Frequently, I attend technology conferences that are not related to the occupational health and safety (OHS) field. The reasons I attend these types of conferences are several: 1) first, to meet interesting people with fresh ideas and perspectives; 2) second, understand where technology is heading and how these technologies might inspire a different approach to ehs software; and 3) finally, for idea generation purposes. However, often when in attendance at these types of conferences, I get asked the question, “What is Occupational Health and Safety About?” Here’s my answer, at it’s core, what is occupational health and safety about, is making sure that every employee goes home from their workplace in the same condition, if not better, than they arrived. In addition, occupational health and safety is about ensuring that no employee suffers any disease or illness due to occupational exposure. That’s the short answer, but as a secondary effect, occupational health and safety can be about protecting customers (for example, through the creation and distribution of material safety data sheets), protecting the local community, and many other business stakeholders.
How do OHS professional prevent injury and illnesses?
So, as occupational health and safety professionals, how to we do injury and illness? Occupational, health and safety is a cross-discipline field, and may involve professionals in the following disciplines:
- Industrial hygiene;
- Occupational medicine;
- Occupational toxicology;
- Safety engineering;
- Regulatory compliance law;
- Health physics; and
- Public safety
Depending upon your specific background, your approach may be different. If you’re an industrial hygienist, you’re likely to follow the classic anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards in the workplace; if you’re a certified safety professional, you may take a slightly different approach. While each approach to occupational health and safety may be slightly different, there are some common themes. These themes are as follows:
- First, like any business endeavor, obtaining management commitment and involvement is key. Without management commitment, it will be very difficult to be successful. This is often the area where many occupational health and safety professionals struggle. Obtaining management commitment demands solid leadership and negotiation skills. If your background is purely technical, it may take some time to learn these skills.
- Second, employee participation is also critical. You have to have employees engaged. One way to do this is through the use of employee health and safety committees. If carefully planned and executed, you can get the employee motivated to proactively identify potential hazards and perform corrective actions to eliminate and prevent future hazards. At Affygility Solutions, many of our clients use our corrective action software to facilitate this part of the process.
- The third theme is employee training. This is also key. Employees must have the knowledge to understand risks and how to protect themselves from these risks. Fortunately for today’s occupational health and safety professionals, conducting training today has become much easier than 15 years ago. There are many great environmental, health and safety webinars, seminars, and other online EH&S training available. This makes training timely and cost-effective.
- Finally, the last theme is regulatory compliance. Compliance with regulations established by OSHA, EPA, DOT, and many other agencies is complex. While regulatory compliance alone does not guarantee a safe workplace, it should be considered the threshold of a program. Again, fortunately, with technology the way it is today, there are great EHS software programs that can make regulatory compliance much easier.
“What is Occupational Health and Safety About to You?”
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