5 Items for Every Safety Professional’s To-Do List in 2012: From OSHA to Sustainability

1) Get Up to Speed on GHS

GHS adoption by OSHA is likely weeks away and time is running out to get a head start. Everyone covered by the Hazard Communications Standard (HCS) should be getting familiar with GHS and making plans for employee training. If you need to catch up, try this Free GHS Webinar. (If you don’t know why MSDS = SDS, what a pictogram is, or about the great safety label makeover, be sure to sign up today.)

Chemical manufacturers should also be getting a jump on GHS by re-classifying hazardous products according to GHS Rev. 3 and re-authoring safety data sheets in the GHS format. MSDSonline can help on the authoring front with its risk free authoring. Author now and we’ll make sure your recently authored SDS is compliant with the final rule when it’s published.

2) Embrace Technology

In other words, don’t be like my father-in-law. As a safety professional in 2012, being technology adverse is no longer an option. State and Federal agencies like the EPA and OSHA are moving rapidly toward requiring electronic filing of compliance information (e.g. Tier II Reports, Injury and Illness reporting). Safety professionals and organizations that continue to manage information on paper are not only at risk of being left behind; they are increasing the amount of time and resources spent on those activities.

Managing safety data sheets in three ring binders is kind of like continuing to access the internet via a dial-up connection (like my father-in-law who spends a half an hour just to check his email.) The good news is that cloud technology makes it easy to handle these tasks electronically and is relatively inexpensive. For instance, innovations in online chemical management now make it easy to cross reference your chemical inventory against state, federal and international regulations and chemical watch lists. Good solutions even let you print out reports at the touch of a button.

Unfortunately, this is an area where we see a lot of unnecessary conflicts within organizations. Often it pits the younger and older generations against one another. The older generation is often resistant to change, yet they have the all-important experience and are often in positions of management, whereas the younger generation has the technical wherewithal, but no means to employ it.

Our advice to the technology laggards, “Don’t be a roadblock just because you’re uncomfortable.” Technology is here and this is a great opportunity to bridge the gap between the experienced and the novice. It will be better for all if these changes happen while you’re still there to make the meaningful connections between legacy systems and processes and the limitless possibilities inherent in today’s solutions. Of course, on this blog, we know we’re preaching to the choir.

3) Get on the Sustainability Bandwagon

2011 was the year it became clear safety professionals could no longer stand on the sideline of the green movement. It’s such a big issue, ASSE made safety and health sustainability a center piece of their national conference, Safety 2011. These days sustainability is not just about keeping the environment healthy, it’s also about improving processes, saving money, driving profits, and putting employee safety front and center. Sustainability is good for the bottom line in two ways; it often reduces inputs, which saves money and resources; and at the same time it makes products and companies more appealing to consumers.

More importantly, for companies to do sustainability right, they need safety professionals on board. This means there is an opportunity for you to gain exposure and executive support for the projects you’re already working on. Employee safety (reducing workplace injuries and illnesses), greening the supply chain and item #2 from above — embracing technology.

If you’re already on the bandwagon, then make this the year you move to the front seat or better yet, the driver’s seat. Click Here to view more posts on Sustainability/Environmental management.

4) Give I2P2 Another Look

Yes, Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (I2P2) were a high priority for OSHA at the start of 2011. And yes, OSHA had to temper its plans for an I2P2 standard due to strong pushback from stakeholders and Congress, and is currently in limbo. Nevertheless, OSHA’s enthusiasm for I2P2 has not waned and any organization looking to be proactive or to get on OSHA’s good side would do well to consider the benefits such a program has to offer.

This month OSHA issued a white paper on I2P2 that makes a strong case for proactively identifying hazards and correcting them before incidents occur. Even though there is no Federal mandate for I2P2, the white paper points out how 34 states currently encourage I2P2 implementation with 15 of those states having some form of mandatory regulations in place.

What makes for a good prevention program? OSHA says, “Management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.” Getting executive buy in might be an issue. When it comes to actually implementing the other elements however, there are lots of great resources available. The VelocityEHS Incident Management solution can help put you on the path to success.

5) Be More Social

Social media is a dual-edge sword. On the one hand, it represents the greatest time waster ever devised by the human race (if you don’t count contesting red light traffic tickets in Illinois. I haven’t gotten one yet, but knock on wood.) On the other hand, social media is hands down the easiest way to plug in and connect with like-minded safety professionals.

Your job is hard. Staying on top of changing regulations and best practices can’t be done by attending a conference every few years and reading every fifth copy of the safety magazine you subscribe to. By joining a safety community (say on Twitter or LinkedIn) you can put the wisdom of the crowd to use for you. When something big happens, say a law changes that will impact your industry, if you’re plugged into the right group, you’ll know.

All it takes is a few minutes a day. You don’t have to be like your teenagers, handcuffed to your smart phone at all times. For many groups, information can be emailed to your inbox. If you like, you can start by subscribing to this blog. Or, if you’re not ready to make the leap, we have a Safety and Enviro Tool Kits that provide 24/7 online access to health and safety information, analyses, advice and best practices.