Thursday, October 28, 2010

N-100 respirators & Lead RRP work. Part 3: Designation as "tight fitting"

So now the question is:

"If we are above the PEL, suspect we could be above the PEL, or we want to err on the side of safety and have our Lead RRP workers wear N-100s, do we really have to go through all that 29 CFR 1910.134 regulatory stuff?"


"What?  No maybe...none of your usual ifs and buts were candy and nuts regulatory speech?"

None of that.  Sorry, there is no easy out on this.  If you must wear a N-100 or require workers to wear a N-100 then you must comply.


Because they are defined as both a respirator and tight fitting.  Here is what the CDC has to say about these types of disposable dust masks:
There are important differences between facemasks and respirators. Facemasks do not seal tightly to the face and are used to block large droplets from coming into contact with the wearer’s mouth or nose. Most respirators (e.g. N95) are designed to seal tightly to the wearer’s face and filter out very small particles that can be breathed in by the user.
So, if a tight fitting respirator - such as a N-100 - is "required" it now falls under OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.134 requirements.  Respirators then must be used in the context of a comprehensive respiratory protection program which includes:
  • fit testing
  • medical evaluation
  • training of the worker.
  • and N-100s cannot be used by workers with facial hair that interferes with the face seal.
"You mean to tell me I have to do fit testing on a paper dust mask?"

Yes.  Here is what 3M - a reputable manufacturer of these types of respirators - has to say about that:
Either the FT-10 Qualitative Fit Test Apparatus, which uses a saccharin aerosol, or the FT-30 Qualitative Fit Test Apparatus, which uses a bitter aerosol, is appropriate for fit testing these products. These 10–20 minute procedures demonstrate whether an employee can attain a good face fit with a given style respirator.
Additional fit tests must be conducted whenever a different respirator (size, style, model, or make) is used and if changes in facial structure of the wearer develop that could affect respirator fit.
"Wow, a fit test on a paper dust mask - did not see that one coming.  I suppose next you are going to tell me that the worker must also do a fit check when they put the thing on?"

Yes.  Here is what 3M has to say about that:
To perform a user seal [fit] check [d]on the respirator according to the user instructions. Next, place both hands completely over the respirator and exhale. If air leaks between the face and the face seal of the respirator reposition it and readjust the nose clip for a more secure seal. If air leaks around the respirator edges, adjust the position on the face and the straps along the sides of the head and recheck fit. If a proper fit cannot be achieved, do not enter the area requiring respiratory protection.
"Well that's just great Mr. Rain on my parade.  You regulatory safety geeks just make my job harder with all your requirements."

Well then, don't wear a respirator.

"Ahh...I thought you were this "beyond compliance" believer.  Now you want me to not wear PPE?"

I only want you to wear PPE that makes sense.  PPE has as many downsides as it can have benefits.  That's why they wrote the RRP rule the way they did - so that the RRP contractor will do everything to avoid creating dust that would require the use of a respirator.  If the lead dust is below the PEL there is no harm.  No harm, no silly OSHA required administrative requirements such as a fit check and medical approval to wear a paper mask.  Wearing PPE does not provide ultimate employee protection.  Even OSHA acknowledges that in the first paragraph of the respiratory standard:
"the primary objective shall be to prevent atmospheric contamination"
See, OSHA, the EPA, HUD, CDC have designed regulations and policy that give you a legitimate out.  Control the stuff in the air and you will not need to wear a respirator.

If that's not win-win-win I don't know what more can be said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

N-100 respirators & Lead RRP work. Part 2: The Voluntary Use of Respirators

In my last post the question of "do we have to wear a respirator when doing Lead RRP work?" was posed.

And the answer was - as usual - it depends.  The short answer is no - provided you do everything you can to keep the lead dust levels to below the PEL.  But what happens when employees want to use a respirator or the employee takes a 'to be on the safe side lets provide them' approach?  Well lets open that can-o-worms shall we?

Here is what OSHA has to say about the voluntary use of respirators:
Employers who allow their employees to wear respirators on a voluntary basis when not required by OSHA or the employer must implement limited provisions of a respiratory protection program. When a filtering face piece respirator is all that is used, the employee must be provided a copy of [29 CFR 1910.134] Appendix D.
Well maybe not a big ol' can-o-worms, but still, there is some effort the employer must expend if respirators are to be worn by their employees.  In a Lead RRP work environment, the term "filtering face piece respirator" may be of some help.  The question now to ask will be: "Is an N-100 disposable respirator a filtering face piece respirator?"  Here is what the CDC has to say about that:
Respirators: Unless otherwise specified, "respirator" refers to an N95 or higher filtering face piece respirator certified by the CDC/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
So based on that definition the criteria under OSHA to head over to Appendix D of 29 CFR 1010.134 is a good thing because for all other respirators used on a voluntary basis OSHA further states:
For all other voluntary users, an additional written respirator program that covers medical fitness and proper maintenance procedures must be implemented.
Which in case you are wondering what those worms look like it means this:
[t]he employer must establish and implement those elements of a written respiratory protection program necessary to ensure that any employee using a respirator voluntarily is medically able to use that respirator, and that the respirator is cleaned, stored, and maintained so that its use does not present a health hazard to the user.
Using a N-100 respirator on a voluntary basis gets you out of all this provided the employer does the following:
[d]etermines that such respirator use will not in itself create a hazard.
What this means is will the respirator itself cause a problem.  This could include restricted breathing, fatigue, restricting vision, rash, head aches from the straps, and on and on.  So if you say nope - none of that will take place all you need to do is head on over to Appendix D of 29 CFR 1910.134 and address these little tiny worms by giving the employee the following information:
  1. Read and heed all instructions provided by the manufacturer on use, maintenance, cleaning and care, and warnings regarding the respirators limitations.
  2. Choose respirators certified for use to protect against the contaminant of concern. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, certifies respirators. A label or statement of certification should appear on the respirator or respirator packaging.
  3. Do not wear your respirator into atmospheres containing contaminants for which the respirator is not designed to protect against.
  4. Keep track of your respirator so that you do not mistakenly use someone else's respirator.
OK, not so bad, just make sure of two is a N-95, N-98, or N-100 type respirator.  N-100s are recommended for lead because the "100" is comparable to a HEPA filter's 99.97% efficiency for 0.3 micrometer airborne particles.

And the other?  See the last post.  To be voluntary you cannot put a worker in a hazardous atmosphere.

"So what happens if the lead dust is above the PEL?  Does a N-100 disposable mask meet the OSHA definition of a respirator requiring the same procedures as a "real" respirator?"


"But it's a paper dust mask!"

Correct, but you still have treat it like a respirator because it is defined as a respirator

Next Post:  N-100 respirators & Lead RRP work. Part 3: designation as "tight fitting"


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

N-100 respirators & Lead RRP work. Part 1: Do I have to wear one?

A question came up during a recent class we did on "Lead Safety for Renovation, Repair, and Painting."  In the Joint EPA-HUD Curriculum there is in Appendix 5 a document called "Steps to Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting which states:
Wear respiratory protection.  When work creates dust or paint chips, workers should wear respiratory protection, such as an N-100 dispose able respirator, to prevent them from breathing leaded dust.
Notice that the word is "should" and not "must" or "shall."  Should - as it is used here - means if the work creates dust or paint chips that exposes the worker to more than a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m3 in an 8-hour work shift.  So the question for an RRP contractor to ask will be:
"Will the work performed on this project expose my workers to more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air?"
And the answer is...  That depends.  Depends on what?  Depends on how active your workers are going to be in an 8-hour work period.  The purpose of the RRP rule was to allow for the indiscriminate removal or minimally invasive working in a lead-based paint environment.  It is not designed for lead removal through abatement. 
"In general, renovations that involve only a small amount of paint disturbance create less dust than jobs that involve larger areas of paint disturbance."
For this reason, the EPA implies - but does not state emphatically - that using their "Safe Work Practices" and avoiding "Prohibited Practices" should create an environment that does not put dust in the air above the PEL and - most importantly - leave that dust in the building where children can come in contact with it.  Michael Scott and we in the Public Health field call this "win-win-win."
"Dust reduction in the work area will make the workplace safer for employees, and will make cleaning easier."
"So do my guys need to wear a respirator?  Just cut to the chase Mr. Wordy!"

Well...that depends.  Are you willing to walk onto the slippery slope of assumption?  Here is what OSHA has to say about respirators:
In the control of those occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors, the primary objective shall be to prevent atmospheric contamination. This shall be accomplished as far as feasible by accepted engineering control measures (for example, enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials). When effective engineering controls are not feasible, or while they are being instituted, appropriate respirators shall be used pursuant to this section. 1910.134(a)(1)
What OSHA is saying here is this.  If you use proper controls (i.e. "Safe Work Practices" and avoiding "Prohibited Practices") lead dust contamination should not be at the level of "harmful."  So both the EPA and OSHA are saying the same thing, use a respirator only when workers are to be exposed above the PEL.  The slippery slope of assumption is that you will not know if the PEL is exceeded unless you perform air monitoring, which is time consuming and expensive.

"So do they have to wear respirators?"

Well...that depends.  Are you willing to go out on a pretty well supported and hardy limb and say:
  • We follow EPA's RRP safe work practices
  • We do not use any prohibited practices
  • We believe, that based on those two bullets, and the fact that we will spend limited time on this project and/or disturb minimal dust during our activities, that the air - should it be monitored - would be below the OSHA PEL.
  • And we believe that under OSHA's general duty clause we are not exposing our employees to air contaminated with harmful lead dust.
Bottom line - if you are not sure or comfortable making this type of assumption about the air not being harmful, get yourself some competent help.  Sometimes the cost of a CIH can be well worth the peace of mind they can bring by adding one more bullet:
  • Our CIH says we don't have to wear a respirator for this particular job.

"OK, but can they wear a respirator just to be on the safe side?"

Well...that depends....

Next Post: Part 2:  The Voluntary Use of Respirators.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Beyond Compliance: Part 4 - A basic scale for deciding on how to act

Like I said in the last post - cheap graphics will be used to (hopefully) illustrate a point.

Performance Track was an EPA program designed to get businesses to look at how they impact the environment and to look at their day-to-day activities not solely on a compliance mindset but instead on a because it's the right thing to do way of thinking.  By adopting Performance Track a business pledged to go "beyond compliance" and in return they got some rewards in terms of marketing themselves as environmentally aware as well as a lighter hammer used by the EPA in case of a violation.

So when looking at anything that is designed to foster a behavioral change to accomplish a goal, you need to understand the mindset - or dynamics - in play of the individual(s) that can make it happen or work against it.  This, in my opinion, is where we have missed great opportunities to make real environmental, safety and health change in how we behave.  We fail to see how doing the "right thing" is decided, assuming that everyone should come to the same conclusion.

In the case of Performance Track - it was geared to change the behavior of a business.  Now you may have arguments on the mechanics and perception of Performance Track, but I am wanting to address the goal - that is - to foster an attitude that moves away from do the minimum to do stuff that actually makes a difference.

I hope in my last three posts on this subject I was able to show how being in compliance with a regulation does not necessarily mean you are doing what is best for the employee, public health, or the environment.  That's what Performance Track was trying to overcome.

So lets look at my first cheap graphic.

Figure 1

Figure 1: I use the term "harmony" to denote that perfect place, that Nirvana where the 'right thing' is actually the right thing.  That place will never be found since two people will have different takes on just what 'right' means.  So in this first graphic what I want to show is how a person (regulator, business owner, public, employee) can view an action, such as climbing a radio tower or reducing their carbon emissions.

Figure 2
Figure 2:  Some where on the scale is how the person will value the risk of the action to be undertaken.  It is here that we must understand that risk is looked at much differently between two competing entities, such as the EHS Manager and the CEO.  The same goes for a regulating agency and Industry.  Where, in my opinion, we fail is that one side does not value the other sides risk concern.  It sounds reasonable to say "but fall protection would prevent the climbers death" so risk reduction in terms of death is worth the cost.  But how much real dollars should be spent on cleaning up dioxin contaminated soil when a fence would reduce exposure to zero (excluding that pesky trespasser or an act of God)?  A particular action - right or left on the scale - always will have a cost associated with it.

Figure 3
Figure 3:  Depending on the mindset of the regulators - their dominant thought - regulations and policy will be set based where on the scale that particular dominant though falls.  From there it can move to the right or the left by influencing it before it becomes implemented, but it will not move to far away from its original starting point.  A bottom line manager is as hard to convince to spend money as a regulator who thinks a big hammer with teeth is the only way to get the end result sought.  The goal is to bring a balance to  the mindset of the two forces in play and come up with a regulation that achieves real results.

Figure 4
Figure 4: The problem with regulations is that they often want more than can actually be obtained,  or capture more than what was intended.  Does one drop of oil in the river really necessitate reporting to the NRC?  On the other hand, should notification be made if a business has a release of 4999 pounds of MEK regardless of whether it was released "into the environment?"

Figure 5
Figure 5: The benefit of a program such as Performance Track far out weighs the negatives in that it fosters a new mindset that moves closer to harmony.  Holding to close to your own perception of the cost associated with an action will often times lead you away from doing what is right both in terms of actual benefit and the related cost. Too much focus on a zero of anything leads to environmental impact and health and safety problems because the focus is not on what is to be achieved but instead on how it is to be done.  Telling the family of the dead climber "we complied with OSHA requirements 100 percent!" will not go over very well with the exception of in court where you will most likely end up.

The point is to minimize risk and minimize bottom-line costs.  You cannot do one at the expense of the other because the pendulum swings in both directions.  Change the mindset and you can achieve real results.

Beyond compliance is the road to Nirvana, a make believe place for sure, but one in which we would all like to live.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beyond Compliance: Part 3 - The Economy of Safety

In my 26 years in the EHS biz, there are a few things I now know to be true.  One of them is the dynamics in play within an organization are the reason a certain behavior - good or bad - is seen.  This is particularly true for behavior that directly affects employee health and safety as well as overall public health.

Because safety directly impacts both the individual as well as the employers bottom-line, certain basic economic principles come into play. Greg Mankiw, a professor of economics at Harvard University, identifies four factors in how decisions are made.
  • People Face Tradeoffs. To get one thing, you have to give up something else. Making decisions requires trading off one goal against another. 
  • The Cost of Something is What You Give Up to Get It. Decision-makers have to consider both the obvious and implicit costs of their actions. 
  • Rational People Think at the Margin. A rational decision-maker takes action if and only if the marginal benefit of the action exceeds the marginal cost. 
  • People Respond to Incentives. Behavior changes when costs or benefits change.
In the economy of safety, the value placed on "it" will dictate the dynamics put into play and the behavior - or culture - obtained.  If the four principles outlined above are true, then you can see how difficult the job is for the EHS manager.  Lets look at the first bullet:
  • People Face Tradeoffs.
Now start with the first sentence.  "To get one thing, you have to give up something else."  In other words, taking this basic attitude of behavior, to get employee safety, you have to give up time, comfort, efficiency, money, profitability....

I mean, what other way can one see it?  To require my radio tower climber to go above and beyond the OSHA requirements by mandating he use 100% fall protection, the climber and the company has to give up something.  So in this situation we have three actors who have three different perceptions of the second bullet also in play:
  • The Cost of Something is What You Give Up to Get It.
If as the EHS guy I demand 100% fall protection, the cost to me is relatively nil.  I am asking the climber to give up speed (and in some cases also his 'manliness') and I am asking my employer to absorb the cost in extra time and equipment necessary to meet my cost.  That - in a nut shell - is what is given up.  The "it" on the other hand is a reduction in the risk of the climbers death (likely) or injury as well as protecting my employer from the lawsuit(s) and costs that will most likely result if the climber falls.

So it is the "get it" where the value has to be assigned.  "Safety First" can be a slogan only or it can be a mindset.  If the culture within the organization does not place a value on safety that exceeds the value of everything else it strives for, the dynamics put into play will only be as much as the value assigned.  Which leads to the third bullet:
  • Rational People Think at the Margin.
Define rational please?  Do you really think the radio tower climber in my previous post is a rational decision-maker?  To him and to many of his cohorts, he most certainly believes himself a rational person.  Were the OSHA employees responsible for putting in the "qualified climber" exemption for 100% fall protection rational?  What about the employers who know their employees climb without 100% fall protection, do they not see themselves as rational?

So again, we are at a cross-roads on how much value is to be assigned to safety.  That value is what will drive the given that a "rational decision-maker takes action if and only if the marginal benefit of the action exceeds the marginal cost".  What is the benefit of 100% fall protection in the case of this particular radio tower climber?  Will 100% fall protection only provide a marginal benefit?  Will that benefit exceed the cost?

For the life of me, I cannot see how anyone could look at that radio tower video and not come to the conclusion that 100% fall protection provides a benefit that exceeds the cost.  But the reality is that people come to a conclusion that the cost of 100% fall protection is too great a price to pay.  Hence the video.

And the question is why?  There are a whole gaggle of explanations for this, including:
  • I have never had a problem all the other times I've done it.
  • Our competitors don't use it.
  • If it was that serious, OSHA would require it,
So here we are back at square one.  It is my job as the EHS guy to look at things based on a rational that places the highest value on something that is hard to quantify; risk.  Everything presents a risk to something perceived as valuable.  There is no such thing as zero risk, so every time you are sent out to do a job, there is the chance that you will be injured or killed.  It is my responsibility to minimize that risk based on making rational decisions where the benefit (employee/public health) will exceed the cost (time and money).

So when it comes to the mantra of "Safety First" I am your one and only rational decision-maker.  Which leads to the most important factor in how people makes decisions:
  • People Respond to Incentives.
Behavior changes when costs or benefits change.  I can easily force an employee to do it my way if I have the power to fire them.  This, however, requires my 100% attention to their every effort.  Ask any parent of a toddler how difficult it is to keep them safe 100% of the time.  No, forced behavior will not work just by itself, instead it needs something else, more of a carrot on a stick.  An incentive.  You would think that the incentive to live would be motivation enough for a radio tower climber, but the reality shows otherwise.  No, something else is needed, just what that "something" is depends on a number of factors in play.

Bottom line - EHS speaking that is - is that behavior will not change if the perception by both management and employees - that safety - or the environment - is not seen as valuable.  I am making the argument here for beyond compliance - that doing more than what is required has a benefit.  Unfortunately that benefit is never going to be seen if you do it my way.  I can lower your workers comp only so much by my effort, after a certain point the very nature of the business dictates the cost.  What you will never see - if I do my job correctly - is an unnecessary or preventable death, injury, illness, or environmental impact.  How do you quantify something not happening, especially if has never happened in the past? 

 To be effective, EHS must live in a culture that values it the same way it values money.  Upper management is critical to this endeavor.  The shift away from incentives to enforcement by the EPA and OSHA is not going to reap the benefits they think it will.  Most simply because of bullet number four:
  • People Respond to Incentives.
The loss of EPA's Performance Track and a new emphasis on enforcement will make the EHS managers job much harder in convincing management to go above and beyond what the regulatory agency holding the hammer is asking for.  It is all about the perception of value here.  Like it or not, that's how we humans roll.

I can give my employer peace of mind, I can give employees a safe work environment, I can protect public health and minimize environmental impacts.  I can do all of these things if - and only if - I don't ignore some basic economic principles.  But even if I take them all into account, nothing moves forward without a commitment to a principle; Safety First or Beyond Compliance.  This type of culture will all lead to a better work environment.  You just gotta believe it will, or- bottom-line speaking - see it as valuable.

Next post:  Risk perception vs. cost:  Cheap graphics to illustrate a point.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beyond Compliance: Part 2

In my last post, I left off with why it's the right thing to do using the only retort I have available - "says me..."

And here is why I says that.  Lets look at two scenarios where "beyond compliance" makes perfect sense.

The first one involves a situation in which an employee is tasked to climb a very tall radio tower to replace the beacon bulb at the top.  As the guy put in charge of employee safety, I am tasked with making sure two things happen.
  1. All employees are not injured or killed
  2. OSHA compliance is met
So I show up at the tower and I tell the employee "you must climb using 100% fall protection."

The employee says "Don't have to, I'm a  qualified climber and OSHA does not require fall protection when I am climbing."

Because I'm a "beyond compliance" kind of guy, I say - "I don't care what OSHA says, you use 100% fall protection or you don't climb."

It is at this point where one of two paths present themselves.  Path one is a company that understands the benefits of a "beyond compliance" philosophy as the maximum standard, and Path two is a company that accepts a regulatory requirement philosophy as the maximum standard.

As the safety guy, I am now stuck in a position of - will my company's management support my "because I say so" line in the sand?

Scenario two is a little less black and white.  When a training requirement does not mandate a set number of hours, who gets to decide on how much time is needed to meet the requirements of the standard?  In other words, who decides on what is an adequate amount of time?  Who decides the degree of quality necessary to be put into the class and the training?  Adequate and Quality are such subjective terms and convey different things to different people. 

As a trainer, I say it is up to me to decide how much time is necessary to convey the knowledge and information needed for a particular task to be performed.  If I am going to train employees on how to protect themselves in an IDLH situation or to enter a confined space, it will be taught for the number of hours needed for me to feel comfortable having them perform the task.

So how is this comfortableness decided?  For me, and I am not alone in this methodology, it comes down to answering two questions:
  1. Is the length of time for the objectives needing to be met similar to what other competent training providers are offering (what is the industry standard)?
  2. Can I sit in front of a Jury and defend myself, my company, and my profession regarding the class that I taught?
Number two is the most important factor here for me.  Because when it is all said and done, it always comes back to training, which means it falls back on the person who stood in front of the individual who was harmed, killed, or messed up.  It is all subjective when it comes to how well the training met the objectives.  And if I am going to have to defend myself, then it needs to meet my definition of adequate.

So what happens when the client says, I can only spare my guys for eight hours and not the 24 you want?  Or  someone in your own management questions why you are putting employees through a 24 hour class when she saw on the Internet the same class provided in only five hours?

The question both will ask is "what does OSHA require?", and you will have to answer "there isn't a set time" which is then followed by "why does it have to be 24 then?"

Because I say so...because it is me that is tasked with answering the question "is it safe", "is it adequate", "will it stand up in court".  Being only OSHA compliant has nothing to do with answering those three questions.

So if you do not accept a beyond compliance philosophy - if all you will accept is regulatory compliance only - at least have the courtesy of telling your EHS guy that before you hire him or her.

If the employee screws up because of inadequate training or the "qualified climber" falls, it doesn't make us feel better because we can now say "I told you so."  And if you change your tune after we are employed - buy us out so we will not have to put our well being (employment) over the ones we have been charged to look out after.  The fact that I kept the company in compliance does not make up for the indignity of knowing it could have been prevented and I was not provided the support needed to do so.

Bottom line: Choose one.  Regulatory compliance or beyond compliance.

Next post:  How the EHS Manger looks at achieving balance in a zero risk world controlled by a bottom line mentality.  The economy of safety.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Beyond Compliance: Part 1

I had an interesting question posed to me last week.  I was asked why my 24 hour hazardous waste management class could not be done in five hours.  It seems another University was offering what looked like the same set of objectives for 1/5 of the time, and, since there was no regulatory time requirement, why did my class need to consume three days of someone's time?

After I dealt with my initial feeling of - if you can't comprehend the benefits obtained from 24 hours of instruction  from that received from only five hours - there is little I can offer to convince you otherwise.

To say I was disappointed would be a mild description of how I felt.  However, upon reflection, I now understand that what I was dealing with was a person who follows a very common mindset of "only do what is required - nothing more - nothing less."

What was interesting with this is that just prior to this conversation I had attended a meeting on the demise of EPA's Performance Track and the recommendations posed  by the working group put in place to develop a suitable replacement for it.

It was not until today that I fully understood the dynamics in play, and the need for a third - and more predominant - mindset that has been well received and adopted by many of my environmental cohorts called: "beyond compliance."

It is unfortunate that the views of those who are put in charge fall primarily into one of two camps:
  • Focus on bottom line (business needs over everything else)
  • Focus on regulation and enforcement (environmental needs over everything else)
The problem with these two ways of thinking is that they often overlook what is actually taking place in an effort to meet a particular established belief system.  The camp that now influences the EPA follows the mindset that business behaves in a way that increases risk to public health and the environment and the best way to minimize this risk is to increase regulation and enforcement.  

Because some Performance Track members were not 100 percent in compliance, it seemed almost a joke to give them the status of good environmental stewards.  Do some members use Performance Track as nothing more than a marketing tool?  Probably, but a lot of them use it as a way to get their management - who's focus is on bottom line - to adopt policy and operations that minimize the risk to human health and the environment and give the company long term sustainability and less liability in the future.

Doesn't everyone want that?  Well yes, but when you are judged by your bottom line on a balance sheet, that becomes the focus.  Long term liability?  Maybe that will happen, maybe not.  Environmental concerns?  That's not what we do at Spacely Sprockets!

It is basic economics in play here.  If there is no incentive there will be no energy outlaid.  Aha! We will force you to do what is best for the environment through regulation and enforcement! you will not.

You will never have enough regulations on the books to minimize the risk for every situation that may arise.  The general duty clause under OSHA attempts to remedy this but, big deal, it really only comes into play when an employee is injured.  No, you cannot reduce the impact to public health and the environment solely through regulations.

Regulations are influenced by public perception, which can be manipulated by those who have an agenda.  This does not mean that all regulations are suspect, some (like Used Oil regulations) make very good sense and balance the benefits of both enticement and impact.  Others have no bearing on actual risk but instead are based on a perception of possible risk (cleanup levels at Superfund Sites).  Still others are minimized through exemptions (climbing radio towers without fall protection).

A focus on compliance will miss an opportunity to do what is in the best interest of everyone. The mindset behind beyond compliance looks at the actual benefits to public health and the environment without regard to regulation.  This is a difficult task for EHS managers - the balancing between bottom line, risk, and stewardship - mainly because of the players on both sides of the aisle wanting their agenda met,  When these two mindsets are in a position of power, they can negatively affect our ability to implement what will actually make a difference.

One of the worst outcomes from discontinuing Performance Track - in my opinion - is that it makes it much, much harder to implement a beyond compliance philosophy in an organization unless the top guy believes in it.  What happens without the carrot is that the predominant attitude of middle management shifts towards the bottom line and the question of "why bother with going above and beyond what we are obligated by regulation to do?"becomes an easy way to deep-six what should - in our professional opinion - be done. 

Well Mr. EHS manager, what is the benefit to Spacely Sprokets?

Because it is the right thing for us to do.

Says who?

Says me...

Next Post: Trust me, I'm an EHS Manager -  Beyond Compliance: Part 2