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Safety and Health for Engineers

Roger L. Brauer, Ph.D., CSP, PE

Tolono, Illinois

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Preface to the Revised Edition

Since the publication of the first and second editions of this book, some things have not changed. Today, engineers still have a moral, legal, and ethical responsibility to protect the public in professional practice and in design of products, buildings, processes, equipment, work, and workplaces. The importance of safety in engineering education remains a concern for most engineering degree programs. There is still a need for safety and health specialists who help employers, manufacturers and others to protect people, property and the environment. They must recognize, evaluate, and control hazards. They must assist management, supervisors, and workers to use safe practices so all employees return home safely each day. Yes, there is still a need for this book.

Also since the second edition, many things have changed. There are regulatory changes, changes in technology, changes in business practices, and broadening of participants in achieving safety. Perhaps the greatest changes have resulted from the Internet and its influence on information, communications, and work. While the third edition of this book reflects many such changes, it is impossible to capture all changes affecting safety. In addition, change is constant and a book cannot keep up with change. That is why this edition tries to link readers to new information resources.

Technology continues to change. Computer technology has changed the toolbox for nearly every professional field and it impacts safety practice as well. At first, personal, desktop computers took over the role of most mainframe systems. Now applications work on cell phones and tablets and allow individuals to carry tools with them in their pockets or briefcases. Technology has compressed information storage. Volumes of paper records, photographs, hard copy books, and other documents now fit into memory devices the size of a button.

Not only has the Internet offered an explosion in information and access to it, it has linked people through new devices in new ways. For nearly a century, the telephone linked places. You called a business or home. Today, cell phones and other devices link individuals wherever they are. The links offer voice, text, photos, applications, and data in ways never possible. Concurrently, a challenge for everyone is differentiating quality information from misinformation in nearly every field, including safety and health. Individuals must decide what is valid and reliable information.

Technology has changed businesses and the global economy as well. Companies no longer need layers of employees who formerly collected, processed, evaluated, and reported on business information vital to success. Anyone authorized at any organizational level can access data and reports electronically.

Today, companies organize work differently from the past. The hierarchical structure of work and its supervision has shifted to increased use of teams. The role of supervisors has shifted to team leaders with leading, coaching, and mentoring responsibilities. Work teams have increased participation in recognizing and controlling hazards related to their work, rather than reporting problems to a safety department for action.

The overall field of safety has changed. Safety and health professional work demands higher levels of education. Roles of safety and health professionals have shifted from implementing safety details to overseeing strategies, methods, and practices that achieve safety. The changing roles reflect the business practice of moving safety knowledge and skills deeper into organizations and workgroups.

There continues to be a convergence of related areas. In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States passed a range of laws to protect workers and the environment. At that time the approach was one of specialization in safety, industrial hygiene, environment science and engineering, fire protection, occupational health and nursing, and related fields. More recently, many companies have combined these functions into a single organizational unit. That increased the need for generalists while retaining a need for specialists. Since the tragedy at the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, some in safety and health have security as an additional responsibility.

Another kind of change involves laws, regulations, and standards. The regulatory system in the United States continues to assign responsibility to government units. There continues to be a shift from state and local government toward the federal level to decide how best to protect people, property, and the environment. The system relies heavily on government prescribing details in regulations and standards.

In the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, there was a shift away from central government toward risk management assigned to employers, manufacturers, and workers. In the United States, some have begun to adopt this approach.

In addition, there is a growing emphasis on management systems and a global expansion of standards for them. The shift started with general business management systems, such as those covered by ISO 9000. Now they also encompass environmental, safety, and health management systems.

An original goal for this book was helping engineers and others gain a broad, quick overview of safety and health practices. Another goal was identifying some of the detailed resources that may provide expanded help in specific topics. An additional goal was making the content easy to read and comprehend.

It has been rewarding to learn how the book continues to meet these goals. One exciting kind of feedback has been meeting people who have used this book. A number reported that the book helped them improve their understanding of safety and health. Others reported that the book remains a key reference at their desks. An exciting report was from a group of Indonesian engineers completing a special program in safety engineering at a university in the United States. They voted this book the easiest to read during that program.

Completing this third edition remains a work devoted to the love of the engineering and safety professions, even after retirement from full-time employment. While completing my education, my goal was to find ways to apply engineering for the benefit of people. With this third edition, my hope is to continue helping engineers who have an ethical and professional responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. I also hope the book helps those seeking roles in safety and health or expanding such roles.

I must continue to thank those who guided me into the safety, health, and ergonomics fields from my engineering background. Many helped motivate me to complete the first, second, and now the third editions. My greatest thanks goes to my wife, Char, who has supported my professional work over the years. I also thank my children, Michelle and David, and my grandchildren, Matt, Michaela, Nicolas, and Reagan, who also gave me support and motivation while tolerating time often stolen from or interrupting family activities.

Roger L. Brauer

Tolono, IL

Part I