Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Regulations are enormous - and growing by the day.
Engineers didn’t go into their field because they loved reading codes and standards. They want to create. At least that’s one of our core leap-of-faith assumptions at Omitz. We empathize with engineers when they get bogged down in the endless sea of regulatory and consensus requirements, floundering to determine which sections are truly necessary to execute upon their vision in a safe, efficient, and effective way.
Regulations have always existed to some degree in the United States, being used as a policy tool to course-correct free market failures and advance the goals of politicians. The efficacy and burden of these regulations vary by industry, but safety requirements have significantly benefited the United States workforce. In the 50 years since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was founded, there has been a substantial and significant downward trend of recordable case rates for injuries and illnesses in private industry (see Figure 1). This 4-fold reduction in injury and illness represents a real and positive impact on people's lives!
Figure 1: Incidence rates of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses, private industry, 1972 – 2018.
Courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Federal: The benefits of these regulations do not come without a cost. In 1935, the United States government passed the Federal Register Act and published all regulations as the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) in 1938, totaling ~ 18,000 pages of regulatory content. The size of the CFR has fluctuated from administration to administration, reaching a low of 9,745 pages in 1950. In the years following World War II, regulations exploded at a staggering rate reaching 188,321 pages in 2021 (see Figure 2) – nearly a 20-fold increase over 70 years! Note that these numbers are just federal regulations and do not include the requirements from state statutes nor the codes and standards adopted by local municipalities.
Figure 2: Code of Federal Regulations: Pages of Content from 1938 to 2021.
Courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics
State: Individual states have the autonomy to implement additional requirements to address their regional needs, some choosing a heavy-handed approach and others opting for a hands-off approach. Researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University collected and analyzed state regulatory data to identify the amount of regulatory restrictive language (e.g., shall, must, will) and populated the results on the color-coded map below (see Figure 3). The most regulated state is California with 396,000 regulatory restrictions, while the least regulated state is Idaho with 39,000 regulatory restrictions. Just for comparison, the CFR has 1.08 million regulatory restrictions found within its 188,321 pages!
Figure 3: State-Level Regulatory Restrictions.
Courtesy of Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Codes and Standards: Additionally, local municipalities often adopt privately developed consensus codes and standards into their requirements – and when they do, those codes and standards become enforceable as law. These independent requirements are created by standards development organizations (SDOs) who continually develop and update content of best practices with newly recognized hazards/safety controls, or to ensure companies have the most up-to -date consensus standards to implement. Within the United States, there are approximately 50 independent SDOs, all responding to niche market demands and developing unique content, with many welcoming and soliciting technical expertise from a variety of volunteer stakeholders (e.g., private, government, academia).
As hydrogen continues its rapid maturation, these SDOs respond to the market need and develop valuable content for industry. Regardless the value SDOs bring to the world, the sheer volume is overwhelming. Content managers at the Hydrogen/Fuel Cell Codes and Standards website estimate that worldwide there are nearly 400 codes and standards for hydrogen alone.
This big data information-overload is having real and consequential effects on engineers. According to the Harvard Business Review, current research suggests that the mountains of information we face in the workplace can be crippling, adversely affecting decision making, innovation, and productivity. Something has to give!
Until regulations and requirements are revised, reformed, or rescinded, the engineer is left with two options: 1) brute force their way through requirements or; 2) leverage technology (Hint: It would take an average reader three years of full time reading to finish the entire CFR).
Introducing Omitz, the revolutionary new search engine for quickly and easily finding regulatory requirements. Key features of Omitz focus on omitting needless content from requirements, so you can find what you need faster and more efficiently. Omitz is built on the core principle that brevity is beautiful. We believe that the greatest writing advice in the English language is composition rule #17 from Strunk and White’s formative book, The Elements of Style:
- Omit Needless Words –
We are so passionate about this rule that it has become the focus of our company and the basis for our name. Every feature we add or product we release will reference this core principle, ensuring we add value to our audience by constantly asking the question: will this omit needless words?
We have dreams of seeing the hydrogen economy flourish and think we have some clever solutions to ease the regulatory burdens of engineers, helping innovations reach the market quicker and safer. How will we accomplish this? Stay tuned for our initial release sneak peak in our next post!
Be sure to sign up for a pre-release today and secure your spot as the first Omitz verified Authority on Insight!