Online Hazard Awareness Advisor
By Ed Stern
Others Are Saying
a wonderful piece of software. I work for an association and
my principal duty is to advise our members on OSHA compliance
issues. This is exactly what I have been looking for to assist
our members to identify the potential hazards in their workplaces.
I ran through a typical facility set up, plugged in the necessary
information, and received a great summary of the issues I
should be paying attention to. We (the association) do not
have manpower to go out and do a walk through of each of our
17,000 members’ facilities so this would be very helpful to
be able to provide to them. The members of our association
are generally small business owners (photo processing shops)
that fit the profile you have used to develop this program."
Noble, Manager for Environmental Activities, Photo Marketing
In early January
1999, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will
release the final version of a unique, "intelligent," diagnostic
software called the Hazard Awareness Advisor for business
owners, managers, and employees. It uses an interactive, expert
interview process to identify likely workplace hazards and the OSHA
standards that address them.
The new release
follows a stream of web-based applications that OSHA has introduced
in the last few years. Aware that some safety and health topics
are very technical, the agency created intelligent software, the
OSHA Advisors, to help non-professionals deal with Asbestos
in '95, Confined Spaces in '96, Fire Safety in '97,
and Lead in Construction in '98.
problem-solving web-based tools help businesses and workers figure
out whether and how these technical standards apply to their work.
They have taken tens of thousands of copies from the OSHA Website
and redistributed them in large numbers.
If You Don't Know What Constitutes a Workplace Hazard?
used a search engine on the Web to locate the Advisors dedicated
to subjects. The OSHA Advisors help you figure out how certain rules
on that subject apply. But a small businessperson may not know enough
to ask about asbestos, for example. The search engines do not tell
you which rules you should be looking for. How do you find workplace
hazards you don't even know about?
and health problem plagues managers of numerous businesses, big
and small, across the country. Many managers are unaware of the
safety and health hazards in their work place.
the Hazard Awareness Advisor
To meet the
need, OSHA came up with another strategy that goes beyond the topical
the new Hazard Awareness Advisor, OSHA sought and used advice from
Federation of Independent Business,
and Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association,
Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners,
Safety and Health Fund,
Brotherhood of Teamsters,
- and other
industry and labor organizations.
Best of all
the Hazard Awareness Advisor is free, and it's confidential.
to the 1998 Public Test Version has been overwhelming. In the last
four months of 1998, businesses and workers have taken about 8,500
copies of the Public Test Version from the OSHA website, and they
sent in useful suggestions for its refinement.
The new Advisor
asks thoughtful questions about activities, practices, equipment,
materials, conditions and policies at the workplace. Based on what
it learns from the user, the program asks necessary follow-up questions.
Then, the Advisor software draws conclusions from the user's answers
about the workplace.
logic and expertise comes from industrial hygienists and safety
professionals from OSHA, labor, and industry. The Advisor prepares
customized reports, which range from four pages to more than 30
pages. You won't get a lot of pages, unless you really need them.
This process can take anywhere from four minutes for an office or
a small dress shop to 15 minutes for a complex manufacturing operation.
Like the New Product
Hazard Awareness Advisor is an excellent program," said
Thomas R. Luisser, Ph.D. Ed.D. "My company just underwent an
OSHA inspection, and I can see the validity of the information generated
by your program. I wish I had discovered it before the inspection."
Awareness Advisor provides a broad overview of the likely problems
at a site. It provides a limited amount of guidance on a wide range
of topics. For additional expert help, it points you to OSHA's existing
in-depth Advisors on Fire Safety, Asbestos, Confined
Spaces, Cadmium, and up-coming Advisors on Respirators,
Control of Hazardous Energy, and Lead in General Industry.
Will Work for Other Organizations, Too
Test Version was designed for small businesses, but other workplaces
wanted it, too—and the version that comes out in January will include
them. For example, Emma L. Dennison, the human resource director
of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office in Punta Gorda, FL, made
a suggestion that OSHA used. "I liked the new software program,"
she wrote, "but could you put Governmental agencies as one
of the groups? We have an established safety committee, but I really
would love to have a computer software program that I could get
on our office computers that would allow the safety committee members
to use to check each of their assigned locations for how well we
to adapt the final version to a broader audience because of Emma
hold the powerful problem-solving knowledge of safety and health
professionals. But they are not designed for those professionals,
even though professionals use them, too. They are for the average
employer, manager, or worker concerned with occupational safety
the software and found it easy to install and most helpful in providing
a written list of areas to review for compliance," said an expert
on facility management.
technology can help with decision making with all kinds of rules,
benefits, options, and choices that people face. Other business
professionals realize the value of this technology and urge other
government service providers to follow OSHA's lead in providing
excellent customer service.
"Take a look
at the expert system OSHA has just unveiled," said Jim Van
Wert of the Small Business Administration. "It's a good start
and example of how we can use technology to help small businesses
through the maze of regulations."
Check out the
Hazard Awareness Advisor and other Advisors at http://www.osha-slc.gov/dts/osta/oshasoft/.
Then, see how other parts of the Department of Labor are implementing
this strategy at http://www.dol.gov/elaws.
is the Facilitator for Advisors at the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration in Washington, DC. You may reach him at (202) 693-1873
IT PRACTICES IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT,"- A Joint Project
of the Chief Information Officers Council and the Industry Advisory
Council. October 1997