EDITORIAL COMMENTS: Polishing the crystal ball
Q.1 â€” What does â€œfour more yearsâ€ mean to EHS?OSHA chief John Henshaw summed it up the day after President Bushâ€™s re-election in a speech in his hometown of St. Louis: You can expect more â€œstrong, fair and effective enforcement,â€ more â€œoutreach, education and compliance assistance,â€ and more â€œpartnerships and cooperative programs.â€
On the enforcement front, Henshaw takes pride that OSHA has jacked inspections by nearly ten percent from 2000 to 2004 â€” to about 39,000.
OSHA will continue to annoy for-profit safety training companies by enlarging its inventory of popular (and free) â€œtoolsâ€ for safety and health pros. The agency offers more than 45 eTools. â€œQuickTakes,â€ OSHAâ€™s email newsletter, has more than 50,000 subscribers. Fifty-million visitors check out OSHAâ€™s Web site annually. The agencyâ€™s toll-free helpline (1-800-321-OSHA) will handle more than 160,000 calls this year â€” up 17 percent in the past two years.
As for partnering, Henshaw boasts that Voluntary Protection Program sites now number 1,180, up 66 percent since 2000. VPP wonâ€™t reach Henshawâ€™s goal of 8,000 in the next four years, but donâ€™t be surprised if the annual national meeting of VPP companies rivals the size of annual gatherings of industrial hygienists or safety engineers by 2008.
And OSHA will keep rolling out new alliances with trade groups. Announcing all the agreements has made public affairs one of OSHAâ€™s busiest departments â€” alliances have grown from 11 in 2002 to more than 240.
Perhaps public affairs can borrow some standards writers if needed. In his St. Louis speech, Henshaw said not a word about any specific new OSHA standards. Standards-setting gets no mention in OSHAâ€™s â€œbalanced approachâ€ of enforcement, outreach and cooperation.
Q.2 â€” Where will the EHS jobs be?EHS employment is most likely to be secure, if not growing, in industries where there is:
How can you protect your career in a shrinking market? Hereâ€™s what a survey of business execs by Richard Fiore of Search Consultants International found to be the EHS skills in demand:
Q.3 â€” After behavior-based safety, whatâ€™s the next new thing?The fathers of behavior-based safety are talking a new game. At the National Safety Congress last September, before it was shut down by Hurricane Ivan, Tom Krause of BST was heard giving a talk with references to cognitive biases and the root causes of cultural failures. BSTâ€™s Jim Spigenerâ€™s presentation discussed the importance of personalities. Scott Geller lectured on states of mind â€” do you seek success in safety or try to avoid failure?
Back when BBS was the rage in the late 1990s, the behaviorists didnâ€™t spend much time on cognitive biases, personalities, and states of mind. B.F. Skinner must be rolling in his grave.
What these safety thought leaders are saying is that itâ€™s time to study the whole person, or the whole organization, not just behaviors.
Trying to get employees involved in safety? Trying to break the chain of accident repeaters? Raise awareness and hold conversations about the influence of self-talk, of personal beliefs, of positive and negative outlooks, of personality traits and states of mind.
Scott Geller calls this â€œPeople-Based Safety.â€
In organizations this holistic approach is called systems management. Those VPP companies, for example, are committed to connecting all the pieces of their safety and health programs. Itâ€™s not hazcom one month and confined spaces the next. Itâ€™s using an auditing system and scorecard to grade all the elements that make up a program â€“ from management leadership to emergency preparedness.
â€” Dave Johnson, Editor