Today’s Organizations Need Educated, Safety-Focused Officers and Managers By Eric Valliere, deputy fire chief Scottsdale Fire Department In the past, safety was merely a 'check the box' activity for most organizations. The “be safe” words were put out there with no real cultural meaning behind them. In simple terms, to most it meant that ‘everyone goes home’. For example, Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) inspection items may only have been thought about when it was time for the OSHA representative to come inspect. On an emergency scene, the incident commander was responsible for safety and addressed any obvious safety issues, but never considered utilizing a specific person to address overall scene safety. The safety perspective was very limited. Very few organizations, if any, had a safety division within their organizational chart. At the time, the slowly evolving environment produced a more relaxed safety culture. The industrial hygienists had just started to realize what chemicals and toxins were out there that employees were being exposed to and what future health problems they could cause - from asbestos to mold and now the potential health risks from nanoparticles. It wasn’t that safety wasn’t important, but organizations didn’t know what they didn’t know. Today, organizations must stay ahead of the hazardous, fast-moving environmental current and find ways to deal with the toxins and chemical exposure potential. The OSHA focus must be global, actively engaging and all inclusive. It must only endorse a culture that upholds the importance of protecting their employees and customers to the highest standards. This means that everyone not only goes home, but goes home physically unharmed and healthy. To do this, employees should be motivated and empowered to keep themselves and other employees safe. These employees must be trained to evaluate potential hazards and provide ways to respond or mitigate their findings. The OSHA inspection criteria should be evaluated on a regular basis and managed actively, instead of waiting for a visit. For organizations to be successful in this new era of occupational safety and health, safety professionals must be educated in all aspects of safety and health. Whether you are in the fire service, military, or private sector, organizations need employees that are educated in all aspects of safety and health. The fire service specifically is not immune from this history and today’s reality. Emergency response requirements in any organization, including the military, is a dangerous and very hazardous endeavor. These organizations are exposed to dangers every day, whether training for the call or responding to an event. The motivation and importance of occupational safety and health is obvious. An injury or death is a real possibility in these organizations and can cause lasting emotional and financial hardships that have far reaching ramifications. It is critical for the safety and health culture to be proactive and accepted by all employees to be successful. The safety officers and managers in these organizations must engage everyday with past thought processes and old culture, to promote an ongoing paradigm shift in how safety is viewed and valued. This takes well educated safety professionals that can manage safety from the emergency scene to the normal work environment. They must be able to understand OSHA requirements, vehicle safety needs, hazardous material risk, occupational injury management and industrial ergonomics. These employees must be able to conduct accident investigations, root cause analysis, and manage the tracking and trending of accidents and injuries. This information must then be utilized to prevent future events and be shared through educational delivery to the workforce. Whether you are in the fire service, military, or private sector, organizations need employees that are educated in all aspects of safety and health. Today’s industries demand that organizations focus on employee safety, as well as the safety of their customers. An online degree in occupational safety and health from Columbia Southern University can provide that knowledge and education to allow today’s safety officers, or safety managers, to be successful in the ever changing environment to which we are all now accustomed. This degree program will give you the knowledge and ability to be successful in the occupational safety and health environment, ultimately allowing you to promote a successful safety program in your organization. It may also provide the opportunity and mobility to change industries within this career path, depending on your personal goals and objectives. Eric Valliere has been an active member of the fire service for the past 24 years. He started as a firefighter with the Mesa Fire Department (AZ) in 1991 and came to the Scottsdale Fire Department (SFD) as a battalion chief in 2005 when the department was transitioning to a municipal organization. He has been a certified paramedic since 1996 and a Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) nationally certified incident safety officer since 2004. He has a BS in Business Administration and Finance from Columbia Southern University, an AA in Business Administration and an AAS in Fire Science from Mesa Community College.