First: Where? When? Why Me?
by Barbie E. Keiser
Information Resources Management Consultant
These days, most articles concerning safety deal with terrorism
and weapons of mass destruction. However, safety comes into play the minute
we get out of bed in the morning and enter that dangerous zone known as the
bathroom, where most home accidents occur, or into the kitchen, where appliances
give us trouble, especially at that hour. The dangers continue whenever we
exit our front doors, whether on our way to work or the local public park.
This article began as an extension of the 2002-3 series focused on environmental
health issues, published in Searcher and called "Our Environment" (September
2002, November/December 2002, and February 2003). The extension quickly ballooned
into coverage of all aspects of safety, including these areas:
Causes of injuries and health concerns: Environmental, occupational-,
industrial-, activity-, location-, and age-specific health concerns and
Prevention: Recommended and legally mandated precautions, including
such things as building codes and standards for construction
Statistical data: Types of injuries incurred, fatalities, and
the value of human life
Rehabilitation: Recommended treatment and expected outcomes
Products liability: Classes of products that cause concern,
such as motor vehicles or children's toys, and resources for information
Disabilities: Short- and long-term disability insurance coverage,
workers' compensation, and Social Security payments
Legal remedies: Jury verdicts and awards for damages, pain,
The National Safety Council [http://www.nsc.org] estimates that "more than
20 million Americans suffered disabling injuries at work, in their homes and
communities, or in transportation." Reaching beyond the U.S., "Every 10 seconds
someone in the world dies because of an unintentional injury."1
The Web sites identified in this article provide some context as to these
injuries, their prevention and treatment, and the costs associated with them.
Created by government agencies, private associations and organizations, academic
institutions, and commercial entities, these sites inform health and safety
professionals, students, and the public at large. Both ad-hoc activist groups
devoted to specific issues and labor unions concerned for their members advocate
increased safety monitoring to benefit all workers.
The type of material available through these sites varies widely. Sites can
provide technical information, including news, statistical data, health and
legal advice, sample safety manuals and government-required filing forms, links
to training resources, or any combination thereof. Some have a limited focus,
covering only one type of safety issue (e.g., fire, radiation, etc.), while
others are more comprehensive.
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)
The aforementioned "Our Environment" series of articles covered a wide range
of environmental safety issues, as well as efforts to protect the environment,
prevent pollution, and conserve resources. Boolean logic will help readers
appreciate the fact that some of the environmental health and safety resources
will have an occupational component (while some of the occupational health
and safety resources may address environmental concerns). Here are some of
the resources that focus on the effects of the environment on the health, safety,
and well-being of workers and the public:
The American Industrial Hygiene Association [http://www.aiha.org] "promotes,
protects, and enhances industrial hygienists and other occupational health,
safety, and environmental professionals in their efforts to improve the health
and well-being of workers, the community, and the environment." Among other
things, the Web site permits non-members to search for occupational and
environmental health and safety consultants, accredited laboratories, and
opportunities. For an overview of topics covered, simply review the names
of the Association's committees
The four major sections of the Center for Disease Control and
Prevention publications Web page [http://www.cdc.gov/publications] are
Health and Safety topics, Publications and Products, Data and Statistics,
and Events. Topics include Environmental Health, Injury and Violence Prevention
and Control, and Workplace Safety and Health. You can search or browse
publications by topic (A-Z).
Environmental Health Perspectives [http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/] is the online version of the well-respected journal published by the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
While the Environmental Professional's Homepage focuses primarily
on the environment, its Health and Safety Related Links [http://www.clay.net/health.html] provides deep links to publications on the U.S. Occupational Safety and
Health Administration's Web site, along with the National Institutes of Health,
for Disease Control and Prevention, and other U.S. agencies that deal with
occupational safety issues.
Publications on the American College of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine (ACOEM) Web site [http://www.acoem.org] include the Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
SafetyInfo's On Line Safety Library [http://www.safetyinfo.com] is a library of written programs, references, forms and documents, safety
training, off-the-job safety, safety consultants, and links to interactive
The insurance brokerage, Aon, has created an e-learning and
online safety management and training Web site [http://www.safetylogic.com].
The Safety Related Internet Resources Web-Based Course [http://www.christie.ab.ca/course/sfindex.htm],
created by training consultant Carolla Christie in 1998, consists of 10 lessons
that take "you on a guided tour of health and safety sites on the Internet."
The bimonthly newsletter EHS Software News [http://www.donleytech.com/de00001.htm],
formerly known as the Environmental Software Report, is designed to help
developers create and improve software, databases, and online systems for
water and air,
hazardous substances, waste management, health and safety compliance, and
regulatory, legislative, chemical, and site information. It also contains
conferences and trade shows, courses and workshops, and business news (mergers
and acquisitions, licensing agreements, market trends).
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
Concern with occupational health and safety arose as a movement to minimize
even dangers once seen as an acceptable part of physical labor. The recognition
that health and safety problems can arise in the conduct of routine office
(clerical) work is a recent development. Environmental health sites now address
issues surrounding indoor air pollution as well as ergonomic issues such as
treatments for carpal tunnel injuries resulting from office work.
Aside from the pain and suffering of individuals and their families when
workplace hazards cause injuries, illnesses, or fatalities, individual businesses,
industries, and the economy as a whole suffer. The sites listed in Table 1
at right, "General Resources for Occupational Health and Safety," provide an
overview of the situation.
Industry-Specific Health And Safety
Most people recognize that mining poses safety concerns unique to that industry,
just as everyone knows of the health issues plaguing individuals who worked
with asbestos, but other industries have significant risks that can be minimized
by taking some simple precautions. The sites in Table 2, "Industry-Specific
Resources" (page 12), contain regulatory information, research reports, fact
sheets, brochures, and other items that address safety hazards, precautions,
and requirements specific to particular industries (or sets of related industries).
Much of the material covered deals with the safety professional and how general
principles of safety can (and must) be applied to a certain setting.
Activity-Specific Health and Safety
Professional athletes are well acquainted with injuries sustained while excelling
in their sport; individuals who participate in recreational activities may
not know as much about specific risks associated with each.
For activities likely to involve children and teens, local
governments throughout the nation have published safety facts, laws, and
tips on their
Web sites, such as Bicycle Safety from the Transportation Division of the
City of Walnut Creek, California [http://www.ci.walnut-creek.ca.us/transportation/
Other resources for injury data concerning popular sports can
appear on the Web sites of lawyers with active personal injury practices.
Use your good information-literacy skills to separate the fact from the hype
A quick scan of the Web yields a multitude of newspaper articles
concerning fatal bicycle accident data and research on treatment given
in emergency rooms. However, many of these are isolated reports and the sites
since loaded onto the Web.
A selection of activity-specific safety issues are addressed in the resources
highlighted in Table 3, "Activity-Specific Resources," on page 13.
Location-Specific Health and Safety
Anyone who has gone to the corner grocery store for a quart of milk knows
that grocery stores can be dangerous to one's health. An entire legal practice
has grown up around "slip-and-fall" litigation. Restaurants as well as grocery
markets struggle to maintain clean surfaces to avoid E. coli contamination.
Other locations, such as hospitals and amusement parks, have their own particular
safety concerns for both employees and customers. A sampling of location-specific
safety issues are addressed by the Web sites listed in Table 4, "Location-Specific
Resources," found on page 13.
The classes of injuries associated with particular age groups or gender can
include, for instance, osteoporosis, a common occurrence in older women. For
the types of conditions and their effects that cause injuries in older adults
in particular, consult Internet sites dealing with general health issues, such
as Legal Medical Web [http://www.legalmedicalweb.com], or those specializing
in women's health, such as Women's Health Topics [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/womenshealth.html].
Remember that the U.S. is not the only government concerned with
age-specific injury prevention. Try the Canadian Health Network for advice
Consult a general medical library, such as a university health
center library that builds topic-specific Webliographies. For age-specific
injuries, try the Denison Memorial Library at the University of Colorado
Health Sciences Center [http://denison.uchsc.edu/outreach/medbib3.htm].
In the Absence of Safety Precautions
Precautionary tactics can only minimize injuries, illnesses, and fatalities
that occur within a particular industry, establishment, or geographic region.
Measuring improvements made over time is critical to injury prevention and
control, an essential element within the scope of work undertaken by the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. While other aspects of the CDC's work have
been covered elsewhere in this article, the National Center for Injury Prevention
and Control [http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc] is at the heart of injury care. Its
Injury Fact Sheets [http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/cmprfact.htm] cover violence,
unintentional injuries, and prevention programs. The Center's injury maps provide
state injury profiles and a series of downloadable "Ten Leading Causes" for
death, nonfatal injuries, and injury death.
This article has highlighted several areas within the Department of Labor's
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) dealing with safety precautions.
OSHA covers such issues as Workplace Injury, Illness, and Fatality Statistics
in considerable depth and detail [http://www.osha.gov/oshstats/work.html].
This page also links to the Department's Safety and Health Statistics Home
Page and Keyword Search of Available BLS Injury/Illness and Fatality Data and
Publications. The Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (IIF) Program provides
data on illnesses and injuries on the job and data on worker fatalities [http://www.bls.gov/iif],
with keyword searching available at http://stats.bls.gov/search/iif.asp. BLS
Statistics on Worker Safety and Health include both nonfatal injuries and illnesses
as well as fatality data [http://www.bls.gov/bls/safety.htm].
While Table 6 above was originally intended to focus on Web sites maintaining
statistical data sets or presenting statistically valid research, it also refers
to sites covering some of the more traumatic injuries that result from accidents,
such as brain and spinal cord injuries.
More Bad News to Come
In next month's issue, we'll continue the sad saga with sources on workplace
violence, ergonomic challenges, transportation safety issues...the list goes
on and on.