Magazine article Occupational Hazards

EHS Online Services: Casting the Safety Net; a Variety of Environment Health and Safety Services Are Available Online. from MSDS to Training, Newsletters to Web Sites, We Help You Navigate the Rising Tide of Online Options

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

EHS Online Services: Casting the Safety Net; a Variety of Environment Health and Safety Services Are Available Online. from MSDS to Training, Newsletters to Web Sites, We Help You Navigate the Rising Tide of Online Options

Article excerpt

Pick a search engine, any engine. Type in "EHS online services," and what do you find? In my case, using Google's search engine (www.google.com), I received "results 1-10 of about 22,100."

My crude search turned up Web sites dedicated to online training services, management of material safety data sheets and chemical inventories, hazard information, the latest regulatory updates, the most current news in the industry, product information and e-commerce, newsletters and consulting services. Some offered free information and services, while others entailed a fee for use or the purchase of a product or a service.

"There's no doubt the Web has changed the way EHS professionals do business," says Elizabeth Donley, publisher of the e-mailed newsletter, EH&S Software News (www.donleytecli.com/de0000l.htm), which for 14 years has provided information about environmental, health and safety software. "The ability to go online has saved us a lot of time. Information we once spent hours searching for we now have available quickly on the Web."

EHS professionals are turning to the Internet and computers for training and information in growing numbers. For example, a recent survey of environmental professionals conducted by the Environmental Industry Computer-Based Training Alliance found that 65 percent of respondents said they used the Internet to provide computer-based training (CBT), and nearly all the respondents (95 percent) plan to use more CBT in the future. Some 75 percent of respondents used CBT to deliver safety training, 65 percent used it to provide regulatory compliance information, and 55 percent used CBT to deliver environmental health content to employees.

Online Training

Still, says W. Bruce Quackenbush Jr., vice president of sales and marketing at PureSafety.com (www.puresafety.com), Nashville, the safety industry is reluctant to wholeheartedly adopt online EHS services. "We're trying to tell them we've got the best mousetrap, and they didn't know they had a mouse," he says of online training services.

Generally, EHS professionals turning to online training are those with safety responsibilities for more than one location or who have employees in remote locations, They find it difficult to provide standardized, companywide training, and online services fill that need.

"The majority of our customers tell us they made the decision to use online training because of ease of use," reveals Phil Price, president and COO of Coastal Training Technologies Corp. (www.coasral.com), Virginia Beach, Va., which offers 44 online training courses and options. He says his customers are generally "the guy with 100 employees at 20 locations or a safety director with a traveling work force that needs to be trained."

With headquarters in Lavergne, Tenn., Thompson Machinery has some 500 employees at 10 locations in two states who sell and service Caterpillar equipment. Much of the equipment sold by Thompson is huge and not something equipment owners can return to a central location for servicing. So service technicians from Thompson are often found working, virtually unsupervised, at locations far from their home base.

"We have to be cognizant of hazards. We have a high level of discipline on EHS matters," says Greg Simpson, Thompson's safety director.

Because many of the machines end up at mines, some Thompson employees receive a training course required of miners by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Others receive training required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Transportation or the Environmental Protection Agency, and some receive all four. That's a lot of training to conduct and track, Simpson says.

In 1998, company management recognized that although the safety department offered excellent training, only 60 percent to 70 percent of employees were taking it. The rest were on vacation, out on service calls or just didn't attend the sessions. …

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