By now managing workplace safety and health is as accepted and assumed a part of operating a business as ordering raw materials. It‘s a rare company that doesn‘t have a proactive pro-gram in place to identify and reduce risks from fires, falls, machinery accidents and the like before they actually cause injury or result in fines from regulators.
Companies have also operated for years under environmental safety and health laws and rules, but programs for managing those risks are much less prevalent.
That‘s what Tom Odegaard, president and executive director of the Seattle-based Evergreen Safety Council, heard from personnel at member companies involved in managing safety and training programs.
“Within the last few years they‘ve been getting an increasing amount of expectancy to be involved with environmental safety issues,” Odegaard says. “So many of them said, ‘I don‘t know where to start.’ That got me thinking we should be able to help there.”
So ESC, which runs such certification and training programs as motorcycle and forklift operation, plans to start a new series of courses to get companies up to speed on running their own environmental health and safety programs.
The three-day course will launch sometime in early 2012 with a focus on clean air, clean water and hazardous wastes.
Odegaard says the course won‘t cover the entire spectrum of environmental safety and health, but it will “give them a starting point, give them a platform to know what the rules are, where they can find the rules, who the agencies are that enforce those rules, if they need to contact them how to contact them, and then come away from the classes being able to go back to their organizations and do an evaluation as to what do we have at risk here?”
Companies have practical motivation for getting serious about having their own environmental safety and health programs. “There are a lot of regulations out there, and some agencies are more aggressive than others in enforcement,” Odegaard says. “Everything we see (indicates) there‘s going to be more enforcement.” And in many cases, he adds, “The fines on the environmental side are much stiffer than on safety and health.”
To date many companies have been in a reactive mode, dealing with environmental issues only when inspections and fines are involved. “They want to put together a program so they‘re not reacting, so they‘re ahead of the game a little bit,” Odegaard says, so that if inspectors do show up at the door they can point to specific measures they‘ve taken to mitigate risk and be in compliance with rules.
The program will have application not just to manufacturing and construction businesses, which are dealing with issues such as managing storm water runoff from their job sites, but service companies as well.
“If you have a fleet and you have a shop that takes care of that fleet, what are you doing with and how are you treating all the fluids that you change to prevent that from getting into the storm water and eventually (into Puget Sound),” Odegaard says.
The good news is that there are measures companies can implement without breaking the bank, he adds.
Odegaard says the course will include speakers from agencies involved in environmental regulation. Participants will be given reading material in advance of the sessions. ”We‘re trying to be respectful of time away from work,” he says.