ILO Content Manager
Sunday, 23 January 2011 22:29

Training of Health and Safety Professionals

Categories of Occupational Safety and Health Professionals Requiring Training and Education

The delivery of occupational safety and health services requires a highly-trained and multidisciplinary team. In a few less-developed countries, such a team may not exist, but in the vast majority of countries in the world, experts in different aspects of OSH are usually at least available though not necessarily in sufficient numbers.

The question of who belong to the categories of OSH professionals is fraught with controversy. Usually there is no dispute that occupational physicians, occupational nurses, occupational hygienists and safety professionals (sometimes referred to as safety practitioners) are OSH professionals. However, there are also members of many other disciplines who can make a plausible claim to belonging to the OSH professions. They include those ergonomists, toxicologists, psychologists and others who specialize in the occupational aspects of their subjects. For the purpose of this article, nevertheless, the training of these latter types of personnel will not be discussed, as the main focus of their training is often not on OSH.

Historical Perspective

In most countries, specific OSH training is of fairly recent origin. Until the Second World War, most OSH professionals received little or no formal training in their chosen calling. Few schools of public health or universities provided formal OSH courses, though some such institutions offered OSH as a subject in the context of a wider degree course, usually in public health. Segments of OSH were taught at the postgraduate level for physicians training in disciplines such as dermatology or respiratory medicine. Some engineering aspects of safety, such as machine guarding, were taught in technological and engineering schools. In most countries, even training in individual components of occupational hygiene courses were hard to find before the Second World War. The development of occupational nursing training is even more recent.

In the developed countries, OSH training received a boost during the Second World War, just as OSH services did. The mass mobilization of whole nations for the war effort led to greater emphasis on protecting the health of workers (and therefore their fighting capability or productivity with respect to the manufacturing of more munitions, warplanes, tanks and warships). At the same time, however, wartime conditions and the drafting of both university teachers and students into the armed forces made it extremely difficult to set up formal courses of OSH training. After the Second World War, however, many such courses were established, some with the help of the generous study grants for demobilized servicemen awarded by grateful governments.

After the Second World War, most colonies of European empires achieved independence and embarked upon the path of industrialization to a greater or lesser extent as a means to national development. Before long, such developing countries found themselves confronting the ills of the industrial revolution of nineteenth-century Europe, but within a much telescoped time span and on an unprecedented scale. Occupational accidents and diseases and environmental pollution became rampant. This led to the development of OSH training, although even today there are large variations in the availability of such training in these countries.

Review of Current International Initiatives

International Labour Organization (ILO)

There have been several initiatives of the ILO in recent years which relate to OSH training. Many of them relate to practical training for interventive measures at the worksite. Some other initiatives are carried out in collaboration with national governments (Rantanen and Lehtinen 1991).

Other ILO activities since the 1970s have been carried on largely in developing countries throughout the world. Several such activities relate to the upgrading of training of factory inspectors in countries such as Indonesia, Kenya, the Philippines, Tanzania, Thailand, and Zimbabwe.

The ILO, together with other United Nations agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme, has also assisted in the establishment or upgrading of national institutes of OSH, the training functions of which are usually among their top priorities.

The ILO has also produced several practical monographs which are very useful as training materials for OSH courses (Kogi, Phoon and Thurman 1989).

World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO has held in recent years a number of important international and regional conferences and workshops on OSH training. In 1981, a conference entitled “Training of Occupational Health Personnel” was held under the auspices of the Regional Office for Europe of the WHO. In the same year, the WHO convoked with the ILO a Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health which focused on “educational and training in occupational health, safety and ergonomics” (WHO 1981). That meeting assessed the needs for education and training at different levels, developed policies in education and training and advised on methodology and programmes for education and training (WHO 1988).

In 1988 a WHO Study Group published a report entitled Training and Education in Occupational Health to address particularly the new policies on primary health care strategies adopted by the WHO member states, new needs resulting from technological developments and new approaches to health promotion at work (WHO 1988).

International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH)

In 1985, the ICOH established a Scientific Committee on Education and Training in Occupational Health. This Committee has organized four international conferences as well as mini-symposia on the subject in the International Congresses on Occupational Health (ICOH 1987). Among the conclusions of the second conference, the need to develop training strategies and training methodologies received prominent mention in the list of priority issues (ICOH 1989).

A main feature of the third conference was the methodology of OSH training, including such functions as learning by participation, problem-based learning and evaluation of courses, teaching and students (ICOH 1991).

Regional initiatives

In different parts of the world, regional bodies have organized training activities in OSH. For example, the Asian Association of Occupational Health, established in 1954, has a Technical Committee in Occupational Health Education which conducts surveys on training of medical students and related subjects.

Types of Professional Programmes

Degree-granting and similar programmes

Probably the prototype of degree-granting and similar programmes is the sort which was developed in schools of public health or equivalent establishments. Higher education for public health is a relatively recent development. In the United States, the first school dedicated to this purpose was established in 1916 as the Institute of Hygiene at Johns Hopkins University. At that time, the overriding public health concerns centred around the communicable diseases. As time went on, education about the prevention and control of man-made hazards and about occupational health drew increasing emphasis in the training programmes of schools of public health (Sheps 1976).

Schools of public health offer OSH courses for a postgraduate diploma or for the degree of Master of Public Health, allowing students to concentrate in occupational health. Usually entry requirements include the possession of a tertiary educational qualification. Some schools insist upon relevant prior experience in OSH as well. The duration of training on a full-time basis is usually one year for the diploma and two years for the Master’s course.

Some of the schools train the different OSH personnel together in core courses, with training in the specific OSH disciplines (e.g., occupational medicine, hygiene or nursing) being offered to students specializing in these areas. This common training is probably a great advantage, as trainees of the different OSH disciplines could develop a greater understanding of each other’s functions and a better experience of team work.

Especially in recent years, schools of medicine, nursing and engineering have offered courses similar to those in schools of public health.

A few universities are offering OSH courses at the basic or undergraduate level. Unlike the traditional OSH tertiary courses, admission to which is usually dependent upon the acquisition of a previous degree, these newer courses admit students who have just graduated from high school. Much controversy still surrounds the merits of this development. Proponents of such courses argue that they produce more OSH professionals in less time and at lower cost. Their opponents argue that OSH practitioners are more effective if they build their OSH training on a basic discipline into which they integrate their special OSH practice, such as occupational medicine or nursing. Knowledge of basic sciences may be acquired at the specialization level if they have not been taught as part of undergraduate training.

Training courses in OSH for physicians vary in their clinical component. The conference, mentioned above, on the training of occupational health personnel organized by the WHO/Regional Office for Europe emphasized that “occupational medicine is fundamentally a clinical skill and its practitioners must be fully competent in clinical medicine”. It must also be stressed that the diagnosis of chemical intoxication among workers is largely clinical, as is the differentiation between “occupational disease” and other diseases and their management (Phoon 1986). It has become, therefore, a worldwide trend to insist upon postings to different clinics as part of the training of the occupational physician. In the United States and Canada, for example, trainees undergo a four-year residency programme which includes a substantial clinical component in such subjects as dermatology and respiratory medicine in addition to the curriculum required for the degree of Master of Public Health or its equivalent.

Formal training for occupational nurses probably varies even more in different parts of the world than that for occupational physicians. These differences hinge on the variations of responsibilities and functions of occupational nurses. Some countries define occupational health nursing as “the application of nursing principles in conserving the health of workers in all occupations. It involves prevention, recognition, and treatment of illness and injury and requires special skills and knowledge in the fields of health education and counselling, environmental health, rehabilitation and human relations” (Kono and Nishida 1991).On the other hand, other countries understand occupational nursing as the role of the nurse in an interdisciplinary occupational health team, who is expected to participate in all the fields of general health management, delivery of health services, environmental control, healthy and safe working procedures and OSH education. A survey in Japan showed, however, that not all the graduates from an occupational nursing staff took part in all these activities. This was probably due to a lack of understanding of the nurse’s role in OSH and to inadequate training in some of the fields (Kono and Nishida 1991).

The discipline of occupational hygiene has been defined by the American Industrial Hygiene Association as the science and art devoted to the recognition, evaluation and control of those environmental factors and stresses, arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well-being, or significant discomfort and inefficiency among workers or among the citizens of the community. Speciality training has also emerged within the general field of occupational hygiene, including that in chemistry, engineering, noise, radiation, air pollution and toxicology.

Curricula for Occupational Safety and Health Personnel

The detailed contents of the curricula for the training of occupational physicians, nurses, hygienists and safety personnel, as recommended by the 1981 Joint ILO/WHO Committee an Occupational Health mentioned above will be represented in the pages to follow. As regards the main subject areas to be taught, the Committee recommends:

  • organization of occupational safety and health services, their activities, legislation and regulations
  • occupational medicine
  • occupational hygiene
  • occupational safety
  • work physiology and ergonomics, dealing particularly with the adaptation of work to man, but also with the readjustment of the handicapped to work
  • occupational psychology, sociology and health education.

 

According to the profile of the personnel, the educational programmes will go more or less deeply into different subjects to meet the demands of the respective professions, as discussed below for several categories.

It is difficult to comment in detail what should go into the curricula of OSH courses. It is generally agreed that such courses should have a greater input of behavioural sciences than is now the case, but such input should be relevant to the sociocultural milieu of a particular country or region for which a course is designed. Moreover, OSH should not be taught in isolation from the general health services and the community health situation in a given country or region. The fundamentals of management science should be included in OSH curricula to improve the understanding of organizational structures and practices in enterprises as well as to enhance administrative skills of OSH professionals. The art of communication and the ability to conduct an investigation of OSH problems scientifically and to formulate solutions were also recommended for inclusion in all OSH curricula (Phoon 1985b).

Physicians and nurses

All medical students should be taught some occupational health. In some countries, there are separate courses; in others, occupational health is dealt with in such courses as physiology, pharmacology and toxicology, public health, social medicine and internal medicine. Nevertheless, medical students do not, as a rule, acquire sufficient knowledge and skill to allow them to practice occupational health independently, and some postgraduate training in occupational health and safety is necessary. For further specialization in occupational health (e.g., occupational diseases, or even more narrow fields, like occupational neurology or dermatology), postgraduate training programmes should be available. For nurses active in occupational health services, both long-term and short-term courses need to be organized, depending on their range of activities.

Figure 1 lists subjects to be included in specialized postgraduate training for physicians and nurses.

Figure 1. Postgraduate training syllabus for physicians and nurses.

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Safety and health engineers and safety officers

The practice of occupational safety is concerned with such failures of materials, machines, processes and structures as may give rise to dangerous situations, including the release of harmful agents. The aim of education in this field is to enable students to foresee danger, both at the planning stage of projects and in existing situations, to quantify the danger and to design measures to combat it. Training in occupational safety involves the student in a substantial study of selected topics from engineering and materials science, particularly those related to mechanical, civil, chemical, electrical and structural engineering.

Separate curricular units would be concerned, for example, with the structure and strength of materials, in mechanical engineering; with forces in structures, in civil engineering; with handling and transportation of chemicals, in chemical engineering; with design standards, protective equipment and the theory of preventive maintenance, in electrical engineering; and with the behaviour of strata, in mining engineering.

Safety engineers, in addition to acquiring a basic knowledge, should also undergo a course of specialization. The 1981 Joint ILO/WHO Committee recommendations for a specialized safety engineering course of study are listed in figure 2.

Figure 2. A syllabus for specialization in safety engineering.

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Courses can be either full-time, part-time or “sandwich courses”—in the lattermost case, periods of studying are interspersed with periods of practice. The selection of which courses to take is very much a matter of individual circumstances or preference. This is especially true since many safety practitioners have extensive knowledge gained through on-the-job experience in particular industries. However, within a large community or a country, there should preferably be a large range of choices to cater for all these different needs.

The recent enormous advances in communications technology should enable the greater usage of distance-learning courses which can be delivered both to remote areas of a country or even across national frontiers. Unfortunately, such technology is still quite expensive, and countries or areas which need such distance-learning capabilities most may be the very ones least able to afford them.

 

 

 

Primary health care practitioners

There is a severe shortage of OSH professionals in developing countries. In addition, among primary health care practitioners and health professionals as a whole, there is a tendency to direct their main activities to curative services. This should be counterbalanced with the help of appropriate training to emphasize the great value of instituting preventive measures at the workplace in collaboration with other responsible parties such as workers and managers. This would help, to a certain extent, to alleviate the problems caused by the present shortage of OSH personnel in developing countries (Pupo-Nogueira and Radford 1989).

A number of developing countries have recently embarked on short courses of OSH training for primary health care and public health personnel. There is a wide spectrum of organizations which have undertaken such training. They include national productivity boards (Phoon 1985a), farmers’ associations, national safety councils, national institutes of health, and professional bodies such as medical and nurses’ associations (Cordes and Rea 1989).

A scarcity of OSH professionals affects not only developing countries, but many developed ones as well. In the United States, one response to this problem took the form of a joint report by a preventive medicine and internal medicine study group that recommended that training programmes in internal medicine emphasize controls of hazards in the workplace and in the environment, since most patients seen by internists are members of the workforce. Furthermore, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Association have published several monographs on occupational health for the family physician. A study by the American Institute of Medicine reaffirmed the role of the primary care physician in occupational health, outlined the basic skills required and emphasized the need to enhance occupational health activity in basic training and continuing education (Ellington and Lowis 1991). In both developed and developing countries, however, there is still an inadequate number of OSH training programmes for primary health care personnel and an insufficient number of trained personnel.

Multidisciplinary training

Training in the multidisciplinary nature of OSH can be enhanced by making sure that everyone who trains is fully familiar with the roles, activities and areas of concern of the other OSH personnel. In an OSH course in Scotland, for example, members of the different OSH professions participate in the teaching programme. The students are also provided with self-instruction packages designed to give them detailed knowledge of and insight into the different OSH professional areas. Extensive use is also made of experiential learning techniques such as role-playing simulations and participative case studies. For example, students are asked to complete personal checklists on how each particular area of occupational health activity is likely to affect them in their own work situations, and on how they can cooperate effectively with other occupational health professionals.

In the running of a multidisciplinary OSH course, a key element is the mix of learners of different professional backgrounds in the same class. The course material, such as group exercises and essays, must be carefully selected without any bias to a particular discipline. Lecturers must also receive training in the setting of multidisciplinary questions and problems (D’Auria, Hawkins and Kenny 1991).

Continuing Education

In professional education as a whole, there is an increasing awareness of the need for continuing education. In the field of OSH, new knowledge concerning old hazards and new problems arising from changes in technology are developing so rapidly that no OSH practitioner could hope to keep up to date without making a systematic and constant effort to do so.

Continuing education in OSH can be formal or informal, voluntary or obligatory in order to maintain certification. It is essential for every OSH practitioner to keep up with reading the key professional journals, at least in his or her own disciplines. When a new hazard is encountered, it would be very useful to mount a literature search on that subject through a library. If such a library is unavailable, the CIS service of the ILO could be asked to undertake that service instead. Moreover, having continual and direct access to at least a few up-to-date texts on OSH is essential to any kind of OSH practice.

More formal kinds of continuing education could take the form of conferences, workshops, lectures, journal clubs or seminars. Usually tertiary institutions of learning or professional organizations can provide the means of delivery of such programmes. Whenever possible, there should be annual events in which a broader range of views or expertise could be canvassed than is usually available within the framework of a small community or town. Regional or international conferences or seminars can provide extremely useful opportunities for participants, not only to take advantage of the formal programme but also to exchange information with other practitioners or researchers outside the formal sessions.

Nowadays, more and more OSH professional organizations require members to attend a minimum number of continuing education activities as a condition for extension of certification or membership. Usually only the fact of attendance at approved functions is required. Attendance by itself is, of course, no guarantee that the participant has benefited from being present. Alternatives such as subjecting OSH professionals to regular examinations are also fraught with problems. Within a single OSH discipline, there is such a wide diversity of practice even within the same country that it is extremely difficult to devise an examination equitable to all the OSH practitioners concerned.

Self-learning

In every OSH training course there should be emphasis on the need for self-learning and its continuing practice. To this end, training in information retrieval and critical analysis of published literature is imperative. Training on the use of computers to facilitate obtaining of information from the many excellent OSH resources around the world would be also beneficial. Several courses have been developed in recent years to promote self-learning and information management through microcomputers (Koh, Aw and Lun 1992).

Curriculum Development

There is an increasing demand on the part of trainees and the community to ensure that curricula are constantly evaluated and improved. Many modern curricula are competency-based. A series of professional competencies required is first compiled. Since competence may be defined by different groups in different ways, extensive consultations on this matter should be held with faculty members and OSH practitioners (Pochyly 1973). In addition, there is a need for consultations with “consumers” (e.g., students, workers and employers), an inbuilt evaluation programme and well-defined but flexible educational objectives (Phoon 1988). Sometimes the establishment of advisory committees on curriculum or teaching programmes, which normally include faculty and student representatives, but sometimes also involve members of the general community, can provide a useful forum for such consultations.

Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure is often ignored in discussions on OSH training and education. Yet supporting facilities and human resources such as computers, libraries, efficient administrative staff and procedures and safe and convenient access are among the host of infrastructure considerations which could be crucial to the success of training courses. Proper monitoring of students’ progress, counselling and assistance of students with problems, health care of students and their families (where indicated), minding of students’ children, canteen and recreational facilities and provision of lockers or cupboards for the storage of personal possessions of trainees are all important details which should receive careful attention.

Faculty Recruitment and Development

The quality and popularity of a training programme are often vital factors in determining the quality of staff applying for a vacant position. Obviously, other factors such as satisfactory service conditions and opportunities for career and intellectual development are also important.

Careful consideration should be given to job specifications and job requirements. Faculty should have the necessary OSH qualifications, though flexibility should be exercised to allow the recruitment of staff from non-OSH disciplines who may be able to make special contributions to teaching or especially promising applicants who may have the capability but not all the qualifications or experience normally required for the job. Whenever possible, faculty should have practical OSH experience.

After recruitment, it is the responsibility of the leadership and senior members of the school or department to make sure that new staff are given as much encouragement and opportunity to develop as possible. New staff should be inducted into the culture of the organization but also encouraged to express themselves and to participate in decision-making processes related to teaching and research programmes. Feedback should be given to them concerning their teaching performance in a sensitive and constructive manner. Whenever necessary, offers of help to remedy identified limitations should be given. Many departments have found the regular holding of teaching or evaluation workshops for staff to be extremely useful. Cross-postings to industries and sabbatical leave are other important measures for staff development. Some extent of consultancy work, which could be either clinical, worksite or laboratory (depending on the discipline and areas of activity of the faculty member) helps to make academic teaching more practical.

Teaching Venues

Classrooms should be designed and furnished according to appropriate ergonomic principles and equipped with audio-visual aid equipment and video projection facilities. The lighting and acoustics should be satisfactory. Access to an exit should be located in such a way as to minimize the disturbance of an ongoing class.

Proper principles of OSH should be applied to the design and construction of laboratories. Such safety equipment as showers, eye washing facilities, first aid supplies and resuscitation equipment and fume cupboards should be installed or made available where indicated, and laboratories should be bright, airy and odourless.

Venues for field visits should be chosen to provide a wide range of OSH experiences for the trainees. If possible, worksites with different levels of OSH standards should be chosen. However, on no account should the safety or health of trainees be compromised.

Locations for clinical work would very much depend on the nature and level of the training course. In some circumstances, bedside teaching may be indicated to demonstrate the appropriate clinical approach to skills in history taking. In some other circumstances, presentation of cases with or without patients could serve the same purpose.

Examinations and Assessment

The recent trend has been to seek alternatives to administering an all-important and single final examination at the end of a course. Some courses have abolished formal examinations altogether and replaced them with assignments or periodic assessments. Some other courses have a combination of such assignments and assessments, open book examinations and closed book examinations as well. It is nowadays increasingly understood that examinations or assessments are as much measures of the quality of courses and teachers as of the trainees.

A feedback of trainees’ opinions concerning the entire course or components thereof through questionnaires or discussions is invaluable in the evaluation or revision of a course. As far as possible, all courses should be constantly evaluated, at least on an annual basis, and revised if necessary.

Insofar as modes of examination are concerned, essay questions can test organization, integrating ability and writing skills. The precision and validity of essay examinations, however, have been found to be weak. Multiple-choice questions (MCQs) are less subjective, but good ones are difficult to formulate and do not allow a display of practical knowledge. Modified essay questions (MEQs) differ from essays or MCQs in that the candidate is presented with a progressive amount of information about a problem. It avoids cueing by requesting short-answer responses rather than presenting candidates with alternatives from which to choose the appropriate answer. Oral examinations can measure problem-solving skills, professional judgement, communication skills and ability to retain composure under stress. The main difficulty with the oral examination is the potential for so-called “lack of objectivity”. The oral examination can be made more reliable by imposing some structure on it (Verma, Sass-Kortsak and Gaylor 1991). Perhaps the best alternative is to use a battery of these different types of examination rather than to rely on one or two of them only.

Certification and Accreditation

The word certification usually refers to the conferment upon a professional of authorization to practise. Such certification could be conferred by a national board or a college or an institution of practitioners of an OSH discipline. Usually, the OSH professional is given certification only after fulfilling a stipulated period of training in connection with an approved course or positions and also upon passing an examination. In general, such “global certification” is valid for life, unless there is proven professional negligence or misconduct. However, there are other forms of accreditation which require periodic renewal. They include such accreditation as that required in some countries to either conduct special statutory medical examinations or to report on radiographs of asbestos-exposed persons.

Accreditation, on the other hand, refers to the recognition of OSH courses by a national board or professional organization or a scholarship-granting body. Such accreditation should be subject to periodic reappraisal to ensure that courses keep to an appropriate level of currency and effectiveness.

 

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Sunday, 23 January 2011 22:24

Safety and Health Training of Managers

Following a brief review of the development of educational contributions to worker health and safety and of the first attempts to establish the foundations of management education, this article will address curriculum development. The two career paths along which future senior managers develop will be considered as an issue relevant to the educational needs of managers. The curriculum content for managerial issues will be set forth first, to be followed by that pertinent to an understanding of injury causation.

Education for occupational safety and health has been directed, in the main, to people such as safety managers and occupational physicians, and more recently, to occupational health nurses, ergonomists and hygienists—people who have been appointed to specialist staff positions in organizations.

The advisory roles of these specialists have incorporated tasks such as the administration of pre-employment medical examinations, health surveillance, monitoring employee exposures to a range of hazards and environmental examination. Their activities moreover include contributing to job and task design in order to adjust engineering or administrative controls by way of minimizing if not eliminating (for example) the harmful effects of postural demands or of exposure to toxic hazards.

This specialist-oriented educational approach has tended to ignore the central fact that the provision of safe and healthy workplaces requires an extraordinarily broad scope of operational knowledge necessary to make them a reality. It must be borne in mind that managers carry the responsibility for planning, organizing and controlling work activities in public and private enterprises across all industry sectors.

Background

During the decade of the 1970s many initiatives were taken to offer study programmes at the tertiary level to provide a professional education with practical training for the range of specialist engineers, scientists and health care workers entering the field of occupational safety and health.

In the 1980s it was recognized that the people most directly concerned with occupational safety and health, the managers, the workers themselves and their associations, were the most significant entities in the move to reduce workplace injury and ill health. Legislation in many jurisdictions was introduced to provide education for workers serving on safety committees or as elected safety and health representatives. These changes highlighted for the first time the very limited education and training facilities then available to managers.

An early initiative to address management education

Several steps were taken to overcome this problem. The most widely known is Project Minerva, an initiative of the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which represented an early effort to inculcate that body of specific managerial skills which is necessary to ensure workplace safety and which “generally exceeds that which is offered through courses in the traditional business curriculum” (NIOSH 1985). Teaching materials intended to address the more urgent safety and health concerns were provided for business schools. The resource guide comprised instructional modules, case studies and a book of readings. Module topics are listed in figure 1.

Figure 1. Modular curriculum content, Project Minerva resource guide.

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The Canadian Society of Safety Engineers has recommended this structure to business schools seeking to incorporate occupational safety and health materials into their curricula.

Fundamentals of Managing: General Rather Than Specific Needs

Any job responsibility entails the acquisition of relevant knowledge and appropriate skills in order to discharge it. Responsibility for managing occupational safety and health within any organization will be placed increasingly upon line managers at each level in the job hierarchy. Associated with that responsibility ought to be commensurate accountability and the authority to command the necessary resources. The knowledge and skills needed to discharge this responsibility form the curriculum for occupational safety and health management education.

At first sight, it would seem necessary that a curriculum of this sort be developed with the aim of meeting all the special demands of the whole range of management functions as they relate to such a diversity of positions as office administrator, nurse manager, operations director, supplies and purchasing superintendent, fleet coordinator and even ship’s captain. The curricula need also, perhaps, address the whole range of industries and the occupations found within them. However, experience strongly suggests that this is not so. The necessary skills and knowledge are, in fact, common to all management functions and are more fundamental than those of the specialists. They are operative at the level of basic management expertise. However, not all managers arrive at their position of responsibility by taking similar paths.

Managerial Career Paths

The usual path to a managerial career is through either supervisory or specialist functions. In the former case, career development is dependent on work experience and job knowledge and in the latter it ordinarily presupposes off-the-job college education and postgraduate study, for example as an engineer or nurse manager. Both streams need to develop occupational safety and health (OSH) skills. For the latter this may be done in graduate school.

It is usual today for successful managers to acquire the degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA). For this reason the Minerva Project directed its attention to the 600 or more graduate management schools in the United States. By incorporating into MBA curricula such aspects of occupational safety and health as were determined to be critical for successful management of the field, it was believed that this material would be integrated into the formal studies of middle management.

Given the extremely high rate of technological invention and scientific discovery, undergraduate courses, particularly in engineering and scientific disciplines, have only limited opportunities to integrate broadly-based safety theory and practice into design, process and operation studies.

Since managerial roles begin fairly soon after graduation for those with specialist education, there is a need to provide the knowledge and skills that will support the safety and health responsibility of both specialist and generalist managers.

It is important that an awareness of the content of any curriculum devoted to occupational safety and health objectives among management be promoted among other personnel having related responsibilities. Thus, the training of such key employees as safety and health representatives should be designed to keep them current with such curricular developments.

Curriculum for Managing Occupational Safety and Health

There are two broad classes of knowledge into which the discipline of occupational safety and health falls. One is that relating to the functions and principles of management and the other deals with the nature and proactive control of hazards. The model of curriculum development set forth below will follow this division. Both the supervisory path to management and the specialist path will require their own particular coverage of each of these classes.

The question of what level of complexity and technological detail needs to be provided to students may be determined by the purpose of the course, its length and the intention of the providers regarding subsequent education and skills development. These issues will be addressed in a later section.

Specifically, curricula should address machinery and plant safety, noise, radiation, dust, toxic materials, fire, emergency procedures, medical and first aid arrangements, workplace and employee monitoring, ergonomics, environmental hygiene, workplace design and maintenance and, most importantly, the development of standard operating procedures and training. This last is an essential component of managerial understanding. Not only must tasks and processes be the subject of operator training but the requirement for continuous improvement of people and processes makes training and retraining the most critical step in improving the quality of both. Adult learning theory and practice needs to be applied in the development of the curricular materials that guide this continuing training process.

The functions and principles of management

The fundamental purposes of management embrace the planning, organizing and control of workplace activities. They also embrace the incorporation of practices which maximize opportunities for workforce participation in goal setting, team operation and quality improvement. Furthermore, successful management requires the integration of occupational safety and health into all the organization’s activities.

It is rare for undergraduate programmes, outside those of colleges of business, to cover any of this knowledge. However, it is a most essential component for the specialist practitioners to have incorporated into their undergraduate study.

Organizational framework

The mission statement, strategic plan and structure set up to guide and facilitate the attainment of the organization’s objectives must be understood by the managers to be the basis for their individual activities. Each division of the organization whether it is a hospital, trucking business or coal mine, will in turn have its own goals and structure. Each will reflect the need to achieve organizational goals, and, taken together, will drive the organization towards them.

Policies and procedures

The primary embodiment of an organization’s goals are comprised by policy documents, the guides for individual employees on specific topics. (In some jurisdictions, the publication of an organization’s overall policy is required by law.) These documents ought to include reference to the range of occupational safety and health programmes designed with regard to the activities and processes which occupy the working time of employees. A sample of some general policy statements might include documents on emergency evacuation, fire fighting, purchasing procedures, injury reporting and accident and incident investigation. On the other hand, specific hazards will require their own process-specific policy materials concerning, for example, hazardous substances management, ergonomic interventions or entry into confined spaces.

After establishing policy, an activity preferably carried out with worker representative participation and union involvement, detailed procedures would then be put in place to give effect to them. Again, participative practices will contribute to the wholehearted acceptance of them by the workforce as a valuable contribution to their safety and health.

A safety and health management system is schematically illustrated in figure 2.

Figure 2. A health and safety management system.

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Organizational structures defining key roles

The next stage in the management process is to define an organizational structure which characterizes the roles of key people—for example, the chief executive—and professional advisors such as safety advisors, occupational hygienists, the occupational health nurse, the physician and the ergonomist. In order to facilitate their roles, the relationships of these people and elected safety and health representatives (required in some jurisdictions) and worker members of safety committees to the organizational structure need to be explicit.

The planning and organizing functions of management will integrate structures, policies and procedures into the operational activities of the enterprise.

Control

Control activities—establishing processes and goals, determining standards of acceptable achievement and measuring performance against those standards—are the operational steps which bring to realization the intentions of the strategic plan. They also need to be established through co-determination. The tools for control are workplace audits, which may be continuous, frequent, random or formal.

An understanding of these activities is an important component of a management education syllabus, and skills should be developed in carrying them out. Such skills are as essential to the success of an integrated safety and health plan as they are to the discharge of any other management function, whether purchasing or fleet operation.

Organizational development and curriculum

Since the introduction of new organizational structures, new equipment and new materials is occurring at a rapid pace, special attention must be given to the processes of change. The employees who will be affected by these changes can have a deciding influence on their effectiveness and on the efficiency of the work group. An understanding of the psychosocial factors influencing the activities of the organization must be acquired and skills must be developed in using this knowledge to reach organizational objectives. Of particular importance is the delegation of the authority and the accountability of the manager to work groups formed into autonomous or semi-autonomous work teams. The management education curriculum must place at the disposal of its students the tools necessary to carry out their obligation to ensure not only process improvement and quality but the development of the multiple skills and quality awareness of personnel with which the issue of safety is so closely involved.

There are two further components of the management curriculum requiring examination. One of these is the activity of incident investigation and the other, on which the whole of this activity rests, is an understanding of the accident phenomenon.

The accident phenomenon

The work of Derek Viner (1991) in clearly expounding the significance of energy sources as the potential hazards in all workplaces has defined half of the accident equation. In conjunction with Viner’s work, the contribution of Dr. Eric Wigglesworth (1972) in identifying human error, the crucial element in managing workplace safety activities, completes its definition. An emphasis on the process of each damaging occurrence has been shown by Benner (1985) when considering accident investigation methods to be the most productive approach to managing worker safety and health.

Wigglesworth’s visualization of the sequence of events which results in injury, damage and loss appears in figure 3. It highlights the role of nonculpable human error, as well as the essential element of loss of energy containment and the potential for the injury outcome where this occurs.

Figure 3. The error/injury process.

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The implications of the model for management become clear when planning for work processes takes account of the behavioural inputs which affect those processes. This is so in particular when the role of design is given its rightful place as the initiating mechanism for both equipment and process development. When planning takes account both of the design of plant and equipment and of the human factors influencing work activity, coordination and control mechanisms can then be implemented to assure containment of the identified hazards.

A model may be used to illustrate the significance of the interaction between the worker, the equipment, tools and machines employed to further the task objectives and the environment within which the activity takes place. The model highlights the need to address factors within all three elements which may contribute to damaging events. Within the workstation environment, which encompasses the thermal, aural and lighting components, among others, the worker interacts with the tools and equipment necessary to get the work done (see figure 4).

Figure 4. Representation of workstation elements relevant to injury causation and control.

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Accident investigation and analysis

Accident investigation serves a number of important functions. First, it can be a proactive process, being used in situations where an incident occurs which results in no damage or injury but where there is a potential for harm. Studying the sequence of events can uncover features of the work process which could lead to more serious consequences. Second, one may gain an understanding of the process by which the events unfolded and thus can identify the absence of, or weakness in, process or task design, training, supervision or controls over energy sources. Third, many jurisdictions legally require investigations of certain types of incidents, for example, scaffolding and trench collapses, electrocutions and failures of hoisting equipment. The work of Benner (1985) illustrates well the importance of having a clear understanding of the accident phenomenon and an effective protocol for investigating injury and damage events.

The nature and control of hazards

All injury results from some form of energy exchange. The uncontrolled release of physical, chemical, biological, thermal, or other forms of energy is a source of potential harm to a variety of workers. Containment by suitable engineering and administrative mechanisms is one essential aspect of suitable control. Identifying and evaluating these energy sources is a prerequisite for control.

A management education curriculum would thus contain topics covering a range of activities which includes establishing objectives, planning the work, developing policy and procedures, undertaking organizational change and installing controls over work processes (and specifically the energy sources utilized in carrying out that work), all aimed at injury prevention. While curricula designed for the technical areas of operations need address only fundamental principles, organizations that make use of very hazardous materials or processes must have in their employ a senior member of management with sufficient training in the specific modes of handling, storage and transport of such technology to ensure the safety and health of workers and members of the community.

Larger enterprises and small business

Managers who work in larger organizations employing, say, a hundred or more people usually have one or only a few functional responsibilities and report to a senior manager or a board of directors. They have occupational safety and health responsibility for their own subordinates and act within established policy guidelines. Their educational needs may be addressed by the formal programmes offered in business schools at the undergraduate or graduate level.

On the other hand, the sole managers or partners in small enterprises are less likely to have had graduate education, and, if they have, it is more likely to be of a technological than managerial sort, and it is more difficult to address their needs for the management of occupational health and safety.

Small business needs

Providing training programmes for these managers, who often work very long hours, has represented a difficulty of long standing. Although a number of large legislative jurisdictions have produced guidance booklets setting out minimum performance stands, the more promising approaches are being made available through industry associations, such as the Ontario Industrial Accident Prevention Associations funded by levies placed by the Workers’ Compensation Board upon all businesses in the given industrial sector.

Syllabus Content

A body of knowledge and skills which addresses the needs of managers at the first-line supervisory level, middle management and senior executives is outlined in figure 5 by topic. Individual short-form syllabuses follow in figure 6. These have been collated from the syllabuses of a number of university graduate study programmes.

Figure 5. Syllabus for an OSH study programme.

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Figure 6. Short form syllabuses for an OSH study programme.

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The needs of first-line supervisors will be met through the acquisition of knowledge and skills covered by those topics that relate to operational demands. The training of senior executives will concentrate on such topics as strategic planning, risk management and compliance matters as well as initiating policy proposals. The allocation of hours for each course of study should reflect student needs.

Summary

Management education for occupational safety and health demands an eclectic approach to the broadest range of issues. It shares with quality the imperative of being integrated into every management and worker activity, into every employee’s job description and should be a part of the performance appraisal of all.

 

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The articles in this chapter have thus far concentrated on training and education regarding workplace hazards. Environmental education serves multiple purposes and is a useful complement to occupational safety and health training. Worker education is a critical and often overlooked aspect of a broad and effective environmental protection strategy. Environmental issues are frequently viewed as purely technological or scientific matters that stand outside the purview of workers. Yet worker knowledge is critical to any effective environmental solutions. Workers are concerned as citizens and as employees about environmental matters because the environment shapes their lives and affects their communities and families. Even when technological solutions are required that use new hardware, software or process approaches, worker commitment and competence are necessary for their effective implementation. This is true for workers whether involved directly in environmental industries and occupations or in other kinds of jobs and industrial sectors.

Worker education can also provide a conceptual foundation to enhance workers’ participation in environmental improvement, health and safety protection, and organizational improvement. The UNEP Industry and Environment Programme notes that “many companies have found that worker involvement in environmental improvement can yield important benefits” (UNEP 1993). The Cornell Work and Environment Initiative (WEI) in a study of US enterprises found that intense worker participation yielded triple the source reduction of technical or external solutions alone and boosted yields of some technological approaches even higher (Bunge et al. 1995).

Worker environmental education comes in a variety of forms. These include trade union awareness and education, occupational training and orientation, connecting environment to workplace health and safety concerns and broad awareness as citizens. Such education occurs in a range of venues including worksites, trade union halls, classrooms and study circles, using both traditional and newer computer-based delivery systems. It is fair to say that workers’ environmental education is an underdeveloped field, especially in comparison with managerial and technical training and school-based environmental education. At the international level, education of front-line workers is often mentioned in passing and is overlooked when it comes to implementation. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has commissioned a series of studies on the educational dimension of environmental protection, and in its next programme of work will directly look at the shop-floor workers and their environmental educational needs.

What follows are several examples gathered through the WEI at Cornell University that illustrate both practice and possibility in worker environmental education.The WEI is a network of managers, trade unionists, environmentalists and government policy officials from 48 countries in all parts of the world, committed to finding ways that workers and the workplace can contribute to environmental solutions. It addresses a wide range of industries from primary extraction to production, service and public-sector enterprises. It provides a means for education and action on environmental matters that seeks to build knowledge at the workplace and in academic institutions that can lead to cleaner and more productive workplaces and better connection between internal and external environments.

Australia: Eco-Skills Modules

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has developed new approaches to workers’ education for the environment that provides both broad social awareness and specific competencies for employment, especially among young workers.

The ACTU has organized an Environment Training Company with a broad mandate to address a variety of sectors but with an initial focus on land management issues. This focus includes teaching ways to handle reclamation work safely and effectively but also ways to assure compatibility with indigenous peoples and natural environments. With input from trade unionists, environmentalists and employers, the training company developed a set of “Eco-Skills” modules to establish basic environmental literacy among workers from an array of industries. These are integrated with a set of skill competencies that are technical, social and safety oriented.

Eco-Skills modules 1 and 2 contain a broad base of environmental information. They are taught alongside other entry-level training programmes. Levels 3 and higher are taught to people who specialize in work focused on reduction of environmental impacts. The first two Eco-Skills modules are composed of two forty-hour sessions. Trainees attain skills through lectures, group problem-solving sessions and practical hands-on techniques. Workers are assessed through written and oral presentations, group work and role plays.

Concepts covered in the sessions include an introduction to the principles of ecologically sustainable development, efficient resource use and cleaner production and environmental management systems. Once Module 1 is completed workers should be able to:

  • identify the implications of a given lifestyle for long-term sustainability with specific emphasis placed on the learner’s present and future lifestyle
  • identify ways to reduce the environmental impact of human activities
  • describe strategies to reduce environmental impacts in a given industry (agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, tourism, leisure, mining)
  • describe the main features of an Environmental Management System
  • identify the role of stakeholders in reducing environmental pollution and resource depletion.

 

Module 2 expands upon these initial objectives and prepares workers to begin applying pollution prevention and resource conservation methods.

Some industries are interested in connecting environmental impact skills and knowledge to their industry standards at every level. Awareness of environmental issues would be reflected in the day-to-day work of all industry workers at all skill levels. An incentive for workers lies in the fact that pay rates are linked to industry standards. The Australian experiment is in its infancy, but it is a clear attempt to work with all parties to develop competency-based activities that lead to increased and safer employment while enhancing environmental performance and awareness.

Linking Occupational Health and Safety and Environmental Training

One of the most active unions in the United States in environmental training is the Laborers International Union of North American (LIUNA). US government regulations require that hazardous-waste abatement workers receive 40 hours of training. The union along with participating contractors have developed an intensive 80-hour course designed to provide potential hazardous-waste workers with greater awareness of safety and the industry. In 1995, over 15,000 workers were trained in lead, asbestos and other hazardous-waste abatement and other environmental remediation work. The Laborers–Associated General Contractors programme has developed 14 environmental remediation courses and associated train-the-trainer programmes to assist nationwide efforts at safe and quality remediation. These are conducted at 32 training sites and four mobile units.

In addition to providing safety and technical training, the programme encourages participants to think about larger environmental issues. As part of their classwork, trainees gather materials from local papers on environmental issues and use this local connection as an opening to discuss broader environmental challenges. This joint environmental training fund employs a full-time equivalent staff of 19 at its central office and spends over US$10 million. The materials and training methods meet high quality standards with extensive use of audio-visual and other training aids, specific competency focus, and quality commitment and assessment built in throughout the curricula. A “learn-at-home” video is used to help meet literacy concerns and environmental and basic literacy training are connected. For those who desire it, six of the courses are transferable into college credit. The programme is active in serving minority communities, and over half of the participants come from minority population groups. Additional programmes are developed in partnership with minority consortiums, public housing projects and other training providers.

The union understands that a great deal of its future membership will come in environmentally related businesses and sees the development of worker education programmes as building the foundation for that growth. While both safety and productivity are better on jobs using trained workers, the union also sees the broader impact:

The most interesting impact environmental training has had on members is their increased respect for chemicals and harmful substances in the workplace and at home. … Awareness is also increasing with respect to the consequences of continued pollution and the cost involved with cleaning up the environment. … The true impact is much greater than just preparing people for work (LIUNA 1995).

In the United States, such hazardous-materials training is also conducted by the Operating Engineers; Painters; Carpenters; Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers; Chemical Workers Union; Machinists; Teamsters; Ironworkers and Steelworkers.

LIUNA is also working internationally with the Mexican Confederation of Workers (CTM), federal and private training groups and employers to develop training methodologies. The focus is on training Mexican workers in environmental remediation work and construction skills. The Inter-American Partnership for Environmental Education and Training (IPEET) held its first training course for Mexican workers during the summer of 1994 in Mexico City. A number of labour leaders and workers from local industries, including paint manufacturing and metal plating, attended the one-week course on environmental safety and health. Other LIUNA partnerships are being developed in Canada with French editions of the materials and “Canadianization” of the content. The European Institute for Environmental Education and Training is also a partner for similar training in Eastern European and CIS countries.

Zambia: Educational Manual on Occupational Health and Safety

In Zambia, too often occupational health and safety is taken seriously only when there is an incident involving injury or damage to company property. Environmental issues are also ignored by industry. The Manual on Occupational Health and Safety was written in an effort to educate employees and employers on the importance of occupational health and safety issues.

The first chapter of this manual outlines the importance of education at all levels in a company. Supervisors are expected to understand their role in creating safe, healthy working conditions. Workers are taught how maintaining a positive, cooperative attitude relates to their own safety and work environment.

The manual specifically addresses environmental issues, noting that all major towns in Zambia face

threats of increasing environmental damage. In specific, the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) identified environmental hazards in the mining industry through strip mining and air and water pollution that results from poor practices. Many factories are responsible for air and water pollution because they discharge their waste directly into nearby streams and rivers and allow smoke and fumes to escape unchecked into the atmosphere (ZCTU 1994).

Though many African trade unions are interested in further education on the environment, lack of adequate funding for worker education and the need for materials that link environmental, community and workplace hazards are major barriers.

Employer-Based Worker Environmental Education and Training

Employers, especially larger ones, have extensive environmental education activities. In many cases, these are mandated training linked to occupational or environmental safety requirements. However, an increasing number of companies recognize the power of broad worker education that goes well beyond compliance training. The Royal Dutch/Shell Group of companies have made health, safety and environment (HSE) part of their overall approach to training, and environment is an integral part of all management decisions (Bright and van Lamsweerde 1995). This is a global practice and mandate. One of the company’s goals is to define HSE competencies for appropriate jobs. Worker competence is developed through improved awareness, knowledge and skill. Appropriate training will increase worker awareness and knowledge, and skills will develop as new knowledge is applied. A wide range of delivery techniques helps share and reinforce the environmental message and learning.

At Duquesne Light in the United States, all 3,900 employees were successfully trained “on how the company and its employees actually affect the environment.” William DeLeo, Vice-President of Environmental Affairs said:

To develop a training programme that enabled us to meet out strategic objectives we determined that our employees needed a general awareness of the importance of environmental protection as well as specific technical training relative to their job responsibilities. These two points became the guiding strategy for our environmental education program (Cavanaugh 1994).

Worker and Union-Based Environmental Education Programmes

The Workers’ Education Branch of the ILO has developed a six-booklet set of background materials to spark discussion among trade unionists and others. The booklets address workers and the environment, the workplace and the environment, the community and the environment, world environmental issues, the new bargaining agenda, and provide a guide to resources and a glossary of terms. They provide a broad, insightful and easy-to-read approach that can be used in both developing and industrial countries to discuss topics relevant to workers. The materials are based on specific projects in Asia, the Caribbean and Southern Africa, and can be used as a whole text or can be separated in a study circle format to promote general dialogue.

The ILO in a review of training needs pointed out:

Trade unionists must increase their awareness about environmental concerns in general and the impact their employing firms are having on the environment, including the safety and health of their workers, in particular. Trade unions and their members need to understand environmental issues, the consequences that environmental hazards have on their members and the community at large, and be able to develop sustainable solutions in their negotiations with company management and employers’ organizations. (ILO 1991.)

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has observed:

Local trade unions and other employee representatives are in a particularly difficult situation. They will have the relevant knowledge of the local situation and the workplace but will, in most cases, not be sufficiently specialised in complex environmental and strategic issues.

They will, therefore, be unable to exercise their functions unless they received additional and specialised training. (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions 1993.)

A number of national unions have urged increased workers’ education on the environment. Included among them is the LO in Sweden, whose 1991 Environmental Programme called both for more education and action at the workplace and for additional study circle material on the environment to promote awareness and learning. The Manufacturing Workers Union in Australia has developed a training course and set of materials to assist the union in providing environmental leadership, including how to address environmental issues through collective bargaining.

Summary

Good worker-based environmental education provides both conceptual and technical information to workers that assists them in increasing environmental awareness and in learning concrete ways to change work practices that are damaging to the environment. These programmes also learn from workers at the same time to build on their awareness, reflection and insight about workplace environmental practice.

Workplace environmental education is best done when it is connected to community and global environmental challenges so that workers have a clear idea of how the ways they work are connected to the overall environment and how they can contribute to a cleaner workplace and global ecosystem.

 

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The term environmental education covers a potentially wide range of issues and activities when applied to employees, managers and workplaces. These encompass:

  • education for general awareness of environmental concerns
  • education and training toward modifying work practices, processes and materials to reduce the environmental impact of industrial processes on local communities
  • professional education for engineers and others seeking expertise and careers in environmental fields
  • education and training of workers in the growing field of environmental abatement, including hazardous waste cleanup, emergency response to spills, releases and other accidents, and asbestos and lead paint remediation.

 

This article focuses on the state of worker training and education in the United States in the growing environmental remediation field. It is not an exhaustive treatment of environmental education, but rather an illustration of the link between occupational safety and health and the environment and of the changing nature of work in which technical and scientific knowledge has become increasingly important in such traditional “manual” trades as construction. “Training” refers in this context to shorter-term programmes organized and taught by both academic and non-academic institutions. “Education” refers to programmes of formal study at accredited two-year and four-year institutions. Currently a clear career path does not exist for individuals with interest in this field. The development of more defined career paths is one goal of the National Environmental Education and Training Center, Inc. (NEETC) at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, a wide range of education and training programmes exist at different levels, offered by a variety of academic and non-academic institutions. A survey of the institutions involved in this type of training and education formed the source material for the original report from which this article was adapted (Madelien and Paulson 1995).

Training Programmes

A 1990 study conducted by Wayne State University (Powitz et al. 1990) identified 675 separate and distinct noncredit short courses for hazardous waste worker training at colleges and universities, offering over 2,000 courses nationwide each year. However, this study did not cover some of the primary providers of training, namely community college programmes, US Occupational Safety and Health Administration training programmes and independent firms or contractors. Thus, the Wayne State number could probably be doubled or tripled to estimate the number of noncredit, noncertification course offerings available in the United States today.

The major government-funded training programme in environmental remediation is that of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). This program, established under the Superfund legislation in 1987, provides grants to non-profit organizations with access to appropriate worker populations. Recipients include labour unions; university programmes in labour education/labour studies and public health, health sciences and engineering; community colleges; and non-profit-making safety and health coalitions, known as COSH groups (Committees on Occupational Safety and Health). Many of these organizations operate in regional consortia. The target audiences include:

  • construction trades workers involved in cleanup of hazardous waste sites
  • emergency response personnel working for fire and emergency services agencies and industrial plants
  • transportation workers involved in transporting hazardous materials
  • hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility workers
  • wastewater treatment workers.

 

The NIEHS program has resulted in extensive curriculum and materials development and innovation, which has been characterized by considerable sharing and synergy among grantees. The programme funds a national clearinghouse which maintains a library and curriculum centre and publishes a monthly newsletter.

Other government funded programmes offer short courses targeting hazardous waste industry professionals as opposed to front-line remedial workers. Many of these programmes are housed in university Educational Resource Centers funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Education Programmes

Community colleges

The broadest change on the hazardous waste education and training landscape in the past few years is the dramatic development of community college programmes and consortia to improve vocational education at the associate’s degree level. Since the 1980s, community colleges have been doing the most organized and extensive curriculum development work in secondary education.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has funded programmes nationwide to provide for a trained workforce at sites where the need has changed from nuclear technicians to hazardous waste clean-up workers. This training is taking place most rigorously at community colleges, many of which have historically provided for personnel needs at specific DOE sites. DOE-funded programmes at community colleges have also given rise to major efforts in curriculum development and consortia for sharing information. Their goals are to establish more consistent and higher standards of training and to provide mobility for the workforce, enabling an individual trained to work at a site in one part of the country to move to another site with minimal retraining requirements.

Several consortia of community colleges are advancing curricula in this area. The Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE) operates in six regions. PETE is working with the University of Northern Iowa to create a world-class network of community college environmental programmes, linked with high schools, that inform and prepare students for entry into these two-year degree programmes. The goals include the development of (1) nationally validated curriculum models, (2) comprehensive professional development programmes and (3) a national clearinghouse for environmental education.

The Hazardous Materials Training and Research Institute (HMTRI) serves the curriculum development, professional development, print and electronic communications needs of 350 colleges with two-year environmental technologies credit programmes. The Institute develops and distributes curricula and materials and implements educational programmes at its own Environmental Training Center at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa, which has extensive classroom, laboratory and simulated field site facilities.

The Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) provides national leadership in the US Department of Education’s Tech Prep/Associate Degree initiative. The Tech Prep program requires coordination between secondary and post-secondary institutions to give students a solid foundation for a career pathway and the world of work. This activity has led to the development of several contextual, experiential student texts in basic science and mathematics, which are designed for students to learn new concepts in relationship to existing knowledge and experience.

CORD has also played a significant role in the Clinton administration’s national educational initiative, “Goals 2000: Educate America”. In recognition of the need for qualified entry-level personnel, the initiative provides for the development of occupational skills standards. (“Skills standards” define the knowledge, skills, attitudes and level of ability necessary to successfully function in specific occupations.) Among the 22 skills standards development projects funded under the programme is one for hazardous materials management technology technicians.

Articulation between vocational and baccalaureate programmes

A continuing problem has been the poor linkage between two-year and four-year institutions, which hampers students who wish to enter engineering programmes after completing associate’s (two-year) degrees in hazardous/radioactive waste management. However, a number of community college consortia have begun to address this problem.

The Environmental Technology (ET) consortium is a California community college network that has completed articulation agreements with four four-year colleges. The establishment of a new job classification, “environmental technician”, by the California Environmental Protection Agency provides added incentive for graduates of the ET program to continue their education. An ET certificate represents the entry level requirement for the environmental technician position. Completion of an associate’s degree makes the employee eligible for promotion to the next job level. Further education and work experience allows the worker to progress up the career ladder.

The Waste-management Education and Research Consortium (WERC), a consortium of New Mexico schools, is perhaps the most advanced model which attempts to bridge gaps between vocational and traditional four-year education. Consortium members are the University of New Mexico, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico State University, Navajo Community College, Sandia Laboratory and Los Alamos Laboratories. The approach to curriculum transfer has been an interactive television (ITV) program in distance learning, which takes advantage of the varied strengths of the institutions.

Students enrolled in the environmental programme are required to take 6 hours of courses from the other institutions through distance learning or an offsite semester of coursework. The programme is decidedly inter-disciplinary, combining a minor in hazardous materials/waste management with a major from another department (political science, economics, pre-law, engineering or any of the sciences). The programme is “both broad and narrow” in focus, in that it recognizes a need to develop students with both a broad knowledge base in their field and some specific training in hazardous materials and hazardous waste management. This unique programme couples student participation in realistic applied research and industry-led curriculum development. The courses for the minor are very specific and take advantage of the particularized specialties at each school, but each program, including the associate degree, has a large core requirement in humanities and social sciences.

Another unique feature is the fact that the four-year schools offer two-year associate’s degrees in radioactive and hazardous materials technology. The two-year associate’s degree in environmental science offered at the Navajo Community College includes courses in Navajo history and substantial courses in communications and business, as well as technical courses. A hands-on laboratory has also been developed on the Navajo Community College campus, an unusual feature for a community college and part of the consortium’s commitment to hands-on laboratory learning and technology development/applied research. The WERC member institutions also offer a “non-degree” certificate programme in waste management studies, which seems to be above and beyond the 24-hour and 40-hour courses offered at other colleges. It is for individuals who already have a bachelor’s or graduate degree and who further wish to take advantage of seminars and specialty courses at the universities.

Conclusions

Several significant changes have taken place in the focus of education and training related to the hazardous waste industry in the past few years, in addition to the proliferation of short-course training programmes and traditional engineering programmes. Overall, the Department of Energy seems to have focused education at the community college level on workforce retraining, primarily through the Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE), the Waste-management Education and Research Consortium (WERC) and other consortia like them.

There is a major gap between vocational training and traditional education in the environmental field. Because of this gap, there is not a clear, routine career path for hazardous waste workers, and it is difficult for these workers to advance in industry or government without classic technical degrees. Although inter-departmental options for education at a management level are being established within economics, law and medicine departments which recognize the breadth of the environmental industry, these are still academic-based professional degrees which miss a large part of the available and experienced workforce.

As the environmental clean-up industry matures, the long-term needs of the workforce for more balanced training and education and a well-developed career path become more clear. The large numbers of displaced workers from closed military sites means more people are entering the environmental workforce from other fields, making the demand on union training and placement of displaced workers (both discharged military personnel and displaced civilian personnel) even greater than before. Educational programmes are needed which meet both the needs of personnel entering the industry and of industry itself for a more balanced and better-educated workforce.

Since labour union members are one of the main groups poised to enter the hazardous waste clean-up and environmental remediation field, it would seem that labour studies and industrial relations departments might be logical entities to develop degree programmes that incorporate a hazardous waste/environmental curriculum with development of labour/management skills.

 

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Until very recently the effectiveness of training and education in controlling occupational health and safety hazards was largely a matter of faith rather than systematic evaluation (Vojtecky and Berkanovic 1984-85; Wallerstein and Weinger 1992). With the rapid expansion of intensive federally-funded training and education programmes in the past decade in the United States, this has begun to change. Educators and researchers are applying more rigorous approaches to evaluating the actual impact of worker training and education on outcome variables such as accident, illness and injury rates and on intermediate variables such as the ability of workers to identify, handle and resolve hazards in their workplaces. The programme that combines chemical emergency training as well as hazardous waste training of the International Chemical Workers Union Center for Worker Health and Safety Education provides a useful example of a well-designed programme which has incorporated effective evaluation into its mission.

The Center was established in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1988 under a grant which the International Chemical Workers Union (ICWU) received from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences to provide training for hazardous waste and emergency response workers. The Center is a cooperative venture of six industrial unions, a local occupational health centre and a university environmental health department. It adopted an empowerment education approach to training and defines its mission broadly as:

… promoting worker abilities to solve problems and to develop union-based strategies for improving health and safety conditions at the worksite (McQuiston et al. 1994).

To evaluate the programme’s effectiveness in this mission the Center conducted long-term follow-up studies with the workers who went through the programme. This comprehensive evaluation went considerably beyond the typical assessment which is conducted immediately following training, and measures trainees’ short-term retention of information and satisfaction with (or reaction to) the education.

Programme and Audience

The course that was the subject of evaluation is a four or five-day chemical emergency/hazardous waste training programme. Those attending the courses are members of six industrial unions and a smaller number of management personnel from some of the plants represented by the unions. Workers who are exposed to substantial releases of hazardous substances or who work with hazardous waste less proximately are eligible to attend. Each class is limited to 24 students so as to promote discussion. The Center encourages local unions to send three or four workers from each site to the course, believing that a core group of workers is more likely than an individual to work effectively to reduce hazards when they return to the workplace.

The programme has established interrelated long-term and short-term goals:

Long-term goal: for workers to become and remain active participants in determining and improving the health and safety conditions under which they work.

Immediate educational goal: to provide students with relevant tools, problem-solving skills, and the confidence needed to use those tools (McQuiston et al. 1994).

In keeping with these goals, instead of focusing on information recall, the programme takes a “process oriented” training approach which seeks “to build self-reliance that stresses knowing when additional information is needed, where to find it, and how to interpret and use it.” (McQuiston et al. 1994.)

The curriculum includes both classroom and hands-on training. Instructional methods emphasize small group problem-solving activities with the active participation of the workers in the training. The development of the course also employed a participatory process involving rank-and-file safety and health leaders, programme staff and consultants. This group evaluated initial pilot courses and recommended revisions of the curriculum, materials and methods based on extensive discussions with trainees. This formative evaluation is an important step in the evaluation process that takes place during programme development, not at the end of the programme.

The course introduces the participants to a range of reference documents on hazardous materials. Students also develop a “risk chart” for their own facility during the course, which they use to evaluate their plant’s hazards and safety and health programmes. These charts form the basis for action plans which create a bridge between what the students learn at the course and what they decide needs to be implemented back in the workplace.

Evaluation Methodology

The Center conducts anonymous pre-training and post-training knowledge tests of participants to document increased levels of knowledge. However, to determine the long-term effectiveness of the programme the Center uses telephone follow-up interviews of students 12 months after training. One attendee from each local union is interviewed while every manager attendee is interviewed. The survey measures outcomes in five major areas:

  1. students’ ongoing use of resource and reference materials introduced during training
  2. the amount of secondary training, that is, training conducted by participants for co-workers back at the worksite following attendance at the Center course
  3. trainee attempts and successes in obtaining changes in worksite emergency response or hazardous waste programmes, procedures or equipment
  4. post-training improvements in the way spills are handled at the worksite
  5. students' perceptions of training programme effectiveness. 

 

The most recent published results of this evaluation are based on 481 union respondents, each representing a distinct worksite, and 50 management respondents. The response rates to the interviews were 91.9% for union respondents and 61.7% for management.

Results and Implications

Use of resource materials

Of the six major resource materials introduced in the course, all except the risk chart were used by at least 60% of the union and management trainees. The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards and the Center’s training manual were the most widely used.

Training of co-workers

Almost 80% of the union trainees and 72% of management provided training to co-workers back at the worksite. The average number of co-workers taught (70) and the average length of training (9.7 hours) were substantial. Of special significance was that more than half of the union trainees taught managers at their worksites. Secondary training covered a wide range of topics, including chemical identification, selection and use of personal protective equipment, health effects, emergency response and use of reference materials.

Obtaining worksite improvements

The interviews asked a series of questions related to attempts to improve company programmes, practices and equipment in 11 different areas, including the following seven especially important ones:

  • health effects training
  • availability of material safety data sheets
  • chemical labelling
  • respirator availability, testing and training
  • gloves and protective clothing
  • emergency response
  • decontamination procedures.

 

The questions determined whether respondents felt changes were needed and, if so, whether improvements had been made.

In general, union respondents felt greater need for and attempted more improvements than management, although the degree of difference varied with specific areas. Still fairly high percentages of both unions and management reported attempted improvements in most areas. Success rates over the eleven areas ranged from 44 to 90% for unionists and from 76 to 100% for managers.

Spill response

Questions concerning spills and releases were intended to ascertain whether attendance at the course had changed the way spills were handled. Workers and managers reported a total of 342 serious spills in the year following their training. Around 60% of those reporting spills indicated that the spills were handled differently because of the training. More detailed questions were subsequently added to the survey to collect additional qualitative and quantitative data. The evaluation study provides workers’ comments on specific spills and the role the training played in responding to them. Two examples are quoted below:

Following training the proper equipment was issued. Everything was done by the books. We have come a long way since we formed a team. The training was worthwhile. We don’t have to worry about the company, now we can judge for ourselves what we need.

The training helped by informing the safety committee about the chain of command. We are better prepared and coordination through all departments has improved.

Preparedness

The great majority of union and management respondents felt that they are “much better” or “somewhat better” prepared to handle hazardous chemicals and emergencies as a result of the training.

Conclusion

This case illustrates many of the fundamentals of training and education programme design and evaluation. The goals and objectives of the educational programme are explicitly stated. Social action objectives regarding workers’ ability to think and act for themselves and advocate for systemic changes are prominent along with the more immediate knowledge and behaviour objectives. The training methods are chosen with these objectives in mind. The evaluation methods measure the achievement of these objectives by discovering how the trainees applied the material from the course in their own work environments over the long term. They measure training impact on specific outcomes such as spill response and on intermediate variables such as the extent to which training is passed on to other workers and how course participants use resource materials.


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Sunday, 23 January 2011 21:53

Worker Education and Training

Worker training in occupational safety and health may serve many different purposes. Too often, worker training is viewed only as a way to comply with governmental regulations or to reduce insurance costs by encouraging individual workers to follow narrowly defined safe work behaviours. Worker education serves a far broader purpose when it seeks to empower workers to take an active part in making the workplace safe, rather than simply to encourage worker compliance with management safety rules.

Over the past two decades, there has been a move in many countries toward the concept of broad worker involvement in safety and health. New regulatory approaches rely less on government inspectors alone to enforce safety and health on the job. Labour unions and management are increasingly encouraged to collaborate in promoting safety and health, through joint committees or other mechanisms. This approach requires a skilled and well-informed workforce that can interact directly with management on issues of safety and health.

Fortunately, there are many international models for training workers in the full range of skills necessary to participate broadly in workplace health and safety efforts. These models have been developed by a combination of labour unions, university-based labour education programmes and community-based non-governmental organizations. Many innovative worker training programmes were developed originally with financing from special government grant programmes, union funds or employer contributions to collectively bargained safety and health funds.

These participatory worker training programmes, designed in a variety of national settings for diverse worker populations, share a general approach to training. The educational philosophy is based on sound adult education principles and draws upon the empowerment philosophy of “popular education”. This article describes the educational approach and its implications for designing effective worker training.

Educational Approach

Two disciplines have influenced the development of labour-oriented safety and health education programmes: the field of labour education and, more recently, the field of “popular” or empowerment education.

Labour education began simultaneously with the trade union movement in the 1800s. Its early goals were directed towards social change, that is, to promote union strength and the integration of working people into political and union organizing. Labour education has been defined as a “specialized branch of adult education that attempts to meet the educational needs and interests arising out of workers’ participation in the union movement”. Labour education has proceeded according to well-recognized principles of adult learning theory, including the following:

  • Adults are self-motivated, especially with information that has immediate application to their lives and work. They expect, for example, practical tools to help them solve problems in the workplace.
  • Adults learn best by building on what they already know so that they can incorporate new ideas into their existing, vast reservoir of learning. Adults wish to be respected for their experience in life. Therefore, effective methods draw on participants' own knowledge and encourage reflection on their knowledge base.
  • Adults learn in different ways. Each person has a particular learning style. An educational session will work best if participants have the opportunity to engage in multiple learning modalities: to listen, look at visuals, ask questions, simulate situations, read, write, practice with equipment and discuss critical issues. Variety not only ensures that each cognitive style is addressed but also provides repetition to reinforce learning and, of course, combats boredom.
  • Adults learn best when they are actively engaged, when they “learn by doing”. They are more responsive to active, participatory methods than to passive measures. Lectures and written materials have their place in a full repertoire of methods. But case studies, role plays, hands-on simulations and other small-group activities that allow each individual to be involved are more likely to result in the retention and application of new learning. Ideally, each session involves interaction between participants and includes occasions for learning new information, for applying new skills and for discussing causes of problems and barriers to solving them. Participatory methods require more time, smaller groups and perhaps different instructional skills than those that many trainers currently possess. But to increase the impact of education, active participation is essential.

 

Since the beginning of the 1980s, worker safety and health training has also been influenced by the perspective of “popular” or “empowerment” education. Popular education since the 1960s has developed largely from the philosophy of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. It is an approach to learning that is participatory and is based on the reality of student/worker experiences in their worksites. It fosters dialogue between educators and workers; critically analyses the barriers to change, such as organizational or structural causes of problems; and has worker action and empowerment as its goals. These tenets of popular education incorporate the basic principles of adult education, yet stress the role of worker action in the educational process, both as a goal to improve worksite conditions and as a mechanism for learning.

Participatory education in an empowerment context is more than small group activities that involve students/workers in active learning within the classroom. Participatory popular education means students/workers have the opportunity to acquire analytic and critical thinking skills, practice social action skills and develop the confidence to develop strategies for the improvement of the work environment long after the education sessions end.

Design of Education Programmes

It is important to realize that education is a continuing process, not a one-time event. It is a process that requires careful and skilful planning though each major stage. To implement a participatory education process that is based on sound adult education principles and that empowers workers, certain steps must be taken for planning and implementing participatory worker education which are similar to those used in other training programmes (see “Principles of Training”), but require special attention to meeting the goal of worker empowerment:

Step one: Assess needs

Needs assessment forms the foundation for the entire planning process. A thorough needs assessment for worker training includes three components: a hazards assessment, a profile of the target population and background on the social context of training. The hazards assessment is aimed at identifying high-priority problems to be addressed. The target population profile attempts to answer a broad set of questions about the workforce: Who can most benefit from training? What training has the target population already received? What knowledge and experience will the trainees bring to the process? What is the ethnic and gender makeup of the workforce? What is the literacy level of the workers and what languages do they speak? Whom do they respect and whom do they mistrust? Finally, gathering information on the social context of training allows the trainer to maximize the impact of training by looking at the forces that may support improved safety and health conditions (such as strong union protection that allow workers to speak out freely about hazards) and those that may pose barriers (such as productivity pressures or lack of job security).

Needs assessment can be based on questionnaires, review of documents, observations made in the workplace and interviews with workers, their union representatives and others. The popular education approach utilizes an ongoing “listening” process to gather information about the social context of training, including people's concerns and the obstacles that might inhibit change.

Step two: Gain support

Successful worker education programmes rely on identifying and involving key actors. The target population must be involved in the planning process; it is difficult to gain their trust without having sought their input. In a popular education model, the educator attempts to develop a participatory planning team from the union or shop floor who can provide ongoing advice, support, networking and a check on the validity of the needs assessment findings.

Labour unions, management and community-based groups are all potential providers of worker safety and health education. Even if not sponsoring the training directly, each of these groups may have a key role to play in supporting the educational effort. The union can provide access to the workforce and back up the efforts for change that hopefully will emerge from the training. Union activists who are respected for their knowledge or commitment can assist in outreach and help ensure a successful training outcome. Management is able to provide paid released time for training and may more readily support efforts to improve safety and health that grow out of a training process they have “bought into”. Some employers understand the importance and cost-effectiveness of comprehensive worker training in safety and health, while others will not participate without government-mandated training requirements or a collectively bargained right to paid educational leave for safety and health training.

Community-based non-governmental organizations can provide training resources, support or follow-up activities. For non-union workers, who may be especially vulnerable to retaliation for safety and health advocacy on the job, it is particularly important to identify community support resources (such as religious groups, environmentalist organizations, disabled worker support groups or minority workers’ rights projects). Whoever has a significant role to play must be involved in the process through co-sponsorship, participation on an advisory committee, personal contact or other means.

Step three: Establish education objectives and content

Using information from the needs assessment, the planning team can identify specific learning objectives. A common mistake is to assume that the objective of workshops is simply to present information. What is presented matters less than what the target population receives. Objectives should be stated in terms of what workers will know, believe, be able to do or accomplish as a result of the training. The majority of traditional training programmes focus on objectives to change the individuals' knowledge or behaviours. The goal of popular worker education is to create an activist workforce that will advocate effectively for a healthier work environment. Popular education objectives may include learning new information and skills, changing attitudes and adopting safe behaviours. However, the ultimate goal is not individual change, but collective empowerment and workplace change. The objectives leading to this goal include the following:

  • Information objectives are geared towards the specific knowledge the learner will receive, for example, information about the health hazards of solvents.
  • Skill objectives are intended to ensure that participants can do specific tasks that they will need to be able to perform back on the job. These can range from individual, technical skills (such as how to lift properly) to group action skills (such as how to advocate for ergonomic redesign of the workplace). Empowerment-oriented education emphasizes social action skills over mastery of individual tasks.
  • Attitude objectives aim to have an impact on what the worker believes. They are important for ensuring that people move beyond their own barriers to change so that they are able to actually put their new-found knowledge and skills to use. Examples of attitudes that may be addressed include beliefs that accidents are caused by the careless worker, that workers are apathetic and do not care about safety and health or that things never change and nothing one can do will make a difference.
  • Individual behavioural objectives aim to affect not just what a worker can do, but what a worker actually does back on the job as a result of training. For example, a training programme with behavioural objectives would aim to have a positive impact on respirator use on the job, not just to convey information in the classroom as to how to use a respirator properly. The problem with individual behaviour change as an objective is that workplace safety and health improvements rarely take place on an individual level. One can use a respirator properly only if the right respirator is provided and if there is time allowed for taking all necessary precautions, regardless of production pressures.
  • Social action objectives also aim to have an effect on what the worker will do back on the job but address the goal of collective action for change in the work environment, rather than individual behaviour change. Actions that result from such training can range from small steps, such as investigating one specific hazard, to large undertakings, such as starting an active safety and health committee or campaigning to redesign a dangerous work process.

 

There is a hierarchy of these objectives (figure 1). Compared with the other training objectives, knowledge objectives are the easiest to achieve (but they are by no means easy to attain in an absolute sense); skill objectives require more hands-on training to ensure mastery; attitude objectives are more difficult because they may involve challenging deeply held beliefs; individual behaviour objectives are achievable only if attitude barriers are addressed and if performance, practice and on-the-job follow-up are built into the training; and social action objectives are most challenging of all, because training must also prepare participants for collective action in order to achieve more than they can on an individual basis.

Figure 1. Hierarchy of training objectives.

EDU040F1

For example, it is a reasonably straightforward task to communicate the risks that asbestos poses to workers. The next step is to ensure that they have the technical skills to follow all safety procedures on the job. It is more difficult still to change what workers believe (e.g., to convince them that they and their fellow workers are at risk and that something can and should be done about it). Even armed with the right skills and attitudes, it may be difficult for workers to actually follow safe work practices on the job, especially since they may lack the proper equipment or management support. The ultimate challenge is to promote social action, so that workers may gain the skills, confidence and willingness to insist on using less hazardous substitute materials or to demand that all necessary environmental controls be used when they are working with asbestos.

Empowerment-oriented labour education always aims to have an impact on the highest level—social action. This requires that workers develop critical thinking and strategic planning skills that will allow them to set achievable goals, constantly respond to barriers and reshape their plans as they go. These are complex skills that require the most intensive, hands-on approach to training, as well as strong on-going support that the workers will need in order to sustain their efforts.

 

 

 

The specific content of educational programmes will depend on the needs assessment, regulatory mandates and time considerations. Subject areas that are commonly addressed in worker training include the following:

  • health hazards of relevant exposures (such as noise, chemicals, vibration, heat, stress, infectious diseases and safety hazards)
  • hazard identification methods, including means of obtaining and interpreting data regarding workplace conditions
  •   control technologies, including engineering and work organization changes, as well as safe work practices and personal protective equipment
  • legal rights, including those relating to regulatory structures, the worker’s right to know about job hazards, the right to file a complaint and the right to compensation for injured workers
  • union safety and health provisions, including collectively bargained agreements giving members the right to a safe environment, the right to information and the right to refuse to perform under hazardous conditions
  • union, management, government and community resources
  • the roles and responsibilities of safety and health committee members
  •  prioritizing hazards and developing strategies to improve the worksite, including analysis of possible structural or organizational barriers and design of action plans

 

Step four: Select education methods

It is important to select the right methods for the chosen objectives and content areas. In general, the more ambitious the objectives, the more intensive the methods must be. Whatever methods are selected, the profile of the workforce must be considered. For example, educators need to respond to workers’ language and literacy levels. If literacy is low, the trainer should use oral methods and highly graphic visuals. If a variety of languages is in use among the target population the trainer should use a multilingual approach.

Because of time limitations, it may not be possible to present all of the relevant information. It is more important to provide a good mix of methods to enable workers to acquire research skills and to develop social action strategies so that they can pursue their own knowledge, rather than attempt to condense too much information into a short period of time.

The teaching methods chart (see table 1) provides a summary of different methods and the objectives which each might fulfil. Some methods, such as lectures or informational films, primarily fulfil knowledge objectives. Worksheets or brainstorming exercises can fulfil information or attitude objectives. Other more comprehensive methods, such as case studies, role-plays or short videotapes that trigger discussion may be aimed at social action objectives, but may also contain new information and may present opportunities to explore attitudes.

Table 1. Teaching methods chart

Teaching methods Strengths                                                      Limitations Objectives achieved
Lecture Presents factual material in direct and logical manner. Contains experiences which inspire.
Stimulates thinking to open a discussion.
For large audiences.
Experts may not always be good teachers.
Audience is passive. Learning difficult to gauge.
Needs clear introduction and summary.
Knowledge
Worksheets and questionnaires Allow people to think for themselves without being influenced by others in discussion.
Individual thoughts can then be shared in small or large groups.
Can be used only for short period of time. Handout requires preparation time. Requires literacy. Knowledge Attitudes/emotions
Brainstorming Listening exercise that allows creative thinking for new ideas. Encourages full participation because all ideas equally recorded. Can become unfocused.
Needs to be limited to 10 to 15 minutes.
Knowledge Attitudes/emotions
Planning deck Can be used to quickly catalogue information.
Allows students to learn a procedure by ordering its component parts.
Group planning experience.
Requires planning and creation of multiple planning decks. Knowledge
Risk mapping Group can create visual map of hazards, controls, and plans for action.
Useful as follow-up tool.
Requires workers from same or similar workplace.
May require outside research.
Knowledge Skills/social action
Audiovisual materials (films, slide shows, etc.) Entertaining way of teaching content and raising issues.
Keeps audience’s attention.
Effective for large groups.
Too many issues often presented at one time.
Too passive if not combined with discussion.
Knowledge/skills
Audiovisuals as triggers Develops analytic skills.
Allows for exploration of solutions.
Discussion may not have full participation. Social action Attitudes/emotions
Case studies as triggers Develops analytic and problem-solving skills.
Allows for exploration of solutions.
Allows students to apply new knowledge and skills.
People may not see relevance to own situation.
Cases and tasks for small groups must be clearlydefined to be effective.
Social action Attitudes/emotions
Skills
Role playing session (trigger) Introduces problem-situation dramatically.
Develops analytic skills.
Provides opportunity for people to assume roles of others.
Allows for exploration of solutions.
People may be too self-conscious.
Not appropriate for large groups.
Social action Attitudes/emotions
Skills
Report back session Allows for large group discussion of role plays, case studies, and small group exercise. Gives people a chance to reflect on experience. Can be repetitive if each small group says the same thing. Instructors need to prepare focused questions to avoid repetitiveness. Social action skills Information
Prioritizing and planning activity Ensures participation by students. Provides experience in analysing and prioritizing problems. Allows for active discussion and debate. Requires a large wall or blackboard for posting. Posting activity should proceed at a lively pace to be effective. Social action
Skills
Hands-on practice Provides classroom practise of learned behaviour. Requires sufficient time, appropriate physical space, and equipment. Behaviours
Skills

Adapted from: Wallerstein and Rubenstein 1993. By permission. 

Step five: Implementing an education session

Actually conducting a well-designed education session becomes the easiest part of the process; the educator simply carries out the plan. The educator is a facilitator who takes the learners through a series of activities designed to (a) learn and explore new ideas or skills, (b) share their own thoughts and abilities and (c) combine the two.

For popular education programmes, based on active participation and sharing of worker’s own experiences, it is critical that workshops establish a tone of trust, safety in discussion and ease of communication. Both physical and social environments need to be well planned to allow for maximum interaction, small group movement and confidence that there is a shared group norm of listening and willingness to participate. For some educators, this role of learning facilitator may require some “retooling”. It is a role that relies less on a talent for effective public speaking, the traditional centrepiece of training skills, and more on an ability to foster cooperative learning.

The use of peer trainers is gaining in popularity. Training workers to train their peers has two major advantages: (1) worker trainers have the practical knowledge of the workplace to make training relevant and (2) peer trainers remain in the workplace to provide on-going safety and health consultation. The success of peer trainer programmes is dependent on providing a solid foundation for worker trainers through comprehensive “training of trainer” programmes and access to technical experts when needed.

Step six: Evaluate and follow up

Though often overlooked in worker education, evaluation is essential and serves several purposes. It allows the learner to judge his or her progress toward new knowledge, skills, attitudes or actions; it allows the educator to judge the effectiveness of the training and to decide what has been accomplished; and it can document the success of training to justify future expenditures of resources. Evaluation protocols should be set up in concert with the education objectives. An evaluation effort should tell you whether or not you have achieved your training objectives.

The majority of evaluations to date have assessed immediate impact, such as knowledge learned or degree of satisfaction with the workshop. Behaviour-specific evaluations have used observations at the worksite to assess performance.

Evaluations that look at workplace outcomes, particularly injury and illness incidence rates, can be deceptive. For example, management safety promotion efforts often include incentives for keeping accident rates low (e.g., by offering a prize to the crew with the least accidents in a year). These promotional efforts result in under-reporting of accidents and often do not represent actual safety and health conditions on the job. Conversely, empowerment-oriented training encourages workers to recognize and report safety and health problems and may result, at first, in an increase in reported injuries and illnesses, even when safety and health conditions are actually improving.

Recently, as safety and health training programmes have begun to adopt empowerment and popular education goals and methods, evaluation protocols have been broadened to include assessment of worker actions back at the worksite as well as actual worksite changes. Social action objectives require long-term evaluation that assesses changes on both the individual level and on the environmental and organization level, and the interaction between individual and environmental change. Follow-up is critical for this long-term evaluation. Follow-up phone calls, surveys or even new sessions may be used not only to assess change, but also to support the students/workers in applying their new knowledge, skills, inspiration or social action resulting from training.

Several programmatic components have been identified as important for promoting actual behavioural and worksite changes: union support structures; equal union participation with management; full access to training, information and expert resources for workers and their unions; conducting training within the context of a structure for comprehensive changes; programme development based on worker and workplace needs assessments; use of worker-produced materials; and integration of small group interactive methods with worker empowerment and social action goals.

Conclusion

In this article, the growing need for preparing workers for broad participation in workplace injury and illness prevention efforts has been depicted as well as the critical role of workers as advocates for safety and health. The distinct role of labour empowerment training in responding to these needs and the educational principles and traditions that contribute to a labour empowerment approach to education were addressed. Finally, a step-by-step educational process that is required to achieve the goals of worker involvement and empowerment was described.

This learner-centred approach to education implies a new relationship between occupational safety and health professionals and workers. Learning can no longer be a one-way street with an “expert” imparting knowledge to the “students”. The educational process, instead, is a partnership. It is a dynamic process of communication that taps the skills and knowledge of workers. Learning occurs in all directions: workers learn from the instructors; instructors learn from workers; and workers learn from one another (see figure 2).

Figure 2. Learning is a three-way process.

EDU040F2 

For a successful partnership, workers must be involved in every stage of the educational process, not just in the classroom. Workers must participate in the who, what, where, when and how of training: Who will design and deliver the training? What will be taught? Who will pay for it? Who will have access to it? Where and when will training take place? Whose needs will be met and how will success be measured?

 

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Sunday, 23 January 2011 21:48

Principles of Training

Training can and will produce positive results if it is based on clearly defined needs specific to the workplace and if it is delivered with a view to those needs and the ways in which adults learn. This is, of course, true for safety and health training as well. The principles of safety and health training are no different from those which apply to any form of industrial training. Indeed, a good case can be made for the integration of skill training along with safety training wherever possible. Safety and health training which fails to produce positive results because it is not based on sound analysis is, at best, a waste of time and money. At worst, such training may result in false confidence, thus increasing the risk of accidents.

Needs Assessment

The first step in safety and health training design is to identify the problems which need to be addressed. This may be done for the entire organization, for a particular location or for a particular job. Alternatively, the analysis of training needs may have a specific focus, for example, compliance with safety and health legislation or the performance of the joint safety and health committee. However, not all problems can be solved by training; in some cases, other action is needed to supplement it. A simple example of this is the case where the problem identified is a low level of compliance with the rule obliging workers to wear personal protective equipment. While part of the problem may be due to the fact that employees do not understand why the equipment is needed or how to use it correctly, it is equally possible that some or all of the problem may be caused by the fact that there is consistent failure to replace broken or missing equipment.

The existence of problems may surface in the form of a high rate of accidents, refusal-to-work situations or government inspectors' orders or citations. However, it is the problems which underlie such outward signs of trouble that need to be clearly identified. A training needs assessment may be defined as the process of identifying problems that are signalled by deficiencies in compliance with standards or external requirements and that can be resolved wholly or partly by training. A systems approach to training needs analysis involves a number of logical steps: problem identification, analysis, identification of training needs, the ranking of needs in order of urgency and the setting of training goals or objectives.

Problem identification

The sorts of problems that lend themselves to solution by means of training include the following:

Those that are identified after accidents have already happened. In this case, problems may be identified through review of accident statistics, accident investigation reports or, more broadly, through the failure to meet organizational goals for safety and health.

Problems that can be anticipated. Dangers can be identified before actual harm is done—for example, hazards can be foreseen when new machinery, substances or processes are introduced into the workplace, where there exist processes that have never been thoroughly analysed or where existing practice conflicts with known safe procedures .

The existence of external requirements. New legal requirements which either impose specific safety and health training duties or other requirements suggesting the need for training are examples of external requirements. The development of new industry codes of practice or national or international standards affecting safety and health are other examples.

Problem analysis

The next step is to analyse the problems so that necessary training may be identified. Problem analysis involves collecting information about the problem so that its causes can be determined. It also requires determining an appropriate standard which should be met. If, for example, the problem identified relates to a lack of effectiveness of the joint safety and health committee, analysis seeks to answer several questions. First, what is the committee supposed to be doing? Second, how well is the committee performing each of its required tasks? (This question requires the analyst to determine appropriate performance standards which should apply.) Third, why is the committee not performing particular tasks effectively?

Determining solutions

Once the problem has been analysed, the next step is to determine suitable solutions. If training is the solution or part of the solution, the particular training needs must be identified. What combination of skills and knowledge is required and by whom?

A critical part of the investigation of training needs is the assessment of the people involved. The purpose of this is threefold: first, people are likely to be more committed to training (and thus more likely to learn) if they have played a part in identifying the needs themselves; second, it is often necessary to assess the current level of required skill and knowledge among the target group of employees (for example, one might investigate whether joint safety and health committee members actually know what it is they are supposed to be doing); third, basic educational levels and literacy and language skills must be known so that appropriate instructional methods are applied. Surveys can be used to assess a number of these variables. If they are used, however, care should be taken to ensure individual confidentiality.

Setting priorities and goals

Once training needs have been clearly identified, the next step is to set priorities and objectives. Consideration must be given to the relative urgency of various training needs, taking into account factors such as the relative severity of consequences should accidents occur, the frequency with which problems are likely to occur, the number of people affected and legal compliance.

Training objectives must be specific because, if they are not, evaluating whether the training has been successful will prove difficult. Specifically defined objectives also help determine appropriate training content and delivery method. Training objectives or goals establish the results that training should achieve. Examples of specific training objectives might include (a) to ensure that every manager and supervisor knows and understands legal safety and health duties and rights applying to themselves and to all workers, (b) to ensure that all welders know and understand the hazards of welding and the required control procedures or (c) to provide fork-lift truck operators with the skill to operate their vehicles safely according to required procedures

Needs Assessment Methods

Methods for analysing training needs depend on the scope of the assessment and on available resources. All or some of the following methods may be used:

  • Documentation review. For example, written statements of safe working practices, legal requirements, company policies and procedures, accident statistics and workplace inspection reports can be examined to determine their bearing on training needs.
  • Specific analysis. Accident statistics, joint committee minutes, accident investigation reports and job and task hazard analyses may be examined for their specific relevance to the problem in question.
  • Interviews and observation. Interviews with representative samples of supervisors, workers and others may be used to assess attitudes and perceived problem areas; observations can be made of representative jobs to assess compliance with safe working practices.
  • Surveys. A survey can be used for relatively large groups to gain information about current skills and knowledge levels and about perceived training needs and problem areas as well.

 

Choosing Appropriate Instructional Methods

Instructional methods include a number of techniques such as lectures, problem-solving exercises, small group discussion and role-playing.The methods chosen must be appropriate to what is being learned (whether knowledge, skills or concepts) and the training objectives. If, for example, the training objective is to impart knowledge about basic safety rules in the workplace, then a short lecture may be appropriate. However, there are different levels of learning in adults. The lowest level of learning is listening to information; the next level is acquiring knowledge; then, developing understanding; and finally, at the highest level, the ability to apply what is learned to different situations. In most training situations, participants will need to learn at more than one level and so a variety of instructional techniques will be required. Instructional methods must also be based upon sound principles of how adults learn best.

Principles of Adult Learning

The way in which adults learn differs from the way children learn in several important respects. Adults approach the task of learning in possession of life experiences and a developed concept of self. The process of learning is an individual experience which takes place within the learner and depends on the learner's willingness to learn, the ability to relate his or her own experiences to what is being learned and the perceived value of what is being learned to the learner. In many cases, adults make a free choice to learn and so, unlike school children, they are voluntary participants. However, when safety and health training is provided in the workplace, workers and managers may be required to attend training sessions, with little room for individual choice. Where this is so, particular attention needs to be paid to involving learners both in the process of identifying training needs and in the design of the programme itself. Addressing the perceived training needs of workers may be as important as the identification of needs in other areas. Above all, adult training involves change. As with any change, acceptance is dependent on the learners’ belief that they have some control over the change and that the change is not perceived as threatening.

Research has identified a number of factors which facilitate learning in adults:

  • Motivation. Since learning is an individual experience, adults must want to learn and must perceive the relevance of what they learn to their personal interest.
  • Seeing and hearing. Adults tend to learn best when they can see as well as hear what is being taught. This means that lectures should include accompanying visual material such as overhead transparencies or slides.
  • Practice. The opportunity to practise what is being taught facilitates learning. When a skill is being taught (for example, the correct fitting of self-contained breathing apparatus) learners should be allowed to exercise it for themselves. Where the objective is applied knowledge, problem-solving exercises can be used. “Experiential” exercises whereby learners actually experience the application of abstract concepts such as teamwork are valuable instructional tools.
  • Relationship to practical experience. Learning is facilitated when the training material can easily be related to the practical experience of the learners. This suggests that examples used should, as far as possible, relate to the industry processes familiar to the learners.
  • Participation in the learning process. Adults should know from the start what the learning objectives are and be given the opportunity to test the lesson content against these objectives.
  • Feedback. Adults need feedback on their own results (how well they are doing) and positive reinforcement.
  • Trying out ideas. The opportunity to try out and develop ideas is part of the individual process of internalizing new information and its application. This can be achieved through small peer group discussions.
  • Physical environment. The training facility and equipment should be sympathetic to the learners, allowing them, for example, to see visual material and to work effectively in small groups.

 

Training Implementation

Careful consideration should be given to the selection of trainers, the scheduling of training and pilot testing. In selecting trainers, two equally important abilities must be sought: knowledge of the subject and teaching ability. Not everyone who has the required safety and health knowledge will necessarily have teaching ability. On the whole, it is easier for people to acquire knowledge than it is to acquire teaching ability. In most workplaces, including the shop floor, there will be a number of people who have a natural teaching ability, and they will have the advantage of knowing the workplace and being able to understand practical examples. In small group learning, a “group learning facilitator” may be used in place of a trainer. In this case, the facilitator is learning along with the group but has responsibilities for the process of learning.

The scheduling of training involves several important considerations. For example, it should be arranged at a time convenient for the learners and when interruptions can be minimized. Training can also be packaged in self-contained modules so that it can be spread out over time—perhaps a three hour module once a week could be scheduled. Not only does this approach sometimes cause less interference with production, it also allows time between sessions for learners to try to apply what has been learned.

Every training programme should be pilot tested before initial use. This allows the programme to be tested against training objectives. Pilot testing should involve not only the trainers but a representative sample of the prospective learners as well.

Training Evaluation

The purpose of evaluating training is quite simply to establish whether the training objectives have been met and, if so, whether this has resulted in solving the problem addressed by those objectives. Preparation for training evaluation should begin at the training design stage. In other words, the problem to be addressed by training must be clear, the training objectives must be specific and the status quo prior to training must be known. For example, if the problem to be addressed is poor observance of safe working practices in material handling operations, and training has been designed to address part of this problem by providing information and skills to, say, fork-lift operators, then a successful outcome in this case would be high observance of correct safe working practices.

Evaluation of training can be done at various levels. At the first level, the aim is simply to assess student reactions to the training programme. Did they like the programme, the instructor and the course material, were they bored, did they feel that they had learned something? This approach may be useful in assessing whether or not the programme was perceived to be of value by the students. Such evaluations are most usefully conducted through an attitude survey and should not generally be administered by the course instructor. Participants are unlikely to provide candid answers at this point even if the questionnaires are anonymous. As an aid to this type of evaluation, students can be allowed to test themselves on the training content.

The next level of evaluation is the assessment of whether or not the learning objectives have been met. Learning objectives are related to the content of the training and they define what the student should be able to do or know when training is completed. Learning objectives are usually developed for each part of the course content and are shared with students so that they know what they should expect to learn. Evaluation at this level is designed to assess whether or not students have learned what is defined in the learning objectives. This can be done by testing participants at the end of the course. Knowledge, concepts and abstract skills can be assessed in written tests whereas practical skills can be assessed by direct observation of students demonstrating the skill. Where this level of evaluation is used, it is absolutely necessary to have prior knowledge of the knowledge or skill baseline of the students before training begins.

The third level of evaluation is the assessment of whether or not the knowledge and skills learned in the training are actually being applied on the job. Such assessment can be made through direct observation at specified intervals of time following training. Evaluation of application on the day following training may produce a result quite different from that based on an evaluation some three months later. It is important to note, however, that if the evaluation shows a lack of application after three months, it may not be the training itself which is defective; it may be due to a lack of reinforcement in the workplace itself.

Finally, the highest level of evaluation is the determination of whether or not the problem addressed by the training has been resolved. If the problem identified was a high rate of musculoskeletal injuries in the shipping and receiving area, is there evidence of the desired drop in the injury rate? Here again, timing is important. In this case, it may take time for the training to become effective. The rate may not drop for a number of months because such injuries are often cumulative; and so the rate for some time may reflect conditions prior to training. Furthermore, the training may result in greater awareness of the problem leading to increased reporting soon after training.

Ideally, all four levels of training evaluation should be built into the training design and implementation. However, if only one level is used, its limitations should be clearly understood by all concerned.

Where training is designed and provided by an external agency, the organization can and should nevertheless evaluate its potential usefulness by applying criteria based on the principles outlined in this article.

Training Reinforcement

No matter how successful training is in meeting objectives, its effect will decline with time if reinforcement is not provided in the workplace on a regular and consistent basis. Such reinforcement should be the routine responsibility of supervisors, managers and joint safety and health committees. It can be provided through regular monitoring of performance on the job, recognition of proper performance and routine reminders through the use of short meetings, notices and posters.


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Labour or Industrial Relations

The term labour relations, also known as industrial relations, refers to the system in which employers, workers and their representatives and, directly or indirectly, the government interact to set the ground rules for the governance of work relationships. It also describes a field of study dedicated to examining such relationships. The field is an outgrowth of the industrial revolution, whose excesses led to the emergence of trade unions to represent workers and to the development of collective labour relations. A labour or industrial relations system reflects the interaction between the main actors in it: the state, the employer (or employers or an employers’ association), trade unions and employees (who may participate or not in unions and other bodies affording workers’ representation). The phrases “labour relations” and “industrial relations” are also used in connection with various forms of workers’ participation; they can also encompass individual employment relationships between an employer and a worker under a written or implied contract of employment, although these are usually referred to as “employment relations”. There is considerable variation in the use of the terms, partly reflecting the evolving nature of the field over time and place. There is general agreement, however, that the field embraces collective bargaining, various forms of workers’ participation (such as works councils and joint health and safety committees) and mechanisms for resolving collective and individual disputes. The wide variety of labour relations systems throughout the world has meant that comparative studies and identification of types are accompanied by caveats about the limitations of over-generalization and false analogies. Traditionally, four distinct types of workplace governance have been described: dictatorial, paternalistic, institutional and worker-participative; this chapter examines primarily the latter two types.

Both private and public interests are at stake in any labour relations system. The state is an actor in the system as well, although its role varies from active to passive in different countries. The nature of the relationships among organized labour, employers and the government with respect to health and safety are indicative of the overall status of industrial relations in a country or an industry and the obverse is equally the case. An underdeveloped labour relations system tends to be authoritarian, with rules dictated by an employer without direct or indirect employee involvement except at the point of accepting employment on the terms offered.

A labour relations system incorporates both societal values (e.g., freedom of association, a sense of group solidarity, search for maximized profits) and techniques (e.g., methods of negotiation, work organization, consultation and dispute resolution). Traditionally, labour relations systems have been categorized along national lines, but the validity of this is waning in the face of increasingly varied practices within countries and the rise of a more global economy driven by international competition. Some countries have been characterized as having cooperative labour relations models (e.g., Belgium, Germany), whereas others are known as being conflictual (e.g., Bangladesh, Canada, United States). Different systems have also been distinguished on the basis of having centralized collective bargaining (e.g., those in Nordic countries, although there is a move away from this, as illustrated by Sweden), bargaining at the sectoral or industrial level (e.g., Germany), or bargaining at the enterprise or plant level (e.g., Japan, the United States). In countries having moved from planned to free-market economies, labour relations systems are in transition. There is also increasing analytical work being done on the typologies of individual employment relationships as indic- ators of types of labour relations systems.

Even the more classic portrayals of labour relations systems are not by any means static characterizations, since any such system changes to meet new circumstances, whether economic or political. The globalization of the market economy, the weakening of the state as an effective force and the ebbing of trade union power in many industrialized countries pose serious challenges to traditional labour relations systems. Technological development has brought changes in the content and organization of work that also have a crucial impact on the extent to which collective labour relations can develop and the direction they take. Employees’ traditionally shared work schedule and common workplace have increasingly given way to more varied working hours and to the performance of work at varied locations, including home, with less direct employer supervision. What have been termed “atypical” employment relationships are becoming less so, as the contingent workforce continues to expand. This in turn places pressure on established labour relations systems.

Newer forms of employee representation and participation are adding an additional dimension to the labour relations picture in a number of countries. A labour relations system sets the formal or informal ground rules for determining the nature of collective industrial relations as well as the framework for individual employment relationships between a worker and his or her employer. Complicating the scene at the management end are additional players such as temporary employment agencies, labour contractors and job contractors who may have responsibilities towards workers without having control over the physical environment in which the work is carried out or the opportunity to provide safety training. In addition, public sector and private sector employers are governed by separate legislation in most countries, with the rights and protections of employees in these two sectors often differing significantly. Moreover, the private sector is influenced by forces of international competition that do not directly touch public-sector labour relations.

Finally, neoliberal ideology favouring the conclusion of indi-vidualized employment contracts to the detriment of collectively bargained arrangements poses another threat to traditional labour relations systems. Those systems have developed as a result of the emergence of collective representation for workers, based on past experience that an individual worker’s power is weak when compared to that of the employer. Abandoning all collective representation would risk returning to a nineteenth century concept in which acceptance of hazardous work was largely regarded as a matter of individual free choice. The increasingly globalized economy, the accelerated pace of technological change and the resultant call for greater flexibility on the part of industrial relations institutions, however, pose new challenges for their survival and prosperity. Depending upon their existing traditions and institutions, the parties involved in a labour relations system may react quite differently to the same pressures, just as management may choose a cost-based or a value-added strategy for confronting increased competition (Locke, Kochan and Piore, 1995). The extent to which workers’ participation and/or collective bargaining are regular features of a labour relations system will most certainly have an impact on how management confronts health and safety problems.

Moreover, there is another constant: the economic dependence of an individual worker on an employer remains the underlying fact of their relationship–one that has serious potential consequences when it comes to safety and health. The employer is seen as having a general duty to provide a safe and healthful workplace and to train and equip workers to do their jobs safely. The worker has a reciprocal duty to follow safety and health instructions and to refrain from harming himself/herself or others while at work. Failure to live up to these or other duties can lead to disputes, which depend on the labour relations system for their resolution. Dispute resolution mechanisms include rules governing not only work stoppages (strikes, slowdowns or go-slows, work to rule, etc.) and lockouts, but the discipline and dismissal of employees as well. Additionally, in many countries employers are required to participate in various institutions dealing with safety and health, perform safety and health monitoring, report on-the-job accidents and diseases and, indirectly, to compensate workers who are found to be suffering from an occupational injury or disease.

Human Resources Management

Human resources management has been defined as “the science and the practice that deals with the nature of the employment relationship and all of the decisions, actions and issues that relate to that relationship” (Ferris, Rosen and Barnum 1995; see figure 1). It encapsulates employer-formulated policies and practices that see the utilization and management of employees as a business resource in the context of a firm’s overall strategy to enhance productivity and competitiveness. It is a term most often used to describe an employer’s approach to personnel administration that emphasizes employee involvement, normally but not always in a union-free setting, with the goal of motivating workers to enhance their productivity. The field was formed from a merger of scientific management theories, welfare work and industrial psychology around the time of the First World War and has undergone considerable evolution since. Today, it stresses work organization techniques, recruitment and selection, performance appraisal, training, upgrading of skills and career development, along with direct employee participation and communication. Human resources management has been put forth as an alternative to “Fordism”, the traditional assembly-line type of production in which engineers are responsible for work organization and workers’ assigned tasks are divided up and narrowly circumscribed. Common forms of employee involvement include suggestion schemes, attitude surveys, job enrichment schemes, teamworking and similar forms of empowerment schemes, quality of working-life programmes, quality circles and task forces. Another feature of human resources management may be linking pay, individually or collectively, to performance. It is noteworthy that one of the three objectives of occupational health has been identified by the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health as “development of work organizations and working cultures in a direction which supports health and safety at work and in doing so also promotes a positive social climate and smooth operation and may enhance productivity of the undertakings...” (ILO 1995b). This is known as developing a “safety culture.”

Figure 1. The role of human resources management in adding value to people and to organizations

REL010F1

The example of a safety performance management programme illustrates some human resource management theories in the context of occupational safety and health. As described by Reber, Wallin and Duhon (1993), this approach has had considerable success in reducing lost time on account of accidents. It relies on specifying safe and unsafe behaviours, teaching employees how to recognize safe behaviour and motivating them to follow the safety rules with goal setting and feedback. The programme relies heavily on a training technique whereby employees are shown safe, correct methods via videotapes or live models. They then have a chance to practice new behaviours and are provided with frequent performance feedback. In addition, some companies offer tangible prizes and rewards for engaging in safe behaviour (rather than simply for having fewer accidents). Employee consultation is an important feature of the programme as well.

The implications of human resources management for industrial relations practices remain a source of some controversy. This is particularly the case for types of workers’ participation schemes that are perceived by trade unions as a threat. In some instances human resources management strategies are pursued alongside collective bargaining; in other cases the human resources management approach seeks to supplant or prevent the activities of independent organizations of workers in defence of their interests. Proponents of human resources management maintain that since the 1970s, the personnel management side of human resources management has evolved from being a maintenance function, secondary to the industrial relations function, to being one of critical importance to the effectiveness of an organization (Ferris, Rosen and Barnum 1995). Since human resources management is a tool for management to employ as part of its personnel policy rather than a relationship between an employer and workers’ chosen representatives, it is not the focus of this chapter.

The articles which follow describe the main parties in a labour relations system and the basic principles underpinning their interaction: rights to freedom of association and representation. A natural corollary to freedom of association is the right to engage in collective bargaining, a phenomenon which must be distinguished from consultative and non-union worker participation arrangements. Collective bargaining takes place as negotiations between representatives chosen by the workers and those acting on behalf of the employer; it leads to a mutually accepted, binding agreement that can cover a wide range of subjects. Other forms of workers’ participation, national-level consultative bodies, works councils and enterprise-level health and safety representatives are also important features of some labour relations systems and are thus examined in this chapter. Consultation can take various forms and occur at different levels, with national-, regional- and/or industrial- and enterprise-level arrangements. Worker representatives in consultative bodies may or may not have been selected by the workers and there is no obligation for the state or the employer to follow the wishes of those representatives or to abide by the results of the consultative process. In some countries, collective bargaining and consultative arrangements exist side by side and, to work properly, must be carefully intermeshed. For both, rights to information about health and safety and training are crucial. Finally, this chapter takes into account that in any labour relations system, disputes may arise, whether they are individual or collective. Safety and health issues can lead to labour relations strife, producing work stoppages. The chapter thus concludes with descriptions of how labour relations disputes are resolved, including by arbitration, mediation or resort to the regular or labour courts, preceded by a discussion of the role of the labour inspectorate in the context of labour relations.

The Actors in the Labour Relations System

Classically, three actors have been identified as parties to the labour relations system: the state, employers and workers’ representatives. To this picture must now be added the forces that transcend these categories: regional and other multilateral economic integration arrangements among states and multinational corporations as employers which do not have a national identity but which also can be seen as labour market institutions. Since the impact of these phenomena on labour relations remains unclear in many respects, however, discussion will focus on the more classic actors despite this caveat of the limitation of such an analysis in an increasingly global community. In addition, greater emphasis is needed on analysing the role of the individual employment relationship in labour relations systems and on the impact of the emerging alternative forms of work.

The State

The state always has at least an indirect effect on all labour relations. As the source of legislation, the state exerts an inevitable influence on the emergence and development of a labour relations system. Laws can hinder or foster, directly or indirectly, the establishment of organizations representing workers and employers. Legislation also sets a minimum level of worker protection and lays down “the rules of the game”. To take an example, it can provide lesser or greater protection for a worker who refuses to perform work he or she reasonably considers to be too hazardous, or for one who acts as a health and safety representative.

Through the development of its labour administration, the state also has an impact on how a labour relations system may function. If effective enforcement of the law is afforded through a labour inspectorate, collective bargaining can pick up where the law leaves off. If, however, the state infrastructure for having rights vindicated or for assisting in the resolution of disputes that emerge between employers and workers is weak, they will be left more to their own devices to develop alternative institutions or arrangements.

The extent to which the state has built up a well-functioning court or other dispute resolution system may also have an influence on the course of labour relations. The ease with which workers, employers and their respective organizations may enforce their legal rights can be as important as the rights themselves. Thus the decision by a government to set up special tribunals or administrative bodies to deal with labour disputes and/or disagreements over individual employment problems can be an expression of the priority given to such issues in that society.

In many countries, the state has a direct role to play in labour relations. In countries that do not respect freedom of association principles, this may involve outright control of employers’ and workers’ organizations or interference with their activities. The state may attempt to invalidate collective bargaining agreements that it perceives as interfering with its economic policy goals. Generally speaking, however, the role of the state in industrialized countries has tended to promote orderly industrial relations by providing the necessary legislative framework, including minimum levels of worker protection and offering parties information, advice and dispute settlement services. This could take the form of mere toleration of labour relations institutions and the actors in them; it could move beyond to actively encourage such institutions. In a few countries, the state is a more active participant in the industrial relations system, which includes national level tripartite negotiations. For decades in Belgium and more recently in Ireland, for instance, government representatives have been sitting down alongside those from employer and trade union circles to hammer out a national level agreement or pact on a wide range of labour and social issues. Tripartite machinery to fix minimum wages has long been a feature of labour relations in Argentina and Mexico, for example. The interest of the state in doing so derives from its desires to move the national economy in a certain direction and to maintain social peace for the duration of the pact; such bipartite or tripartite arrangements create what has been called a “social dialogue”, as it has developed in Australia (until 1994), Austria, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands, for instance. The pros and cons of what have been termed “corporatist” or “neocorporatist” approaches to labour relations have been extensively debated over the years. With its tripartite structure, the International Labour Organization has long been a proponent of strong tripartite cooperation in which the “social partners” play a significant role in shaping government policy on a wide range of issues.

In some countries, the very idea of the state becoming involved as a negotiator in private sector bargaining is unthinkable, as in Germany or the United States. In such systems, the role of the state is, aside from its legislative function, generally restricted to providing assistance to the parties in reaching an agreement, such as in offering voluntary mediation services. Whether active or passive, however, the state is a constant partner in any labour relations system. In addition, where the state is itself the employer, or an enterprise is publicly owned, it is of course directly involved in labour relations with the employees and their representatives. In this context, the state is motivated by its role as provider of public services and/or as an economic actor.

Finally, the impact of regional economic integration arrangements on state policy is also felt in the labour relations field. Within the European Union, practice in member countries has changed to reflect directives dealing with consultation of workers and their representatives, including those on health and safety matters in particular. Multilateral trade agreements, such as the labour side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (Canada, Mexico, United States) or the agreements implementing the Mercosur Common Market (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, thought soon to be joined by Bolivia and Chile) also sometimes contain workers’ rights provisions or mechanisms that over time may have an indirect impact on labour relations systems of the participating states.

Employers

Employers–that is, providers of work–are usually differentiated in industrial relations systems depending upon whether they are in the private or the public sector. Historically, trade unionism and collective bargaining developed first in the private sector, but in recent years these phenomena have spread to many public sector settings as well. The position of state-owned enterprises—which in any event are dwindling in number around the world—as employers, varies depending upon the country. (They still play a key role in China, India, Viet Nam and in many African countries.) In Eastern and Central Europe, one of the major challenges of the post-Communist era has been the establishment of independent organizations of employers.


International Employers’ Organizations

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the International Organization of Employers (IOE) in 1996 grouped 118 central national organizations of employers in 116 countries. The exact form of each member organization may differ from country to country, but in order to qualify for membership in the IOE an employers’ organization must meet certain conditions: it must be the most representative organization of employers - exclusively of employers - in the country; it must be voluntary and independent, free from outside interference; and it must stand for and defend the principles of free enterprise. Members include employer federations and confederations, chambers of commerce and industry, councils and associations. Regional or sectoral organizations cannot become members; nor can enterprises, regardless of their size or importance, affiliate themselves directly with the IOE - a factor that has served to ensure that its voice is representative of the employer community at large, and not of the particular interests of individual enterprises or sectors.

The IOE’s main activity, however, is to organize employers whenever they have to deal with social and labour matters at the global level. In practice, most of this takes place in the ILO, which has responsibility for these questions in the United Nations system. The IOE also has Category I consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, where it intervenes whenever matters of interest or consequence to employers arise.

The IOE is one of only two organizations that the employer community has set up to represent the interests of enterprise globally. The other is the International Chamber of Commerce, with its headquarters in Paris, which concerns itself principally with economic matters. While structurally quite different, the two organizations complement each other. They cooperate on the basis of an agreement which defines their areas of responsibility as well as through good personal relations between their representatives and, to a degree, on a common membership base. Many subjects cut across their mandates, of course, but are dealt with pragmatically without friction. On certain issues, such as multinational enterprises, the two organizations even act in unison.

by Chapter Editor (excerpted from: ILO 1994)


 

In the private sector, the situation has been summed up as follows:

Employers have common interests to defend and precise causes to advance. In organizing themselves, they pursue several aims which in turn determine the character of their organizations. These can be chambers of commerce, economic federations and employers’ organizations (for social and labour matters) ... Where issues centre essentially on social matters and industrial relations, including collective bargaining, occupational health and safety, human resource development, labour law and wages, the desire for co-ordinated action has led to the creation of employers’ organizations, which are always voluntary in nature ... (ILO 1994a).

Some employers’ organizations were initially established in response to pressure from the trade unions to negotiate, but others may be traced to medieval guilds or other groups founded to defend particular market interests. Employers’ organizations have been described as formal groups of employers set up to defend, represent and advise affiliated employers and to strengthen their position in society at large with respect to labour matters as distinct from economic matters ... Unlike trade unions, which are composed of individual persons, employers’ organizations are composed of enterprises (Oechslin 1995).

As identified by Oechslin, there tend to be three main functions (to some extent overlapping) common to all employers’ organizations: defence and promotion of their members’ interests, representation in the political structure and provision of services to their members. The first function is reflected largely in lobbying government to adopt policies that are friendly to employers’ interests and in influencing public opinion, chiefly through media campaigns. The representative function may occur in the political structure or in industrial relations institutions. Political representation is found in systems where consultation of interested economic groups is foreseen by law (e.g., Switzerland), where economic and social councils provide for employer representation (e.g., France, French-speaking African countries and the Netherlands) and where there is participation in tripartite forums such as the International Labour Conference and other aspects of ILO activity. In addition, employers’ organizations can exercise considerable influence at the regional level (especially within the European Union).

The way in which the representative function in the industrial relations system occurs depends very much on the level at which collective bargaining takes place in a particular country. This factor also largely determines the structure of an employers’ organization. If bargaining is centralized at the national level, the employers’ organization will reflect that in its internal structure and operations (central economic and statistical data bank, creation of a mutual strike insurance system, strong sense of member discipline, etc.). Even in countries where bargaining takes place at the enterprise level (such as Japan or the United States), the employers’ organization can offer its members information, guidelines and advice. Bargaining that takes place at the industrial level (as in Germany, where, however, some employers have recently broken ranks with their associations) or at multiple levels (as in France or Italy) of course also influences the structure of employers’ organizations.

As for the third function, Oechslin notes, “it is not always easy to draw a line between activities supporting the functions described above and those undertaken for the members in their interest” (p. 42). Research is the prime example, since it can be used for multiple purposes. Safety and health is an area in which data and information can be usefully shared by employers across sectors. Often, new concepts or reactions to novel developments in the world of work have been the product of broad reflection within employers’ organizations. These groups also provide training to members on a wide range of management issues and have undertaken social affairs action, such as in the development of workers’ housing or support for community activities. In some countries, employers’ organizations provide assistance to their members in labour court cases.

The structure of employers’ organizations will depend not only on the level at which bargaining is done, but also on the country’s size, political system and sometimes religious traditions. In developing countries, the main challenge has been the integration of a very heterogeneous membership that may include small and medium-sized businesses, state enterprises and subsidiaries of multinational corporations. The strength of an employers’ organi-zation is reflected in the resources its members are willing to devote to it, whether in the form of dues and contributions or in terms of their expertise and time.

The size of an enterprise is a major determinant in its approach to labour relations, with the employer of a small workforce being more likely to rely on informal means for dealing with its workers. Small and medium-sized enterprises, which are variously defined, sometimes fall under the threshold for legally mandated workers’ participation schemes. Where collective bargaining occurs at the enterprise level, it is much more likely to exist in large firms; where it takes place at the industry or national level, it is more likely to have an effect in areas where large firms have historically dominated the private sector market.

As interest organizations, employers’ organizations—like trade unions—have their own problems in the areas of leadership, internal decision-making and member participation. Since employers tend to be individualists, however, the challenge of marshalling discipline among the membership is even greater for employers’ organizations. As van Waarden notes (1995), “employers’ associations generally have high density ratios ... However, employers find it a much greater sacrifice to comply with the decisions and regulations of their associations, as these reduce their much cherished freedom of enterprise.” Trends in the structure of employers’ organizations very much reflect those of the labour market– towards or against centralization, in favour of or opposed to regulation of competition. Van Waarden continues: “even if the pressure to become more flexible in the ‘post-Fordist’ era continues, it does not necessarily make employers’ associations redundant or less influential ... [They] would still play an important role, namely as a forum for the coordination of labour market policies behind the scenes and as an advisor for firms or branch associations engaged in collective bargaining” (ibid., p. 104). They can also perform a solidarity function; through employers’ associations, small employers may have access to legal or advisory services they otherwise could not afford.

Public employers have come to see themselves as such only relatively recently. Initially, the government took the position that a worker’s involvement in trade union activity was incompatible with service to the sovereign state. They later resisted calls to engage in collective bargaining with the argument that the legislature, not the public administration, was the paymaster and that it was thus impossible for the administration to enter into an agreement. These arguments, however, did not prevent (often unlawful) public sector strikes in many countries and they have fallen by the wayside. In 1978, the International Labour Conference adopted the Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention (No. 151) and Recommendation (No. 159) on public employees’ right to organize and on procedures for determining their terms and conditions of employment. Collective bargaining in the public sector is now a way of life in many developed countries (e.g., Australia, France, United Kingdom) as well as in some developing countries (e.g., many francophone African countries and many countries in Latin America).

The level of employer representation in the public sector depends largely upon the political system of the country. In some this is a centralized function (as in France) whereas in others it reflects the various divisions of government (as in the United States, where bargaining can take place at the federal, state and municipal levels). Germany presents an interesting case in which the thousands of local communities have banded together to have a single bargaining agent deal with the unions in the public sector throughout the country.

Because public sector employers are already part of the state, they do not fall under laws requiring registration of employers’ organizations. The designation of the bargaining agent in the public sector varies considerably by country; it may be the Public Service Commission, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Finance or another entity altogether. The positions taken by a public employer in dealing with employees in this sector tend to follow the political orientation of the ruling political party. This may range from taking a particular stance in bargaining to a flat-out denial of the right of public employees to organize into trade unions. However, while as an employer the public service is shrinking in many countries, there is an increasing readiness on its part to engage in bargaining and consultations with employee representatives.


International Labour Federations

The international labour movement on a global, as opposed to a regional or national level, consists of international associations of national federations of labour unions. There are currently three such internationals, reflecting different ideological tendencies: the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and the relatively small, originally Christian, World Congress of Labour (WCL). The ICFTU is the largest, with 174 affiliated unions from 124 countries in 1995, representing 116 million trade union members. These groups lobby intergovernmental organizations on overall economic and social policy and press for worldwide protection of basic trade union rights. They can be thought of as the political force behind the international labour movement.

The industrial force of the international labour movement lies in the international associations of specific labour unions, usually drawn from one trade, industry or economic sector. Known as International Trade Secretariats (ITSs) or Trade Union Internationals (TUIs), they may be independent, affiliated to, or controlled by the internationals. Coverage has traditionally been by sector, but also in some cases is by employee category (such as white-collar workers), or by employer (public or private). For example, in 1995 there were 13 operative ITSs aligned with the ICFTU, distributed as follows: building and woodworking; chemical and mining, energy; commercial, clerical, professional and technical; education; entertainment; food, agriculture, restaurant and catering; graphic arts; journalism; metalworking; postal and telecommunications; public service; textile, garment and leather work; transport. The ITSs concentrate mainly on industry-specific issues, such as industrial disputes and pay rates, but also the application of health and safety provisions in a specific sector. They provide information, education, training and other services to affiliated unions. They also help coordinate international solidarity between unions in different countries, and represent the interests of workers in various international and regional forums.

Such action is illustrated by the international trade union response to the incident at Bhopal, India, involving the leak of methyl isocyanate, which claimed thousands of victims on 3 December 1984. At the request of their Indian national trade union affiliates, the ICFTU and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) sent a mission to Bhopal to study the causes and effects of the gas leak. The report contained recommendations for preventing similar disasters and endorsed a list of safety principles; this report has been used by trade unionists in both industrialized and developing countries as a basis of programmes for improving health and safety at work.

Source: Rice 1995.


Trade Unions

The classic definition of a trade union is “a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment” (Webb and Webb 1920). The origins of trade unions go back as far as the first attempts to organize collective action at the beginning of the industrial revolution. In the modern sense, however, trade unions arose in the later part of the nineteenth century, when governments first began to concede the unions’ legal right to exist (previously, they had been seen as illegal combinations interfering with freedom of commerce, or as outlawed political groups). Trade unions reflect the conviction that only by banding together can workers improve their situation. Trade union rights were born out of economic and political struggle which saw short-term individual sacrifice in the cause of longer-term collective gain. They have often played an important role in national politics and have influenced developments in the world of work at the regional and international levels. Having suffered membership losses, however, in recent years in a number of countries (in North America and some parts of Europe), their role is under challenge in many quarters (see figure 2). The pattern is mixed with areas of membership growth in the public service in many countries around the world and with a new lease on life in places where trade unions were previously non-existent or active only under severe restrictions (e.g., Korea, the Philippines, some countries of Central and Eastern Europe). The flourishing of democratic institutions goes hand in hand with the exercise of trade union freedoms, as the cases of Chile and Poland in the 1980s and 1990s best illustrate. A process of internal reform and reorientation to attract greater and more diverse membership, particularly more women, can also be seen within trade union circles in a number of countries. Only time will tell if these and other factors will be sufficient to deflect the counterweighing tendencies towards the “de-collectivization”, also referred to as “atomization”, of labour relations that has accompanied increased economic globalization and ideological individualism.

Figure 2.  Membership rates in trade unions, 1980-1990

REL010F2

In contemporary industrial relations systems, the functions fulfilled by trade unions are, like employers’ organizations, basically the following: defence and promotion of the members’ interests; political representation; and provision of services to members. The flip side of trade unions’ representative function is their control function: their legitimacy depends in part upon the ability to exert discipline over the membership, as for example in calling or ending a strike. The trade unions’ constant challenge is to increase their density, that is, the number of members as a percentage of the formal sector workforce. The members of trade unions are individuals; their dues, called contributions in some systems, support the union’s activities. (Trade unions financed by employers, called “company unions”, or by governments as in formerly Communist countries, are not considered here, since only independent organizations of workers are true trade unions.) Affiliation is generally a matter of an individual’s voluntary decision, although some unions that have been able to win closed shop or union security arrangements are considered to be the representatives of all workers covered by a particular collective bargaining agreement (i.e., in countries where trade unions are recognized as representatives of workers in a circumscribed bargaining unit). Trade unions may be affiliated to umbrella organizations at the industrial, national, regional and international levels.

Trade unions are structured along various lines: by craft or occupation, by branch of industry, by whether they group white- or blue-collar workers and sometimes even by enterprise. There are also general unions, which include workers from various occupations and industries. Even in countries where mergers of industrial unions and general unions are the trend, the situation of agricultural or rural workers has often favoured the development of special structures for that sector. On top of this breakdown there is often a territorial division, with regional and sometimes local subunits, within a union. In some countries there have been splits in the labour movement around ideological (party politics) and even religious lines which then come to be reflected in trade union structure and membership. Public sector employees tend to be represented by unions separate from those representing employees in the private sector, although there are exceptions to this as well.

The legal status of a trade union may be that of any other association, or it may be subject to special rules. A great number of countries require trade unions to register and to divulge certain basic information to the authorities (name, address, identity of officials, etc.). In some countries this goes beyond mere record-keeping to interference; in extreme cases of disregard for freedom of association principles, trade unions will need government authorization to operate. As representatives of workers, trade unions are empowered to enter into engagements on their behalf. Some countries (such as the United States) require employer recognition of trade unions as an initial prerequisite to engaging in collective bargaining.

Trade union density varies widely between and within countries. In some countries in Western Europe, for instance, it is very high in the public sector but tends to be low in the private sector and especially in its white-collar employment. The figures for blue-collar employment in that region are mixed, from a high in Austria and Sweden to a low in France, where, however, trade union political power far exceeds what membership figures would suggest. There is some positive correlation between centralization of bargaining and trade union density, but exceptions to this also exist.

As voluntary associations, trade unions draw up their own rules, usually in the form of a constitution and by-laws. In democratic trade union structures, members select trade union officers either by direct vote or through delegates to a general conference. Internal union government in a small, highly decentralized union of workers in a particular occupational group is likely to differ significantly from that found in a large, centralized general or industrial union. There are tasks to allocate among union officers, between paid and unpaid union representatives and coordination work to be done. The financial resources available to a union will also vary depending upon its size and the ease with which it can collect dues. Institution of a dues check-off system (whereby dues are deducted from a worker’s wages and paid directly to the union) alleviates this task greatly. In most of Central and Eastern Europe, trade unions that were dominated and funded by the state are being transformed and/or joined by new independent organizations; all are struggling to find a place and operate successfully in the new economic structure. Extremely low wages (and thus dues) there and in developing countries with government-supported unions make it difficult to build a strong independent union movement.

In addition to the important function of collective bargaining, one of the main activities of trade unions in many countries is their political work. This may take the form of direct representation, with trade unions being given reserved seats in some parliaments (e.g., Senegal) and on tripartite bodies that have a role in determining national economic and social policy (e.g., Austria, France, the Netherlands), or on tripartite advisory bodies in the fields of labour and social affairs (e.g., in many Latin American and some African and Asian countries). In the European Union, trade union federations have had an important impact on the development of social policy. More typically, trade unions have an influence through the exercise of power (backed up by a threat of industrial action) and lobbying political decision makers at the national level. It is certainly true that trade unions have successfully fought for greater legislative protection for all workers around the world; some believe that this has been a bittersweet victory, in the long run undermining their own justification to exist. The objectives and issues of union political action have often extended well beyond narrower interests; a prime example of this was the struggle against apartheid within South Africa and the international solidarity expressed by unions around the world in words and in deeds (e.g., organizing dockworker boycotts of imported South African coal). Whether trade union political activity is on the offence or the defence will of course depend largely on whether the government in power tends to be pro- or anti-labour. It will also depend upon the union’s relationship to political parties; some unions, particularly in Africa, were part of their countries’ struggles for independence and maintain very close ties with ruling political parties. In other countries there is a traditional interdependence between the labour movement and a political party (e.g., Australia, United Kingdom), whereas in others alliances may shift over time. In any event, the power of trade unions often exceeds what would be expected from their numerical strength, particularly where they represent workers in a key economic or public service sector, such as transport or mining.

Aside from trade unions, many other types of workers’ participation have sprung up to provide indirect or direct representation of employees. In some instances they exist alongside trade unions; in others they are the only type of participation available to workers. The functions and powers of workers’ representatives that exist under such arrangements are described in the article “Forms of workers’ participation’’.

The third type of function of trade unions, providing services to members, focuses first and foremost on the workplace. A shop steward at the enterprise level is there to ensure that workers’ rights under the collective bargaining agreement and the law are being respected–and, if not, to take action. The union officer’s job is to defend the interests of workers vis-à-vis management, thereby legitimizing his or her own representative role. This may involve taking up an individual grievance over discipline or dismissal, or cooperating with management on a joint health and safety committee. Outside the workplace, many unions provide other types of benefit, such as preferential access to credit and participation in welfare schemes. The union hall can also serve as a centre for cultural events or even large family ceremonies. The range of services a union can offer to its members is vast and reflects the creativity and resources of the union itself as well as the cultural milieu in which it operates.

As Visser observes:

The power of trade unions depends on various internal and external factors. We can distinguish between organizational power (how many internal sources of power can unions mobilize?), institutional power (which external sources of support can unions depend on?) and economic power (which market forces play into the hands of unions?) (Visser in van Ruysseveldt et al. 1995).

Among the factors he identifies for a strong trade union structure are the mobilization of a large, stable, dues-paying and well-trained membership (to this could be added a membership that reflects the composition of the labour market), avoidance of organizational fragmentation and political or ideological rifts and development of an organizational structure that provides a presence at the company level while having central control of funds and decision making. Whether such a model for success, which to date has been national in character, can evolve in the face of an increasingly internationalized economy, is the great challenge facing trade unions at this juncture.

 

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Friday, 21 January 2011 20:29

Introduction and Overview

A 1981 study of worker safety and health training in the industrial nations begins by quoting the French writer Victor Hugo: “No cause can succeed without first making education its ally” (Heath 1981). This observation surely still applies to occupational safety and health in the late twentieth century, and is relevant to organization personnel at all levels.

As the workplace becomes increasingly complex, new demands have arisen for greater understanding of the causes and means of prevention of accidents, injuries and illnesses. Government officials, academics, management and labour all have important roles to play in conducting the research that furthers this understanding. The critical next step is the effective transmission of this information to workers, supervisors, managers, government inspectors and safety and health professionals. Although education for occupational physicians and hygienists differs in many respects from the training of workers on the shop floor, there are also common principles that apply to all.

National education and training policies and practices will of course vary according to the economic, political, social, cultural and technological background of the country. In general, industrially advanced nations have proportionally more specialized occupational safety and health practitioners at their disposal than do the developing nations, and more sophisticated education and training programmes are available to these trained workers. More rural and less industrialized nations tend to rely more on “primary health care workers”, who may be worker representatives in factories or fields or health personnel in district health centres. Clearly, training needs and available resources will vary greatly in these situations. However, they all have in common the need for trained practitioners.

This article provides an overview of the most significant issues concerning education and training, including target audiences and their needs, the format and content of effective training and important current trends in the field.

Target Audiences

In 1981, the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health identified the three levels of education required in occupational health, safety and ergonomics as (1) awareness, (2) training for specific needs and (3) specialization. These components are not separate, but rather are part of a continuum; any person may require information on all three levels. The main target groups for basic awareness are legislators, policy makers, managers and workers. Within these categories, many people require additional training in more specific tasks. For example, while all managers should have a basic understanding of the safety and health problems within their areas of responsibility and should know where to go for expert assistance, managers with specific responsibility for safety and health and compliance with regulations may need more intensive training. Similarly, workers who serve as safety delegates or members of safety and health committees need more than awareness training alone, as do government administrators involved in factory inspection and public health functions related to the workplace.

Those doctors, nurses and (especially in rural and developing areas) nonphysician primary health care workers whose primary training or practice does not include occupational medicine will need occupational health education in some depth in order to serve workers, for example by being able to recognize work-related illnesses. Finally, certain professions (for example, engineers, chemists, architects and designers) whose work has considerable impact on workers’ safety and health need much more specific education and training in these areas than they traditionally receive.

Specialists require the most intensive education and training, most often of the kind received in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study. Physicians, nurses, occupational hygienists, safety engineers and, more recently, ergonomists come under this category. With the rapid ongoing developments in all of these fields, continuing education and on-the-job experience are important components of the education of these professionals.

It is important to emphasize that increasing specialization in the fields of occupational hygiene and safety has taken place without a commensurate emphasis on the interdisciplinary aspects of these endeavours. A nurse or physician who suspects that a patient’s disease is work-related may well need the assistance of an occupational hygienist to identify the toxic exposure (for example) in the workplace that is causing the health problem. Given limited resources, many companies and governments often employ a safety specialist but not a hygienist, requiring that the safety specialist address health as well as safety concerns. The interdependence of safety and health issues should be addressed by offering interdisciplinary training and education to safety and health professionals.

Why Training and Education?

The primary tools needed to achieve the goals of reducing occupational injuries and illnesses and promoting occupational safety and health have been characterized as the “three E’s”—engineering, enforcement and education. The three are interdependent and receive varying levels of emphasis within different national systems. The overall rationale for training and education is to improve awareness of safety and health hazards, to expand knowledge of the causes of occupational illness and injury and to promote the implementation of effective preventive measures. The specific purpose and impetus for training will, however, vary for different target audiences.

Middle and upper level managers

The need for managers who are knowledgeable about the safety and health aspects of the operations for which they are responsible is more widely acknowledged today than heretofore. Employers increasingly recognize the considerable direct and indirect costs of serious accidents and the civil, and in some jurisdictions, criminal liability to which companies and individuals may be exposed. Although belief in the “careless worker” explanation for accidents and injuries remains prevalent, there is increasing recognition that “careless management” can be cited for conditions under its control that contribute to accidents and disease. Finally, firms also realize that poor safety performance is poor public relations; major disasters like the one in the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal (India) can offset years of effort to build a good name for a company.

Most managers are trained in economics, business or engineering and receive little or no instruction during their formal education in occupational health or safety matters. Yet daily management decisions have a critical impact on employee safety and health, both directly and indirectly. To remedy this state of affairs, safety and health concerns have begun to be introduced into management and engineering curricula and into continuing education programmes in many countries. Further efforts to make safety and health information more widespread is clearly necessary.

First-line supervisors

Research has demonstrated the central role played by first-line supervisors in the accident experience of construction employers (Samelson 1977). Supervisors who are knowledgeable about the safety and health hazards of their operations, who effectively train their crew members (especially new employees) and who are held accountable for their crew’s performance hold the key to improving conditions. They are the critical link between workers and the firm’s safety and health policies.

Employees

Law, custom and current workplace trends all contribute to the spread of employee education and training. Increasingly, employee safety and health training is being required by government regulations. Some apply to general practice, while in others the training requirements are related to specific industries, occupations or hazards. Although valid evaluation data on the effectiveness of such training as a countermeasure to work-related injuries and illnesses are surprisingly sparse (Vojtecky and Berkanovic 1984-85); nevertheless the acceptance of training and education for improving safety and health performance in many areas of work is becoming widespread in many countries and companies.

The growth of employee participation programmes, self-directed work teams and shop floor responsibility for decision-making has affected the way in which safety and health approaches are taken as well. Education and training are widely used to enhance knowledge and skills at the level of the line worker, who is now recognized as essential for the effectiveness of these new trends in work organization. A beneficial action employers can take is to involve employees early on (for example, in the planning and design stages when new technologies are introduced into a worksite) to minimize and to anticipate adverse effects on the work environment.

Trade unions have been a moving force both in advocating more and better training for employees and in developing and delivering curricula and materials to their members. In many countries, safety committee members, safety delegates and works council representatives have assumed a growing role in the resolution of hazard problems at the worksite and in inspection and advocacy as well. Persons holding these positions all require training that is more complete and sophisticated than that given to an employee performing a particular job.

Safety and health professionals

The duties of safety and health personnel comprise a broad range of activities that differ widely from one country to another and even within a single profession. Included in this group are physicians, nurses, hygienists and safety engineers either engaged in independent practice or employed by individual worksites, large corporations, government health or labour inspectorates and academic institutions. The demand for trained professionals in the area of occupational safety and health has grown rapidly since the 1970s with the proliferation of government laws and regulations paralleling the growth of corporate safety and health departments and academic research in this field.

Scope and Objectives of Training and Education

This ILO Encyclopaedia itself presents the multitude of issues and hazards that must be addressed and the range of personnel required in a comprehensive safety and health programme. Taking the large view, we can consider the objectives of training and education for safety and health in a number of ways. In 1981, the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health offered the following categories of educational objectives which apply in some degree to all of the groups discussed thus far: (1) cognitive (knowledge), (2) psychomotor (professional skills) and (3) affective (attitude and values). Another framework describes the “information–education–training” continuum, roughly corresponding to the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of hazards and their control. And the “empowerment education” model, to be discussed below, puts great emphasis on the distinction between training—the teaching of competency-based skills with predictable behavioural outcomes—and education—the development of independent critical thinking and decision-making skills leading to effective group action (Wallerstein and Weinger 1992).

Workers need to understand and apply the safety procedures, proper tools and protective equipment for performing specific tasks as part of their job skills training. They also require training in how to rectify hazards that they observe and to be familiar with internal company procedures, in accordance with the safety and health laws and regulations which apply to their area of work. Similarly, supervisors and managers must be aware of the physical, chemical and psychosocial hazards present in their workplaces as well as the social, organizational and industrial relations factors that may be involved in the creation of these hazards and in their correction. Thus, gaining knowledge and skills of a technical nature as well as organizational, communication and problem-solving skills are all necessary objectives in education and training.

In recent years, safety and health education has been influenced by developments in education theory, particularly theories of adult learning. There are different aspects of these developments, such as empowerment education, cooperative learning and participative learning. All share the principle that adults learn best when they are actively involved in problem-solving exercises. Beyond the transmission of specific bits of knowledge or skills, effective education requires the development of critical thinking and an understanding of the context of behaviours and ways of linking what is learned in the classroom to action in the workplace. These principles seem especially appropriate to workplace safety and health, where the causes of hazardous conditions and illnesses and injuries are often a combination of environmental and physical factors, human behaviour and the social context.

In translating these principles into an education programme four categories of objectives must be included:

Information objectives: the specific knowledge that trainees will acquire. For example, knowledge of the effects of organic solvents on the skin and on the central nervous system.

Behavioural objectives: the competencies and skills that workers will learn. For example, the ability to interpret chemical data sheets or to lift a heavy object safely.

Attitude objectives: the beliefs that interfere with safe performance or with response to training that must be addressed. The belief that accidents are not preventable or that “solvents can’t hurt me because I’ve worked with them for years and I’m fine” are examples.

Social action objectives: the ability to analyse a specific problem, identify its causes, propose solutions and plan and take action steps to resolve it. For example, the task of analysing a particular job where several people have sustained back injuries, and of proposing ergonomic modifications, requires the social action of changing the organization of work through labour-management cooperation.

Technological and Demographic Change

Training for awareness and management of specific safety and health hazards obviously depends on the nature of the workplace. While some hazards remain relatively constant, the changes that take place in the nature of jobs and technologies require continuous updating of training needs. Falls from heights, falling objects and noise, for example, have always been and will continue to be prominent hazards in the construction industry, but the introduction of many kinds of new synthetic building materials necessitates additional knowledge and awareness concerning their potential for adverse health effects. Similarly, unguarded belts, blades and other danger points on machinery remain common safety hazards but the introduction of industrial robots and other computer-controlled devices requires training in new types of machinery hazards.

With rapid global economic integration and the mobility of multinational corporations, old and new occupational hazards frequently exist side-by-side in both highly industrialized and developing countries. In an industrializing country sophisticated electronics manufacturing operations may be located next door to a metal foundry that still relies on low technology and the heavy use of manual labour. Meanwhile, in industrialized countries, garment sweatshops with miserable safety and health conditions, or lead battery recycling operations (with its threat of lead toxicity) continue to exist alongside highly automated state-of-the-art industries.

The need for continual updating of information applies as much to workers and managers as it does to occupational health professionals. Inadequacies in the training even of the latter is evidenced by the fact that most occupational hygienists educated in the 1970s received scant training in ergonomics; and even though they received extensive training in air monitoring, it was applied almost exclusively to industrial worksites. But the single largest technological innovation affecting millions of workers since that time is the widespread introduction of computer terminals with visual display units (VDUs). Ergonomic evaluation and intervention to prevent musculoskeletal and vision problems among VDU users was unheard of in the 1970s; by the mid-nineties, VDU hazards have become a major concern of occupational hygiene. Similarly, the application of occupational hygiene principles to indoor air quality problems (to remedy “tight/sick building syndrome”, for example) has required a great deal of continuing education for hygienists accustomed only to evaluating factories. Psychosocial factors, also largely unrecognized as occupational health hazards before the 1980s, play an important role in the treatment of VDU and indoor air hazards, and of many others as well. All parties investigating such health problems need education and training in order to understand the complex interactions among environment, the individual and social organization in these settings.

The changing demographics of the workforce must also be considered in safety and health training. Women make up an increasing proportion of the workforce in both developed and developing nations; their health needs in and out of the workplace must be addressed. The concerns of immigrant workers raise numerous new training questions, including those to do with language, although language and literacy issues are certainly not limited to immigrant workers: varying literacy levels among native-born workers must also be considered in the design and delivery of training. Older workers are another group whose needs must be studied and incorporated into education programmes as their numbers increase in the working population of many nations.

Training Venues and Providers

The location of training and education programmes is determined by the audience, the purpose, the content, the duration of the programme and, to be realistic, the resources available in the country or region. The audience for safety and health education starts with schoolchildren, trainees and apprentices, and extends to workers, supervisors, managers and safety and health professionals.

Training in schools

Incorporation of safety and health education into elementary and secondary education, and especially in vocational and technical training schools, is a growing and very positive trend. The teaching of hazard recognition and control as a regular part of skills training for particular occupations or trades is far more effective than trying to impart such knowledge later, when the worker has been in the trade for a period of years, and has already developed set practices and behaviours. Such programmes, of course, necessitate that the teachers in these schools also be trained to recognize hazards and apply preventive measures.

On-the-job training

On-the-job training at the worksite is appropriate for workers and supervisors facing specific hazards found onsite. If the training is of significant length, a comfortable classroom facility within the worksite is strongly recommended. In cases where locating the training at the workplace may intimidate workers or otherwise discourage their full participation in the class, an offsite venue is preferable. Workers may feel more comfortable in a union setting where the union plays a major role in designing and delivering the programme. However, field visits to actual work locations which illustrate the hazards in question are always a positive addition to the course.

Training of safety delegates and committee members

The longer and more sophisticated training recommended for safety delegates and committee representatives is often delivered at specialized training centres, universities or commercial facilities. More and more efforts are being made to implement regulatory requirements for training and certification of workers who are to perform in certain hazardous fields such as asbestos abatement and hazardous waste handling. These courses usually include both classroom and hands-on sessions, where actual performance is simulated and specialized equipment and facilities are required.

Providers of onsite and offsite programmes for workers and safety representatives include government agencies, tripartite organizations like the ILO or analogous national or sub-national bodies, business associations and labour unions, universities, professional associations and private training consultants. Many governments provide funds for the development of safety and health training and education programmes targeted at specific industries or hazards.

Academic and professional training

The training of safety and health professionals varies widely among countries, depending on the needs of the working population and the country’s resources and structures. Professional training is centred in undergraduate and postgraduate university programmes, but these vary in availability in different parts of the world. Degree programmes may be offered for specialists in occupational medicine and nursing and occupational health may be incorporated into the training of general practitioners and of primary care and public health nurses. The number of degree-granting programmes for occupational hygienists has increased dramatically. However, there remains a strong demand for short courses and less comprehensive training for hygiene technicians, many of whom have received their basic training on the job in particular industries.

There is an acute need for more trained safety and health personnel in the developing world. While more university-trained and credentialed physicians, nurses and hygienists will undoubtedly be welcomed in these countries, it is nonetheless realistic to expect that many health services will continue to be delivered by primary health care workers. These people need training in the relationship between work and health, in the recognition of the major safety and health risks associated with the type of work carried on in their region, in basic survey and sampling techniques, in the use of the referral network available in their region for suspected cases of occupational illness and in health education and risk communication techniques (WHO1988).

Alternatives to university-based degree programmes are critically important to professional training in both developing and industrialized nations, and would include continuing education, distance education, on-the-job training and self-training, among others.

Conclusion

Education and training cannot solve all occupational safety and health problems, and care must be taken that the techniques learned in such programmes are in fact applied appropriately to the identified needs. They are, however, critical components of an effective safety and health programme when employed in conjunction with engineering and technical solutions. Cumulative, interactive and continuous learning is essential to prepare our rapidly changing work environments to meet the needs of workers, especially as regards the prevention of debilitating injuries and illnesses. Those who labour in the workplace as well as those who provide support from the outside need the most up-to-date information available and the skills to put this information to use in order to protect and promote worker health and safety.


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Sunday, 16 January 2011 19:52

Carcinogen Risk Assessment

Whereas the principles and methods of risk assessment for non-carcinogenic chemicals are similar in different parts of the world, it is striking that approaches for risk assessment of carcinogenic chemicals vary greatly. There are not only marked differences between countries, but even within a country different approaches are applied or advocated by various regulatory agencies, committees and scientists in the field of risk assessment. Risk assessment for non-carcinogens is rather consistent and pretty well established partly because of the long history and better understanding of the nature of toxic effects in comparison with carcinogens and a high degree of consensus and confidence by both scientists and the general public on methods used and their outcome.

For non-carcinogenic chemicals, safety factors were introduced to compensate for uncertainties in the toxicology data (which are derived mostly from animal experiments) and in their applicability to large, heterogeneous human populations. In doing so, recommended or required limits on safe human exposures were usually set at a fraction (the safety or uncertainty factor approach) of the exposure levels in animals that could be clearly documented as the no observed adverse effects level (NOAEL) or the lowest observed adverse effects level (LOAEL). It was then assumed that as long as human exposure did not exceed the recommended limits, the hazardous properties of chemical substances would not be manifest. For many types of chemicals, this practice, in somewhat refined form, continues to this day in toxicological risk assessment.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s regulatory bodies, starting in the United States, were confronted with an increasingly important problem for which many scientists considered the safety factor approach to be inappropriate, and even dangerous. This was the problem with chemicals that under certain conditions had been shown to increase the risk of cancers in humans or experimental animals. These substances were operationally referred to as carcinogens. There is still debate and controversy on the definition of a carcinogen, and there is a wide range of opinion about techniques to identify and classify carcinogens and the process of cancer induction by chemicals as well.

The initial discussion started much earlier, when scientists in the 1940s discovered that chemical carcinogens caused damage by a biological mechanism that was of a totally different kind from those that produced other forms of toxicity. These scientists, using principles from the biology of radiation-induced cancers, put forth what is referred to as the “non-threshold” hypothesis, which was considered applicable to both radiation and carcinogenic chemicals. It was hypothesized that any exposure to a carcinogen that reaches its critical biological target, especially the genetic material, and interacts with it, can increase the probability (the risk) of cancer development.

Parallel to the ongoing scientific discussion on thresholds, there was a growing public concern on the adverse role of chemical carcinogens and the urgent need to protect the people from a set of diseases collectively called cancer. Cancer, with its insidious character and long latency period together with data showing that cancer incidences in the general population were increasing, was regarded by the general public and politicians as a matter of concern that warranted optimal protection. Regulators were faced with the problem of situations in which large numbers of people, sometimes nearly the entire population, were or could be exposed to relatively low levels of chemical substances (in consumer products and medicines, at the workplace as well as in air, water, food and soils) that had been identified as carcinogenic in humans or experimental animals under conditions of relatively intense exposures.

Those regulatory officials were confronted with two fundamental questions which, in most cases, could not be fully answered using available scientific methods:

  1.  What risk to human health exists in the range of exposure to chemicals below the relatively intense and narrow exposure range under which a cancer risk could be directly measured?
  2.  What could be said about risks to human health when experimental animals were the only subjects in which risks for the development of cancer had been established?

 

Regulators recognized the need for assumptions, sometimes scientifically based but often also unsupported by experimental evidence. In order to achieve consistency, definitions and specific sets of assumptions were adapted that would be generically applied to all carcinogens.

Carcinogenesis Is a Multistage Process

Several lines of evidence support the conclusion that chemical carcinogenesis is a multistage process driven by genetic damage and epigenetic changes, and this theory is widely accepted in the scientific community all over the world (Barrett 1993). Although the process of chemical carcinogenesis is often separated into three stages—initiation, promotion and progression—the number of relevant genetic changes is not known.

Initiation involves the induction of an irreversibly altered cell and is for genotoxic carcinogens always equated with a mutational event. Mutagenesis as a mechanism of carcinogenesis was already hypothesized by Theodor Boveri in 1914, and many of his assumptions and predictions have subsequently been proven to be true. Because irreversible and self-replicating mutagenic effects can be caused by the smallest amount of a DNA-modifying carcinogen, no threshold is assumed. Promotion is the process by which the initiated cell expands (clonally) by a series of divisions, and forms (pre)neoplastic lesions. There is considerable debate as to whether during this promotion phase initiated cells undergo additional genetic changes.

Finally in the progression stage “immortality” is obtained and full malignant tumours can develop by influencing angiogenesis, escaping the reaction of the host control systems. It is characterized by invasive growth and frequently metastatic spread of the tumour. Progression is accompanied by additional genetic changes due to the instability of proliferating cells and selection.

Therefore, there are three general mechanisms by which a substance can influence the multistep carcinogenic process. A chemical can induce a relevant genetic alteration, promote or facilitate clonal expansion of an initiated cell or stimulate progression to malignancy by somatic and/or genetic changes.

Risk Assessment Process

Risk can be defined as the predicted or actual frequency of occurrence of an adverse effect on humans or the environment, from a given exposure to a hazard. Risk assessment is a method of systematically organizing the scientific information and its attached uncertainties for description and qualification of the health risks associated with hazardous substances, processes, actions or events. It requires evaluation of relevant information and selection of the models to be used in drawing inferences from that information. Further, it requires explicit recognition of uncertainties and appropriate acknowledgement that alternative interpretation of the available data may be scientifically plausible. The current terminology used in risk assessment was proposed in 1984 by the US National Academy of Sciences. Qualitative risk assessment changed into hazard characterization/identification and quantitative risk assessment was divided into the components dose-response, exposure assessment and risk characterization.

In the following section these components will be briefly discussed in view of our current knowledge of the process of (chemical) carcinogenesis. It will become clear that the dominant uncertainty in the risk assessment of carcinogens is the dose-response pattern at low dose levels characteristic for environmental exposure.

Hazard identification

This process identifies which compounds have the potential to cause cancer in humans—in other words it identifies their intrinsic genotoxic properties. Combining information from various sources and on different properties serves as a basis for classification of carcinogenic compounds. In general the following information will be used:

  • epidemiological data (e.g., vinylchloride, arsenic, asbestos)
  • animal carcinogenicity data
  • genotoxic activity/DNA adduct formation
  • mechanisms of action
  • pharmacokinetic activity
  • structure-activity relationships.

 

Classification of chemicals into groups based on the assessment of the adequacy of the evidence of carcinogenesis in animals or in man, if epidemiological data are available, is a key process in hazard identification. The best known schemes for categorizing carcinogenic chemicals are those of IARC (1987), EU (1991) and the EPA (1986). An overview of their criteria for classification (e.g., low-dose extrapolation methods) is given in table 1.

Table 1. Comparison of low-dose extrapolations procedures

  Current US EPA Denmark EEC UK Netherlands Norway
Genotoxic carcinogen Linearized multistage procedure using most appropriate low-dose model MLE from 1- and 2-hit models plus judgement of best outcome No procedure specified No model, scientific expertise and judgement from all available data Linear model using TD50 (Peto method) or “Simple Dutch Method” if no TD50 No procedure specified
Non-genotoxic carcinogen Same as above Biologically-based model of Thorslund or multistage or Mantel-Bryan model, based on tumour origin and dose-response Use NOAEL and safety factors Use NOEL and safety factors to set ADI Use NOEL and safety factors to set ADI  

 

One important issue in classifying carcinogens, with sometimes far-reaching consequences for their regulation, is the distinction between genotoxic and non-genotoxic mechanisms of action. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) default assumption for all substances showing carcinogenic activity in animal experiments is that no threshold exists (or at least none can be demonstrated), so there is some risk with any exposure. This is com- monly referred to as the non-threshold assumption for genotoxic (DNA-damaging) compounds. The EU and many of its members, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark, make a distinction between carcinogens that are genotoxic and those believed to produce tumours by non-genotoxic mechanisms. For genotoxic carcinogens quantitative dose-response estimation procedures are followed that assume no threshold, although the procedures might differ from those used by the EPA. For non-genotoxic substances it is assumed that a threshold exists, and dose-response procedures are used that assume a threshold. In the latter case, the risk assessment is generally based on a safety factor approach, similar to the approach for non-carcinogens.

It is important to keep in mind that these different schemes were developed to deal with risk assessments in different contexts and settings. The IARC scheme was not produced for regulatory purposes, although it has been used as a basis for developing regulatory guidelines. The EPA scheme was designed to serve as a decision point for entering quantitative risk assessment, whereas the EU scheme is currently used to assign a hazard (classification) symbol and risk phrases to the chemical's label. A more extended discussion on this subject is presented in a recent review (Moolenaar 1994) covering procedures used by eight governmental agencies and two often-cited independent organizations, the Inter- national Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).

The classification schemes generally do not take into account the extensive negative evidence that may be available. Also, in recent years a greater understanding of the mechanism of action of carcinogens has emerged. Evidence has accumulated that some mechanisms of carcinogenicity are species-specific and are not relevant for man. The following examples will illustrate this important phenomenon. First, it has been recently demonstrated in studies on the carcinogenicity of diesel particles, that rats respond with lung tumours to a heavy loading of the lung with particles. However, lung cancer is not seen in coal miners with very heavy lung burdens of particles. Secondly, there is the assertion of the nonrelevance of renal tumours in the male rat on the basis that the key element in the tumourgenic response is the accumulation in the kidney of α-2 microglobulin, a protein that does not exist in humans (Borghoff, Short and Swenberg 1990). Disturbances of rodent thyroid function and peroxisome proliferation or mitogenesis in the mouse liver have also to be mentioned in this respect.

This knowledge allows a more sophisticated interpretation of the results of a carcinogenicity bioassay. Research towards a better understanding of the mechanisms of action of carcinogenicity is encouraged because it may lead to an altered classification and to the addition of a category in which chemicals are classified as not carcinogenic to humans.

Exposure assessment

Exposure assessment is often thought to be the component of risk assessment with the least inherent uncertainty because of the ability to monitor exposures in some cases and the availability of relatively well-validated exposure models. This is only partially true, however, because most exposure assessments are not conducted in ways that take full advantage of the range of available information. For that reason there is a great deal of room for improving exposure distribution estimates. This holds for both external as well as for internal exposure assessments. Especially for carcinogens, the use of target tissue doses rather than external exposure levels in modelling dose-response relationships would lead to more relevant predictions of risk, although many assumptions on default values are involved. Physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models to determine the amount of reactive metabolites that reaches the target tissue are potentially of great value to estimate these tissue doses.

Risk Characterization

Current approaches

The dose level or exposure level that causes an effect in an animal study and the likely dose causing a similar effect in humans is a key consideration in risk characterization. This includes both dose-response assessment from high to low dose and interspecies extrapolation. The extrapolation presents a logical problem, namely that data are being extrapolated many orders of magnitude below the experimental exposure levels by empirical models that do not reflect the underlying mechanisms for carcinogenicity. This violates a basic principle in fitting of empirical models, namely not to extrapolate outside the range of the observable data. Therefore, this empirical extrapolation results in large uncertainties, both from a statistical and from a biological point of view. At present no single mathematical procedure is recognized as the most appropriate one for low-dose extrapolation in carcinogenesis. The mathematical models that have been used to describe the relation between the administered external dose, the time and the tumour incidence are based on either tolerance-distribution or mechanistic assumptions, and sometimes based on both. A summary of the most frequently cited models (Kramer et al. 1995) is listed in table 2.

Table 2. Frequently cited models in carcinogen risk characterization

Tolerance distribution models Mechanistic models  
  Hit-models Biologically based models
Logit One-hit Moolgavkar (MVK)1
Probit Multihit Cohen and Ellwein
Mantel-Bryan Weibull (Pike)1  
Weibull Multistage (Armitage-Doll)1  
Gamma Multihit Linearized Multistage,  

1 Time-to-tumour models.

These dose-response models are usually applied to tumour-incidence data corresponding to only a limited number of experimental doses. This is due to the standard design of the applied bioassay. Instead of determining the complete dose-response curve, a carcinogenicity study is in general limited to three (or two) relatively high doses, using the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) as highest dose. These high doses are used to overcome the inherent low statistical sensitivity (10 to 15% over background) of such bioassays, which is due to the fact that (for practical and other reasons) a relatively small number of animals is used. Because data for the low-dose region are not available (i.e., cannot be determined experimentally), extrapolation outside the range of observation is required. For almost all data sets, most of the above-listed models fit equally well in the observed dose range, due to the limited number of doses and animals. However, in the low-dose region these models diverge several orders of magnitude, thereby introducing large uncertainties to the risk estimated for these low exposure levels.

Because the actual form of the dose-response curve in the low-dose range cannot be generated experimentally, mechanistic insight into the process of carcinogenicity is crucial to be able to discriminate on this aspect between the various models. Comprehensive reviews discussing the various aspects of the different mathematical extrapolation models are presented in Kramer et al. (1995) and Park and Hawkins (1993).

Other approaches

Besides the current practice of mathematical modelling several alternative approaches have been proposed recently.

Biologically motivated models

Currently, the biologically based models such as the Moolgavkar-Venzon-Knudson (MVK) models are very promising, but at present these are not sufficiently well advanced for routine use and require much more specific information than currently is obtained in bioassays. Large studies (4,000 rats) such as those carried out on N-nitrosoalkylamines indicate the size of the study which is required for the collection of such data, although it is still not possible to extrapolate to low doses. Until these models are further developed they can be used only on a case-by-case basis.

Assessment factor approach

The use of mathematical models for extrapolation below the experimental dose range is in effect equivalent to a safety factor approach with a large and ill-defined uncertainty factor. The simplest alternative would be to apply an assessment factor to the apparent “no effect level”, or the “lowest level tested”. The level used for this assessment factor should be determined on a case-by-case basis considering the nature of the chemical and the population being exposed.

Benchmark dose (BMD)

The basis of this approach is a mathematical model fitted to the experimental data within the observable range to estimate or interpolate a dose corresponding to a defined level of effect, such as one, five or ten per cent increase in tumour incidence (ED01, ED05, ED10). As a ten per cent increase is about the smallest change that statistically can be determined in a standard bioassay, the ED10 is appropriate for cancer data. Using a BMD that is within the observable range of the experiment avoids the problems associated with dose extrapolation. Estimates of the BMD or its lower confidence limit reflect the doses at which changes in tumour incidence occurred, but are quite insensitive to the mathematical model used. A benchmark dose can be used in risk assessment as a measure of tumour potency and combined with appropriate assessment factors to set acceptable levels for human exposure.

Threshold of regulation

Krewski et al. (1990) have reviewed the concept of a “threshold of regulation” for chemical carcinogens. Based on data obtained from the carcinogen potency database (CPDB) for 585 experiments, the dose corresponding to 10-6 risk was roughly log-normally distributed around a median of 70 to 90 ng/kg/d. Exposure to dose levels greater than this range would be considered unacceptable. The dose was estimated by linear extrapolation from the TD50 (the dose inducing toxicity is 50% of the animals tested) and was within a factor of five to ten of the figure obtained from the linearized multistage model. Unfortunately, the TD50 values will be related to the MTD, which again casts doubt on the validity of the measurement. However the TD50 will often be within or very close to the experimental data range.

Such an approach as using a threshold of regulation would require much more consideration of biological, analytical and mathematical issues and a much wider database before it could be considered. Further investigation into the potencies of various carcinogens may throw further light onto this area.

Objectives and Future of CarcinogenRisk Assessment

Looking back to the original expectations on the regulation of (environmental) carcinogens, namely to achieve a major reduction in cancer, it appears that the results at present are disappointing. Over the years it became apparent that the number of cancer cases estimated to be produced by regulatable carcinogens was disconcertingly small. Considering the high expectations that launched the regulatory efforts in the 1970s, a major anticipated reduction in the cancer death rate has not been achieved in terms of the estimated effects of environmental carcinogens, not even with ultraconservative quantitative assessment procedures. The main characteristic of the EPA procedures is that low-dose extrapolations are made in the same way for each chemical regardless of the mechanism of tumour formation in experimental studies. It should be noted, however, that this approach stands in sharp contrast to approaches taken by other governmental agencies. As indicated above, the EU and several European governments—Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK—distinguish between genotoxic and non-genotoxic carcinogens, and approach risk estimation differently for the two categories. In general, non-genotoxic carcinogens are treated as threshold toxicants. No effect levels are determined, and uncertainty factors are used to provide an ample margin of safety. To determine whether or not a chemical should be regarded as non-genotoxic is a matter of scientific debate and requires clear expert judgement.

The fundamental issue is: What is the cause of cancer in humans and what is the role of environmental carcinogens in that causation? The hereditary aspects of cancer in humans are much more important than previously anticipated. The key to signifi- cant advancement in the risk assessment of carcinogens is a better understanding of the causes and mechanisms of cancer. The field of cancer research is entering a very exciting area. Molecular research may radically alter the way we view the impact of environmental carcinogens and the approaches to control and prevent cancer, both for the general public and the workplace. Risk assessment of carcinogens needs to be based on concepts of the mechanisms of action that are, in fact, just emerging. One of the important aspects is the mechanism of heritable cancer and the interaction of carcinogens with this process. This knowledge will have to be incorporated into the systematic and consistent methodology that already exists for the risk assessment of carcinogens.

 

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Contents

Preface
Part I. The Body
Part II. Health Care
Part III. Management & Policy
Part IV. Tools and Approaches
Part V. Psychosocial and Organizational Factors
Part VI. General Hazards
Part VII. The Environment
Part VIII. Accidents and Safety Management
Part IX. Chemicals
Part X. Industries Based on Biological Resources
Part XI. Industries Based on Natural Resources
Part XII. Chemical Industries
Part XIII. Manufacturing Industries
Part XIV. Textile and Apparel Industries
Part XV. Transport Industries
Part XVI. Construction
Part XVII. Services and Trade
Part XVIII. Guides