test was intended "to provide the assembly with impact conditions under various modes." UL offered no evidence that the product would actually be safer as a result.