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Finding best practices in safety and health

April 11, 2000
We are a far cry from winning the war, but most workplaces have corralled and subdued their most serious risks and hazards. Many EHS pros are now fine-tuning their safety and health programs to further prevent and reduce injuries to workers. Rather than looking for any program or idea that will work, the challenge now is to find and implement 'best practices.'

If you want to find the best safety and health practices, a good place to start is by benchmarking successful safety and health programs. So where do you find them?

Grassroots networking

Most local chapters of the National Safety Council keep track of workplaces in their geographical area that have demonstrated exemplary performance in preventing or reducing employee injury and illness. You can find the address, phone, or web address for National Safety Council chapters at www.nsc.org. Link to 'Chapters and Divisions.'

The local safety council chapter can put you in touch with someone that manages a successful safety and health program. All it takes from there is the nerve to give the person a call and ask for some help. Don't fret too much over the science and art of performing a benchmark review. If the safety and health program is really successful, they probably have been benchmarked before and can lead you through the process.

VPPPA's directory of best practices

Workplaces that have been accepted into OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) have demonstrated, through a strict qualification process, to have some of the best safety and health programs in the U.S. Part of this process includes a rigorous on-site review by an OSHA VPP team.

The Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association (VPPPA) has compiled a "Directory of Best Practices" which lists the strong points in safety and health program elements identified by OSHA during VPP on-site reviews. The directory contains contact names and phone numbers at the VPP sites found to have best safety and health practices. Again, all you need is the initiative and courage to give the contact person a call and ask for help.

The directory can be ordered at www.fiesta.com/vpppa. The directory is free for VPPPA members.The price for nonmembers is $35.

Internet resources

The Internet provides many sources for finding best safety and health practices. Perhaps the best way to find the best practice you're looking for is to ask for help on an e-mail list that serves safety and health professionals. There are numerous e-mail lists and new e-mail lists come onto the Internet all the time. Three lists that you may find helpful are: ih-list@lists.aiha.org; listserve@safnet.com; and list@risknet.com. You can find more e-mail lists sites and other safety and health resources on the Internet at www.christie.ab.ca/.

Professional organizations

A primary objective of most professional organizations and associations is to collect and disseminate best practices to their members. For example, you may find training best practices at the National Environmental Training Association (www.envirotraining.org/). NETA's mission statement is "Leading the world toward best practices in environmental, health and safety training."

If you're looking for best practices in safety management, the American Society of Safety Engineers may provide what you want. ASSE is holding a "Best Practices in Safety Management" symposium in Las Vegas, February 1-2, 1999. If it's too late for you to make this symposium, ASSE may be sponsoring another best practice symposium at a later date. You can contact ASSE at www.asse.org.

Magazines

Besides looking for best practices articles on various EHS topics, you should check up on your favorite writers. For example, I'm a fan of Scott Geller. I always read Scott's articles regardless of the topic because he provides some good ideas for best practices.

Another writer I like a lot is D. Jeff Burton. Jeff primarily writes articles about ventilation and other engineering controls. He has compiled his 15 years of writing articles on engineering controls and put them into a single monograph. You can order the monograph ($39) by faxing an order to 801-298-9098. Jeff has provided me with several best practices that I've put into use.

Keeping track

Jeff Burton has the right idea. He has collected all his best practices on engineering controls and placed them into a single monograph. You should follow a similar practice by making and maintaining a file for each best practice that you are interested in.

Finding best practices is really not that hard. What seems hard to many of us is just asking for help in understanding and implementing the best practice once we've found it.

By Dan Markiewicz, CIH, CSP, CHMM, senior industrial hygienist with Aeroquip Vickers, Inc., Maumee, Ohio.

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