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MANAGING BEST PRACTICES: A science/math lesson plan for EHS pros

June 1, 2007
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In support of the America COMPETES Act (2007), the National Association of Manufacturers claim jobs in the U.S. are going unfilled because workers lack science and math qualifications needed for modern manufacturing.

The jobs that EHS pros hold are based heavily in science and math, particularly when innovation is needed to achieve best practices in assuring health and safety. The following is a suggested ten-lesson plan that will help EHS pros instill greater science and math awareness for themselves — and people under their charge.

The lesson plan is designed to be completed over the course of several months. A strategy should be developed to incorporate learning into planned EHS training programs such as electrical safety, fire safety, emergency response, hearing conservation, LOTO, forklift operation, confined space, etc. Management support should be sought for this effort to make employees more competent in science and math areas. You may draw upon the learning objective in lesson one to help convince management why completion of this lesson plan, or a similar plan, may be valuable.

Lesson one
Why should Americans learn more about science and math? Read the book “Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (2007)” from the National Academies. The book is available free online at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309100399/html.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: Identify six issues from the book that directly impact all EHS pros and three issues that directly impact people at your worksite.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Achieve a greater understanding of the risks nations and individuals face when they fail to keep technological pace in the global economy.

Lesson two
Obtain a scientific calculator such as the TI-30XA (about $10) for yourself and as a gift for safety committee members.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: As a group, perform the basic functions of the calculator as provided in the calculator’s instruction booklet (generally about 15 pages). Activity can be completed in about 45 minutes.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Determine the ease at which modern and inexpensive calculators can perform complex calculations.

Lesson three
Visit the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental and Safety Technologists Web site at http://www.cchest.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: Determine which members of your safety committee may qualify to sit for OHST® exam to earn the credential.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Understand that there is an opportunity for some safety committee members, and possibly yourself, to achieve a valuable credential under your tutelage.

Lesson four
Obtain OHST® self-assessment exam materials either through the CCHEST® Web site above or through commercial providers such as Datachem at http://www.datachemsoftware.com/ohstprep.html. The OHSTprep software from Datachem costs about $300 and has over 1,500 EHS questions with solutions and explanations.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: Select science and math questions to review with safety committee members.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Gain familiarity and confidence in answering scientific and math questions applicable to EHS work. This will be a review for those people who already hold CSP® or CIH credentials.

Lesson five
Environmental health is a topic that affects employees both on and off the job. It’s also becoming a bigger part of the job responsibilities for many EHS pros. Visit the National Library of Medicine’s “Tox Town” on the Web at http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: Explore information at the “Teachers” link and present topics most applicable for your local community with safety committee members or other employees involved in EHS activities.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Achieve a common understanding of how environmental health may impact everyone during their daily activities, including activities at work.

Lesson six
Visit the National Library of Medicine’s “Haz-Map” on the Web at http://hazmap.nlm.nih.gov/. Haz-map addresses occupational exposures to hazardous agents.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: Match agents, diseases and high-risk jobs against those that may be present at your work environment.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Verify that information at Haz-map is consistent with your worksite’s MSDSs and OSHA Hazcom program.

Lesson seven
Toxicology is receiving greater public attention. The European Union’s REACH legislation will drive more toxicological information into U.S. workplaces. Visit the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) “A Toxicology Curriculum for Communities Training Manual” Web site at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/training/toxmanual/.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: First, complete the “Test Your Knowledge Quiz” in the four training modules. Second, select all or portions of the curriculum to present to safety committee members and test their knowledge pre- and post-course.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Enhance toxicology understanding among employees with EHS activities at your worksite.

Lesson eight
Environmental medicine is shifting from a single substance focus into a more comprehensive approach. Visit ATSDR’s Case Studies in Environmental Medicine at the Web site http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HEC/CSEM/.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: You, and possibly EHS subordinates, should complete the case studies “Diseases Clusters,” “Environmental Triggers of Asthma,” “Taking an Exposure History” and “Pediatric Environmental Health,” and submit quiz answers to ATSDR for certificates (Note: a certificate will be issued for each case study only if a passing score is obtained on the study quiz). The certificates will qualify for CEUs if you or your subordinates hold credentials such as the CSP®, CIH, CHMM, RN, etc.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Learn to think like a medical professional.

Lesson nine
Disease prevention is shifting globally to a “life-stage” approach. In October 2006, the EPA released the final report, “A Framework for Assessing Health Risks of Environmental Exposures to Children.” A companion global document “Principle for Evaluating Health Risks in Children Associated with Exposure to Chemicals” prepared by WHO/ILO/UNEO is currently a draft with the final report expected mid-2007.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: Obtain the above EPA final report at http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=158363. Read the “Executive Summary” and “Introduction and Purpose” sections of the report and answer the question: “How may this information be applicable to workplace environments?”

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Gain appreciation of how new approaches to disease prevention may lead to new challenges.

Lesson ten
The U.S. government has developed Web sites to help citizens improve science education.

LEARNING ACTIVITY: Visit the Web sites http://www.science.gov/ and http://science.house.gov/resources/science_education.htm. Select interesting links and topics to share.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Help facilitate awareness, appreciation and access to science information with employees.

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Recent Articles by Dan Markiewicz, MS, CIH, CSP, CHMM

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