Copy from one file and paste into another file. With today's computer technology it's really that easy to set up written environmental health and safety programs and develop EHS training materials.

All you need are a good PC system, access to the Internet, word processing and presentation software and basic computer skills. Many people have these resources now and they will be even more readily available in the future.

Let's use OSHA's revised respiratory protection standard as an example. The standard requires a written program and requires training employees who may wear a respirator. You can start from scratch to put this information together, but wouldn't it be easier and save time just to tweak someone else's finished product and call it your own?

Let's walk through how easy it is to obtain and edit a written respiratory protection program and develop respiratory protection training materials. Just so you know, the computer I'm using for this exercise is a 486 equipped with Windows 95, Explorer is my Internet browser, and I'm using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint for my word processing and presentation software. If you have similar equipment and software, you may want to actually go through these steps with me.

First, let's obtain a 'model' written respiratory protection program. Go to the Internet address This site brings you to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's written Respiratory Protection Program Manual. The site also contains CDC's entire Safety and Health Manual. You may want to look over some of CDC's other written programs later.

Now copy all or part of CDC's written respiratory protection program file. Close or minimize your web browser and open your word processing software. Just paste this file into your word processing program. Delete references to CDC and put in your company's name. You may want to do a little more tweaking but essentially you're done. You now have a written respiratory protection program sitting in your computer. At this point you can print the program, label it as a draft, and give it to your boss. He or she will probably think you worked long and hard putting the written program together.

Any problems?

Is there any problem with what we've done? To make you feel better, we didn't violate any copyright laws. The CDC home page on the Internet states, 'In general all information presented in these pages and all items available for download are for public use.' I guess use of this information from a government agency is part of the benefit we get for paying taxes.

The written respiratory protection program still needs to be spruced up a bit. For example, Appendix C of the revised standard is a Medical Evaluation Questionnaire that must be completed by all employees who may wear a respirator. It's too tacky and unprofessional just to copy this questionnaire from the Federal Register. It also is not a good use of time to try retyping it. Let's copy and paste again.

Go to the Internet address Here you'll find the questionnaire. Copy the file and paste it into your word processing program. You can't change the words in the questionnaire but you can clean it up and make it more user friendly. Delete those needless asterisks (*) found throughout the document. You should also change the font style and point size of the letters. I chose Times New Roman font at 12 point. The words are now bigger and easier to read.

Other ideas for cleaning up the questionnaire include:

  • Make a cover sheet for the questionnaire with your company's name on it. Include your company logo if you like. On the cover sheet include the wording from the questionnaire 'Your employer must allow you.'

  • Keep 'Part A. Section 1.' data to one page.

  • Italicize information in the questionnaire that is informational only. Keep all other letters in standard format.

  • Add an extra space between all questions. It is particularly important to add extra space between the 'Yes / No' that must be circled by employees. Without a wider gap a sloppy circle may cover more than just the intended word and create doubt as to the correct response.

You possibly have a few ideas of your own to make the questionnaire better (remember, don't change any wording). The end result should be a document that is consistent in appearance with the rest of your written respiratory protection program. These subtle changes make the entire written program look more professional and fit as a complete package.

On to training

Putting a respiratory protection training program together is just as easy as developing the written program. Again, we go back to the Internet. This time head over to This site provides links to OSHA's training and reference material for the revised respiratory protection standard.

The first link you come to is 66 color slides, viewed as a PowerPoint presentation, that outlines the major requirements of the standard. The slides are complete with pictures of various respirators, fit testing equipment, and so on. After looking at a slide, right click your mouse button (if using Windows 95), select copy, then paste the file into your presentation software. You will not be able to directly edit the slides. Also, the slides will appear somewhat fuzzy. This is because OSHA did not make the slides available as an actual PowerPoint file. (They could have but didn't.)

If this information was contained in a PowerPoint file it would be very easy to edit the slides specific to your training needs. The slides are available as a PowerPoint file, but you'll have to purchase them from the National Technical Information Service (another link at this OSHA site). Oh well, we didn't get full value for our taxes this time.

Even though OSHA didn't let us directly obtain editable slides, they did provide the brain-power for us. We now have without much effort a respiratory protection training program. The slides can be shown from a computer, printed onto paper, or put on transparencies to be shown with an overhead projector.

You can also copy and paste into your presentation software respiratory protection training graphics that NIOSH created for its tuberculosis protection guidelines. You'll be able to resize these graphics and use them for your own training program that's developed at a later date.

Copy and paste. It's pretty easy. Maybe too easy. But back to a question I asked earlier. Is there any problem or risk with what we are doing? I'll answer this question in next month's column. Until then, what do you think?