Dear Subscriber,

In our last edition of ISHN's e-newsletter, we asked for your comments on the need for, and possible criteria of, a national award for environmental health and safety.

Several responses pointed out a snag: EHS pros can't agree on how to measure EHS excellence — unlike well-known financial measures that define business winners and losers.

Executives will not understand or even care about superior EHS performance until EHS pros reach some kind of agreement, wrote Richard MacLean in an article in Environmental Quality Management.

"I don't see any spark of interest in a Baldrige type award for safety," said David Varwig, a CSP with 30-plus years experience in the nuclear industry.

You can't judge what you can't measure. Said Varwig: Would someone please tell senior managers exactly what they are supposed to be doing for safety? Uniform safety program descriptions are needed — including formalized expectations for senior managers, safety people, supervisors and employees.

Safety's problem with definition and documentation actually runs deeper. We received a strong comment criticizing the lack of a uniform performance standard for professionals themselves. "We cling to the notion that some of us are 'engineers.' In a pig's eye!" said a safety and environmental coordinator with 28 years experience. "My son, a P.E. in civil engineering, says we are thieves and liars, with a 'gotcha dad' look in his eye."


Here's the rub — it's an attitude that gets in the way not only of a national EHS award, but greater credibility for the professional as a whole. EHS pros have conflicted feelings about standards and standardization. Yes, they have shaped the profession, but… especially in recent years, the mind set has been: The fewer standards from OSHA, ISO, etc. the better. Let us figure it out.

For example, the American Society of Safety Engineers recently weighed in with a position statement on the need for an ISO social responsibility standard.

In a letter to the American National Standards Institute, ASSE wrote: "… a standard on social responsibility would be difficult to develop, implement, advocate, and finally ensure compliance…"

Déjà vu all over again? Almost identical words have been used to refute the need for many an OSHA standard — ergonomics, a safety and health program management rule, motor vehicle safety, indoor air quality to name a few.

Instead, ASSE argued to leave social responsibility alone and let each "company's business culture" use its own policies, procedures and practices to come up with something.

Which is basically the same argument U.S. companies used to reject a proposed ISO safety and health management system standard in the late 1990s.


This disdain for standardization certainly fits the American culture of individualism. And it does benefit some individual EHS pros, allowing them freedom and flexibility to run their own shops as they see fit.

But here's the catch. As a 1997 paper drafted for the Center of Strategic & International Studies concluded after interviewing 17 business execs, the fate of EHS funding, staffing and investment decisions rests on "the skill of the individual championing them."

In other words, the absence of widely accepted performance and best practice standards — such as found in accounting, medicine, law and engineering — leaves EHS as a business function wide open to whims and judgment calls. One business manager interviewed in the paper said EHS investment decisions come down to questions such as, "What's your gut feel?" "Is this the right thing to do?"

Not exactly sound science to protect lives and property. Imagine being wheeled into surgery and overhearing your surgeon say to another doc, "What's your gut feel?" Or having your home built and hearing the architect wonder, "Is this the right thing to do?"

What's noteworthy about the process of EHS decision-making, according to Terry F. Yosie and Timothy D. Herbst, authors of the paper, "The Journey Towards Corporation Environmental Excellence," — — is the absence of the "business mind set."

The upshot? If you're not fortunate to have a savvy, well-connected EHS champion hard at work for you, an EHS management system risks becoming a marginal, maintenance activity, say the authors.

Without recognized standards of excellence, best practices, and a scorecard of metrics beyond OSHA recordables, most EHS programs achieve only modest results based on the pursuit of incremental improvements, rather than seeking more strategic and significant breakthroughs and innovations, according to the authors.

When was the last time the EHS field was truly rocked by a programmatic innovation? Behavior-based safety, one could argue. And why BBS? Because organizations needed a standardized method to manage organizational behavior.


The rate of injuries and illnesses declined from 5.3 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2002 to 5.0 in 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this week. Though year to year comparisons are no longer possible due to changes in recordkeeping practices, it's still remarkable to look back 30 years to 1973, when the total case rate was 11.0. In manufacturing, the total case rate has plummeted from 15.3 in '73 to 6.8 in 2003.

This progress has come despite many gaps in EHS standardization. Consider:

  • No uniform safety program descriptions exist.
  • No uniform safety responsibilities and expectations for managers, supervisors, and employees exist.
  • No consensus elements of an EHS management system have been accepted.
  • No consensus has been reached on the competencies required of EHS pros. No definitive skill set for pros has been established.
  • No widespread enforcement of EHS credentialing exists. There are scores of credentials.
  • No definitive threshold for superior safety performance has been established. "You know it when you see it," said one safety pro.
  • No definition of EHS excellence has been accepted.
  • No definitive scorecard of EHS performance metrics has been developed to replace the mismash of critical and mundane measures.
  • No agreement on the economic benefit of EHS investments has been reached beyond intuitive declarations, and no uniform valuation of EHS has been documented.

"See, we don't need any thresholds, cookie-cutter formulas, or restrictive requirements," some EHSers would say, admiring decades of falling numbers.

Of course, supporters of standards would note that the great decline in injuries and illnesses occurred during the decades when OSHA rolled out a steady stream of standards. Would such progress have been possible without the OSHA rules?


But this edition of ISHN's e-newsletter is not a debate about standards, are they good or bad for the EHS field? It's about the future growth of the field.

It is a future that cannot be build by depending on a small group of individual champions to push EHS forward. It can't be guaranteed by relying on a handful of world class business cultures to do the right thing. The future can't be left to judgment calls and gut feelings and hopefully creating an air of excitement about EHS.

Heading into a new year, here's hoping some potential building blocks of EHS's future get more attention and discussion than they have so far. They are not perfect solutions, some are works in progress, but at least they take a crack at consensus-building and innovation:

  • ANSI standard Z490 — Criteria for Best Practices in Safety, Health and Environmental Training.
  • ANSI standard Z590 — Competence and Certification in the Safety Profession, including criteria for establishing the scope and functions of the professional safety position and accepted practices for audits, assessments and evaluations.
  • ANSI standard Z10 — Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, which spells out expectations for management leadership, employee participation, and itemizes the elements of a health and safety system.
  • Follow up to the "Economic Evaluation of Occupational Health & Safety Interventions at the Company Level" symposium organized by NIOSH and the World Health Organization this past November. The goal: demonstrate economic gains from health and safety interventions. Let's hope it gets more traction than the 2001 and 2002 Workplace Safety Summits at Georgetown University.
  • Completion of the Organization Resources Counselors' occupational health and safety performance metrics manual.

Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.

3E Company – Alleviating the Pain of HazMat Information & Compliance Management

Benzene, Arsenic Compounds, Asbestos, Beryllium, Lead, Mercury

Are these Hazardous Chemicals Located at your Facilities?

3E Company’s Inventory Assessment service provides companies with an accurate, site-specific, hazardous materials inventory report. How important is an accurate inventory? A typical chemical inventory illustrates:

  • Companies do not know what hazmat exists in their facilities
  • Companies do not have associated MSDS data, storage locations or container data or if this information exists it is out of date
  • Inventories are constantly changing across locations, sites or departments
  • Inventories contain more carcinogens than expected

3E can help your company capture an accurate snapshot of your inventory, enabling you to better manage your compliance and ensure inventory matching for MSDS management. Click here to learn more about 3E’s Inventory Assessment service.

TISCOR software solutions

As a competitive business, you face a dilemma. Paper is proven to be inefficient, yet it remains the dominant method for data collection. For more than twenty-two years, TISCOR has been developing software solutions that help companies automate their inspection activities. Using software and hand-held computers, inspections are simplified and handwritten logsheets are eliminated. The system even helps prove compliance with NFPA, OSHA, JCAHO and other regulatory agencies. TISCOR’s systems address fire & life safety equipment inspections, preventive maintenance inspections and physical security inspections. For more information, call 800.227.6379 or visit our website at


"SAFETY 2005: Meeting the Needs of Today's Safety Professional. ASSE presents Safety 2005 - a full three-day conference featuring more than 200 sessions, an exposition with 300 exhibitors, special pre and post-conference seminars, conference proceedings on CD, numerous networking events and more! Learn the latest strategies to expand your knowledge base and network with other safety, health and environmental professionals at the premiere SH&E event of the year. So, mark your calendar for June 12-15 and plan on attending SAFETY 2005 in New Orleans."

The Safety Coach® Says… You Can Champion Change!

Overview: Very few people understand how individuals and groups come to accept and embrace cultural change in safety. Each of us works through various cycles of change ultimately committing to what is necessary if the change is handled appropriately. This book will not only help you to understand the four cycles of change but will allow you to engage champions for change who will want to make the evolution toward safety excellence a reality in your organization. This book will make any reader believe that positive change is possible. It also highlights the eight most critical components of safety culture change. The Safety Coach® Says … is in story form — and its four main characters will engage and entertain you, as well as your future champions of change. Foreward by Dave Johnson, Editor, Industrial Safety & Hygiene News. Item #SC008-BK Orders can be made by visiting: Single book orders are $19.95 + $5.00 for shipping and handling. For bulk orders please phone: 1-800-240-4601

Books from ASSE

You can order these titles and more from the American Society of Safety Engineers Bookstore on ISHN's Web site. Visit —

Among the books you'll find:

  • "Refresher Guide for the Safety Fundamentals Exam"
  • "The Participation Factor," by Dr. E. Scott Geller
  • "Safety Training That Delivers"
  • "Building a Better Safety and Health Committee"
  • "Safety Management - A Human Approach," and "Techniques of Safety Management - A Systems Approach," both by Dan Petersen.


ISHN offers exclusive market research survey reports including White Papers, Online Training Editorial Study, Web-based Training Study, Salary Study, Hygiene Instrument Study, PPE Study, and more... CLICK HERE,5680,,00.html to learn more about these studies.


Look to ISHN's 73,000+ subscribers for your next direct mail campaign. For customized lists, call toll free: 1-800 323-4958; Fax: 1-630-288-8390; E-Mail:; Web:


Are you a safety and health pro or a manufacturer or provider of occupational safety and health products or services who enjoys writing?

Shakespeare need not apply, but ISHN is looking for authors to publish short articles (1,000 words) in our monthly issues.

Topics include: safety success stories, close calls and personal experiences, training tips, use of software, engineering controls (machine guards, lockout-tagout), gas detection and air monitoring, confined space safety, personal protective equipment, and OSHA compliance issues.

If any of these topics interest you — or if you have other ideas — e-mail editor Dave Johnson at

We will also consider articles you’ve already written but not submitted to any safety magazine.