The Most Important Issues: Why Emergency Response and Preparedness, Permissible Exposure Limits and Small Business Assistance Present Critical Challenges-And Opportunities-To the EHS Community. (Speaking Out)

By Levine, Steven P. | Occupational Hazards, May 2003 | Go to article overview

The Most Important Issues: Why Emergency Response and Preparedness, Permissible Exposure Limits and Small Business Assistance Present Critical Challenges-And Opportunities-To the EHS Community. (Speaking Out)


Levine, Steven P., Occupational Hazards


Every other year, leaders of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) put together a Top Ten" list of public policy issues, which can be viewed at www.aiha.org/GovernmentAffairs-PR/html/ga-toptenissues.htm. This list is used to prioritize the allocation of resources within the AIHA budget. I have chosen three of the Top Ten issues for discussion in this column because I believe that they are extremely important to the industrial hygiene and safety community, the United States and the world.

Emergency Response and Preparedness

The concern for emergency preparedness illustrates that occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals are more important than ever. We are in a position to play key roles in protecting our communities, our organizations and our nation. We are in a position to be both the technical and the managerial leaders for many vital issues including, for example: air monitoring method development, the use of air monitoring methods during emergencies, the establishment of evacuation zones, the use of personal protective and decontamination equipment, the development and application of decision logic for emergency response, and risk communication to the affected public. It is naive to believe that fire departments, state police and the Federal Emergency Management Agency can evaluate and control emergency situations without the assistance and leadership of the hygiene and safety community. We have the opportunity to step up and take a leadership role.

It is important our professional community understands that this issue represents an opportunity to serve our country. Although only a small fraction of us wear the uniforms of our armed forces, we can all play a part. Safety and hygiene professionals can play vital roles in defending America and our allies during public hygiene emergencies that would be precipitated by biological, chemical, nuclear or, as we saw on 9/11, other types of attacks. And, as many of you know, historically more military personnel are lost or injured by non-combat causes than by enemy action. Thus, safety and hygiene personnel play a vital role in defending our country and allies whether or not we wear a uniform.

Tom Grumbles, AIHA's president-elect, plays a role in his company in implementing the American Chemistry Council's (ACC) new Security Code, which is an important step in the war on terrorism (www.responsiblecare toolkit.com/security_code.asp#Form).

The ACC's efforts to protect vital assets are central to the security not only of our chemical industry, but to the economy of the world's democracies as a whole. Grumbles, as a senior hygienist in his company, the immediate past chair of the ACC's Responsible Care team, and as an officer of AIHA, has both an important technical and leadership role in this aspect of industrial and civilian defense.

Donna Doganiero, AIHA's vice president, is a central player in the U.S. Army's safety and hygiene programs (http://chppm.www.apgea.army.mil). As director of occupational health sciences at the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, she led her staff in the development of the "Medical NBC Battlebook" which has become the "bible" of the U.S. Army in addressing operational health concerns in environments where nuclear, biological and chemical threats exist. Addressing such threats was always important to our military preparedness, and of course became more important after 9/11 and the widespread deployment of our armed forces. Current events have resulted in the development by her staff of additional guidance directed towards hospital personnel. The document -- "Personal Protective Equipment Guide for Military Medical Treatment Facility Personnel Handling Casualties from Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Events" -- is in final editing and is slated for publication this summer.

These two leaders of our profession are good examples of ways in which we can serve our country. …

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