A Fond Farewell; Thanks for the Support!

I appreciate all of the support I have received over the past few years writing this blog, however at this time I have transitioned into a new role and simply do not have the time to adequately maintain this site.

Therefore I bid you all a fond farewell (at least for now).

Career Success Means Being Fully Engaged!

[tweetmeme]I have spent a lot of time and energy developing this blog.  My aim is now as it has always been, to deliver a voice of encouragement and to be resource for folks looking to help keep themselves or others safe in the workplace.  I have often utilized humor or tried to highlight some slightly off-center topics to engage my readers.  But just the other day I was at lunch with a friend and we were talking about our careers, family, NCAA tournament…the usual.  I guess at some moment I must have seemed down, because my friend asked me if I was happy?  I instinctively said “sure”.  He then asked me, “Why do you do it?”  “Why do you invest so much energy into your work….I mean what is your motivation?  What are you passionate about?”

I thought for sure my friend was having a mid-life crisis or worse he thought I might be having a crisis.  I left that lunch not really answering the question, at least not to myself.  Oh, I replied the usual answers we all give, family and relationships, etc.  But later after more reflection I came to the unexpected conclusion that it wasn’t just my family and personal relationships that drive me, but that I absolutely love what I do and I hold a strong conviction that environmental, health and safety is one of the most important, challenging, and respectable professions available.  I started to write down some of the challenges that I haven’t been able to fully solve or overcome within EHS.   Just that simple act of writing them down in front of me:  there they were staring at me still fighting with me.  Well that got my competitive juices flowing and I immediately wanted more than ever to meet these challenges and solve them once and for all.

As a EHS professional, or any professional, if you want to succeed in something you are not fully engaged in you are doomed to fail.  I realized that my friend must have sensed that I haven’t been as fully engaged as I usually am and he decided to challenge me on it.   So in turn I am challenging you!  What are you passionate about?  If you want to be happy you need to make sure you are getting something from your career choice beyond the paycheck.  Whether its personal growth, working to a common purpose, or being part of a larger process you need to take time to celebrate the successes you have and repeat them when you can.  Being engaged in your work means having fun and being enthusiastic about it.  It is not acceptable to simply be satisfied with your job if you really want to succeed and be happy.

Whenever possible, do something that really charges you up.  If having face-to-face time with the front line employees leave you with a feeling of accomplishment, make time in your schedule to do more of that.  If training employees on hazard awareness helps you feel like you are making a difference, then try to do more of that.  Don’t mistake this with only doing the things that are easy or fun, but definitely make time for them.

Quick Tips for Happy Engaged People

  • Remember the most important skill you will ever have or learn will come from a true desire to help others.
  • Find intrinsic enjoyment in your work;  if you can’t, maybe you need a change.
  • Invest the time and resources to stay current in your industry.
  • Your relationships with management and labor have the biggest impact on your success.  Nurture those relationships!
  • Top performance requires time to rest.  Don’t beat yourself up for downtime.  Rest and relaxation helps recharge your batteries.
  • Show genuine gratitude to your support team.  This includes anyone who has a hand in your success.

Congress Reaches Consensus on OSHA 2012 Budget

[tweetmeme]Congress has reached an agreement on fiscal year 2012 spending after passing seven continuing resolutions over the past few months.  The FY2012 budget agreement is in the form of an omnibus bill that rolled all of the remaining appropriations bills into one big bill.  After all the political fighting back and forth, Congress decided to reverse some of the Obama administrations priorities of the past couple of years.  Gone are the increasing budgets for enforcement and new field compliance officers, this budget is aimed at returning OSHA to offering more compliance assistance and investing in public/private partnerships.

OSHA’s 2012 Budget 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) budget will increase by a little more than $7 million in 2012, however the way that money is to be spent will change.  Compliance assistance programs received the largest increase in OSHA’s budget nearly $6.5 million more than the Obama administration had requested.   Most of the other budget increases requested by Obama were rejected by Congress, including an $8 million request for increased enforcement.

Say Goodbye to the idea of a MSD Column on the OSHA 300 Log

In one of the more interesting turn of events, Congress included an addendum to OSHA’s budget which states that “None of the funds made available may be used to continue the development of or to promulgate, administer, enforce, or otherwise implement the Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements – Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Column being developed by OSHA.”

MSHA Receives a Boost!

Also as expected the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) received a $12 million boost in their budget for increased coal enforcement, technical support and program administration.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) budget was severely slashed by Congress to the tune of $41 million decrease.  This is somewhat explained by the addition of funding from the “evaluation tap funding” which puts NIOSH’s reduction closer to $22 million.

A complete breakdown of how the 2012 budget may look is presented here:

Veterans Day 2011: A Salute To Those Who Have Sacrificed So Much For Us!


Advances in Tablets and Smartphones Drive Increase in Mobile Learning

[tweetmeme]Workforce trainers have incorporated technology in their classroom instruction for decades.  However now with cloud computing and the growth of smaller, more portable computers and Internet-capable Smartphones and Tablets, it’s now possible to bring their classroom to the technology.   More powerful computing, increased internet coverage and advancements in applications has powered a huge demand in technology driven learning solutions.  It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that today’s learners are demanding more than just classroom lectures.  Adults don’t learn that way!  Increased interactivity, peer-to-peer mentoring, and ‘just in time’ learning has replaced the outdated ‘just in case’ learning model.

Future Workplace & IESE Business School Research:

M-Learning: From Anticipation To Reality

  • By year end of 2011: nearly forty percent of executives plan to incorporate media tablets into learning and development initiative.
  • Nearly 75% of these learning executives plan to incorporate smartphones by the end of this year.

By 2015: Human Resource executives plan to leverage mobile devices not only for learning & performance support but also for coaching and mentoring employees.

However we still face challenges with technology.  Some barriers to implementation can’t be resolved as easily as hoping that ‘there’s an App for that’.

Five Barriers to Implementation

  1. Cost of developing content across all types of mobile devices and platforms.
  2. Security of issues associated with mobile devices
  3. Non-clarity on how to participate in mobile learning
  4. Out-dated IT policies
  5. Lagging instructional design expertise

Internet is Everywhere

There aren’t a lot of places these days that are devoid of an Internet connection, and many people can now access the web from anywhere they can get a cell phone signal.  Online collaborative learning is on the rise as a result.  Whether through blogging, podcasts, or more traditional online discussion forums, trainers and learners are experiencing a whole new world of opportunities.

Now with the rise in popularity of Tablets; they too are finding a home in both the traditional and the virtual classrooms.  Like many Smartphones, Tablets have touch capabilities built into the screen.  Learners can touch the screen on Tablets to manipulate, interact and share content with one another inside and outside the classroom, which can foster an interactive environment.   Tablets are more than an interactive tool; they can also save time.   Instead of spending hours transcribing classroom records and scores;  trainers can simply mark papers electronically and then transfer the scores directly into their Learning Management System (LMS).

mLearning implementation

The actual implementation of mLearning is growing faster in some sectors more than others.  According to eLearning Guild research data collected from members worldwide, the use of mLearning for social networking and communication is currently more prevalent than it is for the development of custom applications, with 38% of organizations either implementing, designing, or building the business case for social networking and only 25% for custom application development.   However of those who have already implemented  some sort of mLearning into their organizations, 50% are reporting immediate positive returns.

Textile Industry using Eco Index for a Green Future

[tweetmeme]The textiles and apparel industry, once considered far behind the building and consumer electronics sectors in sustainability, has taken the lead on the environmental front.

Though still in their infancy, the industry-wide efforts are a prime example of how open-source, cooperative action can yield promising results.

The Eco Index, an internal environmental assessment tool designed for apparel, footwear and equipment, grew from a seed of an idea that surfaced in August 2006 at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, a twice-annual trade show for outdoor industry businesses.

Five years in the making, the tool is accessible for anyone to test via ecoindexbeta.org, though there are a number of active subgroups still finalizing content.  Methodologies for toxics & chemistry, equipment and materials efficiency in waste, and indicators for social responsibility and fair labor are being developed. Meanwhile, indicators for end of life, packaging and facilities are being revised.

The Eco Index provides a comprehensive framework for approaching sustainability throughout the supply chain.

Linda Greer, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Health and Environment Program and the woman behind the Clean By Design initiative, feels that creating the index is an amazing feat, but a bit misdirected.

“The development of the whole tool doesn’t address the fact that more than 90 percent of the brands out there don’t know where they get their materials from,” Greer says. “That is a real problem. It’s as if they are writing a giant SAT test and don’t know the students to submit it to.”

The lack of material transparency was one of the principal reasons behind the founding of Source4Style, a business-to-business online platform currently in public beta, which connects apparel brands directly to the source of their materials.  Sustainability information is built into a supplier questionnaire at the start, with the bulk of the questions modeled from the Eco Index’s Material Indicators.  The more information suppliers know about their own material, the better search functionality they will achieve once the site moves from public beta in a few months.

Beth Jensen, corporate responsibility manager of Outdoor Industry Association, the trade organization supporting the Eco Index, says the index provides a platform for brands and retailers to work with suppliers to gather information, leading to the ultimate goal of increased supply chain transparency.

“The companies in our industry recognize that they are not yet achieving the level of supply chain visibility they would ideally like to see, but that is why they developed the Eco Index,” she says. “The index provides shared language and guidance around environmental impacts, a roadmap to discussing sustainability issues with and gathering data from suppliers.

“Down the road, it is likely that some type of third-party verification system will be put into place around the Eco Index, which will further force the issue of improved supply chain transparency. Those brands, retailers, and suppliers engaging now around the Eco Index will be well-positioned when that time comes.”

It is clear that a process and framework for thinking about such issues were sorely lacking until the index emerged. Many firms and brands don’t know where to start when it comes to sustainability. The Eco Index gets all brands, retailers, and suppliers on the same page, working in a common language and using a common way of measuring progress — whenever the players are ready to speak and work towards those goals.

Kevin Myette, director of product integrity at REI, resolutely says, “Until we have that language, we have minimized our chance to make a difference.”

Myette, a core member of the Outdoor Industry Association Eco Working Group and the chair of the systems subgroup of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, jokes that he doesn’t know who he’s working for anymore, but to him, it doesn’t matter. He recognizes that being a part of the efforts helps move the industry forward.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an initiative announced earlier this year, began building upon the Eco Index efforts through an initial dialogue between Patagonia and Walmart. Jill Dumain, Patagonia’s director of environmental strategy and chair of the Eco Working Group, says the coalition’s goal is “to reduce the impact of the apparel industry by creating an index that will allow companies to rate their products for internal review. This will allow them to learn the necessary steps to improve their products and practices from both an environmental and social/labor point of view.”

By Summer Rayne Oakes at Greener World Media

Thu Jul 7, 2011 1:00am EDT

OSHA lacks “persuasive evidence” on Residential Fall Protection Alternative


No alternative?

OSHA rescinds directive on residential construction fall protection requirements

National Safety Council, Safety+Health

By Lauretta Claussen, associate editor

Citing high numbers of fall-related fatalities in residential construction, OSHA in December rescinded a compliance directive that allowed residential construction workers to use “alternative” fall protection measures….read more

‘Free Contact’ with Bears is a Recognized Hazard under the General Duty Clause

[tweetmeme]COLUMBIA TWP. — The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will not cite Sam Mazzola over the fatal bear mauling that took place at his Columbia Township compound last year.

 Jule Hovi, area director of OSHA’s Toledo office, said investigators were unable to establish whether Brent Kandra was an employee of Mazzola’s at the time of his death following the Aug. 19 mauling.


But Hovi said that even though Mazzola wasn’t cited, that didn’t mean the investigation didn’t raise concerns about the hazards inherent in dealing with bears.

“Mr. Kandra was permitted to have unprotected or ‘free contact’ with a 400 lb. bear, which unfortunately resulted in fatal injuries,” Hovi wrote in a Dec. 17 letter to Mazzola. “Direct or free contact with dangerous animals such as bears, is a recognized hazard that is likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees and others.”

Mazzola hasn’t denied that Kandra once worked for him, but he said that on Aug. 19 Kandra was visiting him and his animals as a friend.

Mazzola’s lawyer, Jeff Brown, described Kandra as a former employee of Mazzola’s who had raised the bear that killed him from a cub.

Kandra was reportedly feeding Iroquois, one of several black bears Mazzola housed at the compound, when the bear attacked him. Mazzola has said he used a fire extinguisher to force the bear away from Kandra, who died about six hours later from his injuries.

Iroquois was euthanized at the request of Kandra’s family.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

New Congress and Slow Economy Means OSHA Has Up Hill Battle

[tweetmeme]Now that a new Congress has started, expect to see a lot of the issues we talked about in 2010 to be non-starters in 2011.  There is actually legislation being introduced to place a moratorium on new regulatory rule making, so the pace will definitely slow as far as new safety initiatives.   Coupled with the sluggish economy and the appearence that new Government activity equals slowing of the economic recovery; it doesn’t bode well for OSHA’s aggressive agenda. 

However OSHA is pushing forward with a number of issues they feel they can still accomplish.  Dr. David Michaels, Asst. Director of Labor in charge of OSHA has a list of priorities that include the following: 

  • I2P2 – the number one priority of Dr. Michaels. The agency hopes to have the Small Business Regulatory Review in June. However, no proposal has yet been drafted so don’t be surprised if the issue is delayed most of the year.
  • GHS – the agency hopes to finalize this proposal in 2011. How will the TLVs be addressed? No one seems to know or at least is not telling anyone.
  • Confined Spaces in Construction – Whistleblower Protections – Standards Improvement. The agency hopes to finalize all of these in 2011. One of the three would be great, two would be amazing.
  • MSD Column on OSHA 300 Log – The agency is now shooting for early 2012.
  • Combustible Dust. No final date has been given, but the agency hopes to conduct the small business review in April.

I am not holding my breath that any of these issues will be going anywhere anytime soon.  Congress has bigger fish to fry with the economy and the National debt, the last thing they want is to have OSHA or any other agency being percieved as holding back small business growth with more regulatory burden.

Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work

[tweetmeme]Really interesting point of view.