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August 29, 2000

"Now that I am the Safety Manager,
Where do I start?"

Congratulations, you are now responsible for the safety program at your workplace.  So, where do you start?  Are you familiar with OSHA, NIOSH the EPA and all of the different regulating agencies?  Do you need an Industrial Hygienist or an Occupational Health Nurse?  What about an employee medical surveillance program?  Do you have all of your Material Safety Data Sheets?  Are you confused yet?  Of course you are!  Even the most experienced health and safety professionals find themselves confused by all of the technical terminology.

This article is the first in a series dedicated to the novice health and safety professional.  Our goal is to provide you with the tools to help you do your job better and smarter.  This first article will start with information on the roles of the key players within the health and safety profession.  Future articles will include information on basic safety terminology, web links, regulatory agencies, writing a workplace health and safety plan and starting an in-house safety committee.

First, let's get started by understanding the "who's who" of health and safety.  There are many different professions within the health and safety field.  Here is a description of the most common technical specialties.  Do you need these people on your team?

Industrial Hygienist (IH)

An Industrial Hygienist (IH) is trained to recognize, evaluate, control and prevent workplace exposures.  The IH will review all workplace tasks to identify employee exposures to chemicals, noise, asbestos, lead, respiratory hazards, airborne contaminants, radiation, etc.  The IH is trained on the proper use and selection of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, gloves, coveralls, eye, face and head protection.  The IH is also educated on the proper design and operation of ventilation systems.

The IH is also skilled to operate many types of testing equipment such as noise meters, air sampling pumps, confined space meters and direct reading instrumentation.  This equipment allows the IH to collect samples of workplace contaminants to determine if a hazardous exposure exists.  The IH is instrumental in evaluating workplace exposures and making recommendations for improvement.

The goal of the industrial hygienist is to keep workers, their families, and the community healthy and safe. They play a vital part in ensuring that federal, state, and local laws and regulations are followed in the work environment.

The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) administers the professional certification process for Industrial Hygienists.  Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH) are recognized for their expertise after fulfilling a demanding qualification process.  For more information regarding Industrial Hygiene and the CIH process please refer to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at http://www.aiha.org/ and the ABIH at http://www.abih.org/.

Safety Professional

A safety professional is a person engaged in the prevention of accidents, incidents, and events that harm people, property, or the environment. They use qualitative and quantitative analysis of simple and complex products, systems, operations, and activities to identify hazards. They evaluate the hazards to identify what events can occur and the likelihood of occurrence, severity of results, risk and cost. They identify what controls are appropriate, the cost and effectiveness.

Safety professionals make recommendations to managers, designers, employers, government agencies, and others. Controls may involve administrative controls (such as plans, policies, procedures, training, etc.) and engineering controls (such as safety features and systems, fail-safe features, barriers, and other forms of protection).

Beside knowledge of a wide range of hazards, controls, and safety assessment methods, safety professionals must have knowledge of physical, chemical, biological and behavioral sciences, mathematics, business, training and educational techniques, engineering concepts, and particular kinds of operations (construction, manufacturing, transportation, etc.)

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) administers Professional certification for safety professionals.  The Certified Safety Professional (CSP) has met specific education and training requirements and has successfully passed a comprehensive examination process.  For more information regarding safety professionals and the CSP process please visit the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) web site at http://www.asse.org and the BCSP at http://www.bcsp.com/index.htm.

Occupational Health Nurse (OHN)

Occupational health nursing is the specialty practice that provides for and delivers health care services to workers and worker populations.  The practice focuses on promotion, protection, and restoration of worker's health within the context of a safe and healthy work environment.  Occupational health nurses make independent nursing judgements in providing occupational health services.

Occupational health nurses encourage and enable individuals to make informed decisions about health care concerns.  Confidentiality of health information is integral and central to the practice base.  Occupational health nurses are advocates for workers fostering equitable and quality health care services and safe and healthy work environments.

Occupational health nurses are registered nurses (RN) licensed to practice nursing in the states in which they work. It is preferred that nurses entering the field have a baccalaureate degree in nursing and experience in public or community health, ambulatory care, critical care, or emergency nursing.  For information regarding Occupational Health Nursing services, please contact WorkCare at http://www.workcare.com/.

Professional certification as a Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) is a voluntary process that recognizes those nurses who meet specific eligibility requirements and have demonstrated current knowledge in their specialty. The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (ABOHN) sets the criteria for certification and administers the certification exams. For certification information, contact: ABOHN at http://www.abohn.org/.  For information regarding Occupational Health Nursing please contact the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) at http://www.aaohn.org/.

Occupational Physician

The Occupational Physician is a licensed MD with special training and experience in the health hazards of workers.  A physician who works “in-house” may be located at the employer's site, or at a national or regional headquarters.  Consulting or contract physicians may be located at a local health clinic, or in a consulting group. They are responsible for establishing medical surveillance and treatment protocols, and standards of care within an in-house or local medical clinic.  The Occupational Physician is often part of a medical team consisting of Occupational Health Nurses and Physician Assistants.  Other personnel can include Worker's Compensation Claims Examiners, Case Managers, and Physical Therapists.  The Occupational Physician will determine if a worker's injury is occupationally induced or not.  Additional tasks that these physicians can assume include Worker’s Compensation and disability case management, toxicology and epidemiology consulting, Health and Wellness program development, international and travel medicine, and Human Resources and Benefits support.

For information regarding Occupational Physicians contact the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) at http://www.acoem.org/. For specific information on Occupational Medicine services, please contact WorkCare at http://www.workcare.com/.

Emergency Preparedness Manager

The Emergency Preparedness Manager is responsible for defining and communicating each employee's role during an emergency.  The Emergency Preparedness Manager must ensure that each employee, including Executives, instinctively understands the answer to "What do I do if "x" happened?"  Achieving this goal is no small task. This includes the development, training and testing of emergency action plans, evacuation plans, disaster plans and Executive level incident management plans.

Having a well prepared employee base provides an employer not only with a faster, more effective response to an incident and fewer incident/stress related claims but with ultimately faster recovery time and better image protection.  The quicker the business can return to a "pre-incident" business state the better off the company, the employees, the stockholders, and the consumers will be.

The Emergency Preparedness Manager should have a background in Crisis Management/Emergency Management methodology and practices, Safety Regulations, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements and Contingency Planning.  Ideal candidates have had experience responding to and recovering from incidents (man-made and natural) in a business setting (such as those that can occur in heavy industry or manufacturing) and have extensive experience in developing and implementing company-wide regulatory programs. 

Worker's Compensation Claims Examiner

The Worker's Compensation Claims Examiner is responsible for administering all aspects of the injured worker's claim.  This includes adhering to all federal and state laws regarding worker's compensation.  The Claims Examiner is responsible for processing all paperwork involved in a claim including medical reports, employee statements, litigation files and payments.  The Claims Examiner will make contact with the injured worker to explain their benefits under the laws of Worker's Compensation.

Worker's Compensation Case Manager

The Case Manager is a medical person, (i.e., a Registered Nurse) who is responsible for managing the medical treatment of a worker's compensation claim.  The Case Manager works directly with the claims examiner, the injured worker and the treating physician(s) to ensure that the worker is receiving appropriate treatment to ensure a safe and healthy return to work.  The Case Manager is in close contact with the injured worker to ensure that he or she fully understands their injury, their limitations and the treatment plan to return them to productive work.

For information regarding Case Management services, please contact WorkCare at http://www.workcare.com/.

Environmental Engineer

The Environmental Engineer is responsible for the management of several programs related to environmental protection, most commonly: Hazardous Waste Management and Disposal, Air Quality, Water Quality and Recycling/Reclamation.  The Environmental Engineer is trained in the requirements of federal, state and local environmental regulations.

Well, after "meeting" all of these key players within the safety profession, you are probably asking yourself "how do I get all of these specialties within my organization?"  The truth is that most employers do not have individuals representing all of the above disciplines.  Many health and safety professionals are cross-trained to take responsibility for more than one discipline.  The more experienced professionals have pursued multiple certifications so they can be responsible for many aspects of a safety organization (i.e., individuals with both the CIH and CSP).  These individuals are invaluable as team members, advisors or as consultants.

We wish you great success as you begin to build your safety organization.  We hope you will find excitement and challenges in your new safety career.  Please visit our site for next month's article featuring information on technical terms and definitions most frequently used by safety professionals.  We will also include a comprehensive listing of useful web links for the health and safety professional.

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See you next month, editor@osh.net

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Original articles © WorkCare™; Orange, California.