By Magdy Akladios, Ph.D., P.E., CPE, CSHM, CSP
Magdy Akladios, Ph.D., P.E., CPE, CSHM, CSP
University of Houston-Clear Lake
Dr. Akladios is an Assistant Professor at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (2005-present), before which he was an Associate Professor at West Virginia University (1996-2005). Dr. Akladios’ education includes a PhD in Industrial Engineering, a Master’s degree in Occupational Health & Safety, a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering, an MBA, and a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering. In addition, he is also a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), a Professional Engineer (PE), a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE), a Certified Safety & Health Manager (CSHM), and a Certified Member of the Egyptian Syndicate for Mechanical Engineers. He is also a member in the Industrial Engineers' Honorary Society (Alpha-Pi-Mu).
He is an experienced and capable researcher and educator with specific knowledge concerning a wide variety of occupational safety and health programs in general, and in ergonomics in specific. He has acted as PI and Co-PI for a number of grants and projects. He has also been involved in curriculum development, authoring book chapters and professional journal articles, and website development and maintenance. Dr. Akladios is also involved with non-credit and continuing-ed centers such has (Texas Engineering Extension (TEEX), and the College of the Mainland (COM).
Chemical hazards and methods to relate these hazards to workers, managers, and designers have puzzled safety scientists for decades. In 1984, a major catastrophic event in Bhopal, India, caused a strong push for what is now known as the “Right-to-know” move. In that incident, a Union Carbide unit was a source for a significant release of a Methyl-Iso-Cyanate (MIC) cloud that resulted in around 3,000 fatalities, and over 80,000 mild to severe reactions due to the exposure. As a result, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) introduced the Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) as an emergency standard. Under that, then, new standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) OSHA mandated that all users of chemicals should maintain what is now called the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). OSHA defines MSDS as a tool to “… provide comprehensive technical information, and serve as a reference document for exposed workers as well as health professionals providing services to those workers.” MSDSs are produced by chemical manufacturers and importers. Information provided by a typical MSDS includes manufacturer information, hazardous ingredients, physical data, fire and explosion hazard data, health hazard data, reactivity (instability) data, spill or leak procedures, special protection information, and special precautions. MSDSs gave workers and safety managers’ valuable information to deal with chemicals. Hence, MSDS became a valuable tool to a variety of personnel.
Like chemicals, man-machine interaction tools have become complex due to technological advances. Even with training aimed at satisfying compliance requirements, this complexity has increased the level of risk to which workers are being exposed. Furthermore, while it is important to maintain accuracy, completeness, and the latest information, other aspects such as training, emergency response, and better readability, are also significant. As a result, identification and assessment of associated hazards has also been increasing in complexity. In an attempt to manage these safety concerns, information sheets simulating MSDS for chemicals, were first introduced. These are called Technology Safety Data Sheets (TSDS). Their aim is to capture and relate a concise abstract of technical information and provides it in a user-friendly format to workers, technology, equipment, or processes designers, as well as safety manager. TSDS utilizes information concluded from existing hazard analysis techniques such as What-If, Checklist, What-If/Checklist, Hazard and Operability Study (HAZOP), Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), and Job Safety Analysis (JSA). Other origins of TSDS include Process Safety Management (PSM).
Just as MSDSs provide chemical hazard information to different audiences in one format, a standardized TSDS has a similar role as a communication tool to be used by a variety of audience such as visualization and description of the technology, process or task, and incorporation of hazard assessment in which the worker is going to be involved in; and description of a variety of situations arising throughout a system life cycle, from cradle-to-grave.
If mandated, TSDS development can be taught at engineering schools to familiarize and educate non-safety professionals on safety issues at an early stage of their careers. These non-safety majors typically graduate without any knowledge or formal training in safety and health issues. If trained on the development of TSDS, these new engineers can set the stage for the understanding of safety and health concerns as they take on bigger and more important responsibilities.
The manner by which we view technologies have changed dramatically in the past centuries. From the invention of the wheel to airplanes and space flights, engineers have been a crucial and integral part of these technologies. These inventions, while advanced the human race, it came at a price that has been paid in blood.
Speed of travel have changed from mere walking to horse pulled carts then to cars, and finally to the space shuttle that can travel at a speed of up to 17,500 miles per hour (NASA Archive, 2004). Weight limits of transportation have changed from a fraction of a ton pulled by a horse to thousands of tons being flown over large bodies of water. Transfer of information increased from a few words sent by pigeons to extended messages sent in an instant across email. Most of our day-to-day activities have now become more and more automated. People can now live 50 miles away from work and still make it on time every morning.
These technologies gave us time, speed, convenience, an enormous mass of production, and a lot of information. The past few decades, especially, saw technologies improve in leaps and bounds (Brauer, 2006). Computers have made our inventions much more useful, and a lot more frequent. This, however, took away our patience. People no longer have the patience to wait for a file to download at a speed of 56 KB/s, we want our downloaded material at the speed of light. This gave way for the invention of fiber optics. Other inventions came as a result of our impatience.
Inventions, while advanced the human race, it came at a price that has been paid in blood. This is partially because engineers and designers are being taught and trained to focus on the vision of a final outcome or approach, but not the process. It is not because of lack of ethics on behalf of engineers or designers, but because of lack on knowledge of essential safety and health information.
Causes of accidents are divided into three major categories: (a) unsafe acts of people;
(b) unsafe physical or mechanical conditions; and (c) acts of God (floods, hurricanes, etc.). While accidents caused by unsafe acts of people are considered the majority of all accidents, 10% of all accidents are caused by unsafe conditions, while only 2% are considered acts of God (Heinrich, 1980). Unsafe conditions include:
Accidents caused by unsafe conditions are considered preventable if processes or equipment were designed and implemented probably. This falls on the designing engineer. In addition, failure to recognize these unsafe conditions also falls on engineers who lack the safety knowledge. Currently, there are a few people practicing safety in this country, only a small portion of them have an engineering background. Furthermore, a smaller group of engineers have any formal education in safety (Talty, 1985).
While this problem was widely recognized, there were few attempts by efforts by organizations such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). NIOSH, in 1980, developed a project called SHAPE for Safety and Health Awareness for Preventive Engineering (NIOSH). Other attempts were carried out by Universities around the country such as Ohio State University, Tufts University, Purdue University, Georgia Institute of Technology, however, these attempts were lacking due to the lack of interest of faculty and the already over crowding of engineering curricula. NIOSH has also attempted to contract with the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET). Furthermore, they also attempted to contract authors of engineering books to add some safety material into their books, and engineering faculty to provide them with some level of safety backgrounds (Talty, 1985). While these efforts are commendable, their fruits are yet to be reaped.
We live in a civilized society where almost everything is governed by rules. To function in society, one must abide by these sets of rules. Where rules lack, codes and society expectations take over. However, we still fail to recognize root causes of certain problems. We continue to attempt to fix a given problem by promulgating and implementing more rules. However, in a profession such as engineering, providing safety should be an ethical issue. According to the fundamental canons of the code of ethics of professional engineers, engineers should “…hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public…” (NSPE). While engineers strongly believe in this, they fall short of complying with safety rules due to lack of knowledge.
It wasn’t until 1984 that OSHA focused its attention on chemical hazards. It took a major catastrophic event in Bhopal, India to start the push for the “Right-to-know” move. In this incident, a Union Carbide unit was a source for a significant release of a Methyl-Iso-Cyanate (MIC) cloud that resulted in around 3,000 fatalities, and over 80,000 mild to severe reactions due to the exposure. OSHA’s resolve was to introduce the Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) standard (29 CFR 1910.1200). According to this standard, OSHA mandated that all users of chemicals should maintain what is now called the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) (Akladios, et al, 2007).
OSHA defines MSDS as a tool to “… provide comprehensive technical information, and serve as a reference document for exposed workers as well as health professionals providing services to those workers...” (OSHA). These documents are produced by chemical manufacturers and importers to give workers and safety managers valuable information while handling these chemicals. Hence, MSDS became a valuable tool to a variety of personnel.
Information provided by a typical MSDS includes manufacturer information, hazardous ingredients, physical data, fire and explosion hazard data, health hazard data, reactivity (instability) data, spill or leak procedures, special protection information, and special precautions. Therefore, in order for MSDS users to understand the document, they would have had to have some training or education on other safety and health terms and limitations such as TLV’s (Threshold Values that are provided by the American Conference for Governmental Industrial Hygienists-ACGIH), PEL’s (Permissible Exposure Levels that are mandated by OSHA), LC50/LD50 (Lethal Dose/Lethal Concentrations that killed 50% of the animals tested in the lab), etc. Other terms and safety-related expressions such as Carcinogenic, Routes of Entry, Inhalation, Chemical Reactivity, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment and clothing), EPA regulations (Environmental Protection Agency as they relate to disposal procedures), Flammability, Flash Point, etc.
Likewise, a tool that teaches engineers and users about safety during the design phase is a must. But first, one must gauge the amount of knowledge and safety information that is being taught to undergraduate engineering students in our schools.
To gauge the amount of safety information that engineers need to learn, we need to better understand what these engineers are being taught exactly. Therefore, curriculum from around the country is collected. Due to practicality reasons, a representative sample of curriculum from the top three colleges in the US offering the top five most popular (highly demanded) programs graduating the most number of students in these disciplines were considered using the following assumptions:
The United States alone graduates a large number of engineers in close to 300 disciplines. Some of which are closely related to each other. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2004, there were 1.4 million graduates in all fields, out of which 64,680 were engineers (4.6%) graduating with a BS degree (Table 1). There were seven disciplines that were most prominent (highest number of BS graduates). For the purpose of this study, only the top five disciplines will be considered. These are I. Electrical Engineering, II. Mechanical Engineering, III. Civil Engineering, IV. Chemical Engineering, and V. Industrial Engineering. These disciplines are responsible for graduating 84% of all engineers in the US.
Table 1: Number of Graduating Engineers in 2004
|I. Electrical Engineering||
|II. Mechanical Engineering||
|III. Civil Engineering||
|IV. Chemical Engineering||
|V. Industrial Engineering||
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Other statistics showing the number of engineers graduating with a doctorate degree, Master’s degree, Associates degree, or professional certification roughly showed the same percentage (3.4%) of engineers (108,332) to the total graduating population in the US (3,200,812).
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) data showed that there is a total of 1,624 engineering programs in the US. The top five of these disciplines were I. Electrical Engineering, II. Mechanical Engineering, III. Civil Engineering, IV. Chemical Engineering, and V. Industrial Engineering (Table 2). These five had 985 programs, or 61% of all the engineering programs in the US.
Table 2: Number of Engineering Programs by Discipline
Type of Program
|I. Electrical Engineering||
|II. Mechanical Engineering||
|III. Civil Engineering||
|IV. Chemical Engineering||
|V. Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering||
Source: Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
Statistical calculations showed that there is a positive correlation (r = 0.174) between number of students graduating with a BS in a particular discipline of engineering and the number programs offering these disciplines.
According to the U.S.News, the following colleges were ranked as the 2006 top three colleges in each of the top five most demanded and supplied fields of engineering. Curricula from these schools were studied for indications of teaching safety and health-related topics as follows:
I. Electrical/Electronic/Communications Engineering
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: None.
2. Stanford University: Only one word in the entire curriculum that is part of the ABET objectives under “Preparation for the Profession”
3. University of California, Berkeley: None.
II. Mechanical Engineering
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: : None.
2. Stanford University: None.
3. University of California, Berkeley: Safety was part of the following course:
III. Civil Engineering
1. University of California, Berkeley: Safety was part of the following courses:
2. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: Safety was mentioned in the following courses:
3. Stanford University: Safety was part of the following courses:
IV. Chemical Engineering
1. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology: Safety was part of the following courses:
2. Cooper Union: None.
3. Rowan University: Safety was part of the following courses:
V. Industrial Engineering
1. Lehigh University: None.
2. Hofstra University: None.
3. Kettering University: Safety was part of the following course:
In addition, to further determine the level of safety-related education to engineering disciplines in the US, the top 5 colleges with the “Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs” in 2007 (in all engineering disciplines at these Universities) were also considered (U.S. News, 2006). The following table indicates these schools and the safety-related education.
Table 3: 2007 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
|Rank||School||# of Under Graduate Safety-related Courses|
|1||Harvey Mudd College||None|
|2||Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (IN)||-One mention of safety in the capstone for Biomedical & Mechanical Engineering Program (only handles safety in terms of ethics, and not knowledge)
-One course in Chemical Engineering Program
-No safety in Civil, Computer, or Electrical Engineering Programs
|3||Cooper Union (NY)||-No mention of safety in any of their Engineering programs|
|4||United States Military Academy (NY): West Point||-1 credit seminar in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering Programs that may handle safety among other topics, and not as a separate topic|
|5||United States Naval Academy (MD)||-Out of 5 engineering programs, only 1 (Electrical Engineering) has a project course with safety as a factor in design (Factor of Safety)|
From the above list, in addition to others, only military schools had some curriculum related to safety in their “cap-stone” requirements (Jenkins, 2002).
Furthermore, while the Code of Ethics for Engineers and the Accreditation Board of Engineering & Technology (ABET) schools criteria for accreditation of engineering programs (2007-2008) includes safety and health as part of their objectives, it doesn’t specify how these engineers should gain that knowledge about safety.
As part of its criteria objectives, ABET has the following sentence about Safety and Health:
Most of the safety-related courses were found in Civil Engineering. A few had some in Chemical engineering. This is due in part to OSHA’s Process Safety Management standards (29 CFR 1910.119). Other mention of safety came as part of the general cap stone projects, or part of ABET objectives, but not in the curriculum.
While Mechanical and Electrical Engineering schools are among the top engineering disciplines in terms of design, their curriculum had no or very little mention of safety. Similarly, Industrial Engineering curriculum also lacked safety except in Human Factors-related courses.
European universities have already started to integrate safety- and health-related material into their curriculum. This was done in collaboration with industry and college (Lemkowitz, 1992).
Many attempts have been made to introduce safety- and health-related material to engineering students. These attempts included requiring an added course to engineering students, but the overcrowding of their curricula prevented that from happening. Another attempt was to add a safety and health course to the curriculum as an elective. However, according to Tufts University, only a few students were found to have taken the course. Finally, it was found that the best attempt was to inject safety and health as a topic into existing courses. This seemed to have had the best result (Rossignol, et al, 1990). A tool that can do this must include enough interest, yet simple enough to follow should be used.
Just like an MSDS, a similar analytical document attached to each technology should be mandated. These documents have been in development for emerging technologies and have been supported by the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. These sheets are called the “Technology Safety Data Sheets” or TSDS.
A typical TSDS should include nice sections as follows (IUOE, 2002):
SECTION 1: TECHNOLOGY IDENTITY (Manufacturer’s Name and Address, Emergency Contact, Information Contact, Date Prepared, and Prepared by, etc.)
SECTION 2: PROCESS DESCRIPTION
SECTION 3: TECHNOLOGY DIAGRAMS OR PICTURES
SECTION 4: CONTAMINANTS AND MEDIA
SECTION 5: ASSOCIATED SAFETY HAZARDS (this includes, A. ELECTRICAL-- LOCKOUT/TAGOUT, B. FIRE AND EXPLOSION, C. CONFINED SPACE ENTRY, D. MECHANICAL HAZARDS, E. PRESSURE HAZARDS, F. TRIPPING AND FALLING, G. LADDERS AND PLATFORMS, H. MOVING VEHICLES, I. BURIED UTILITIES, DRUMS, AND TANKS, J. PROTRUDING OBJECTS, K. GAS CYLINDERS, L. TRENCHING AND EXCAVATIONS, M. OVERHEAD LIFTS, and N. OVERHEAD HAZARDS
SECTION 6: ASSOCIATED HEALTH HAZARDS. This includes, A. INHALATION HAZARD, B. SKIN ABSORPTION, C. HEAT STRESS, D. NOISE, E. NON-IONIZING RADIATION, F. IONIZING RADIATION, G. COLD STRESS, H. ERGONOMIC HAZARDS, and I. OTHER.
SECTION 7: PHASE ANALYSIS. This includes, A. CONSTRUCTION/START-UP, B. OPERATION, C. MAINTENANCE, and D. DECOMMISSIONING.
SECTION 8: HEALTH AND SAFETY PLAN REQUIRED ELEMENTS. This includes, A. AIR MONITORING, B. WORKER TRAINING, C. EMERGENCY RESPONSE, D. MEDICAL SURVEILLANCE, and E. INFORMATIONAL PROGRAM.
SECTION 9: COMMENTS AND SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS
Other sections may be added to include:
While OSHA’s intention was to educate chemical users on the effects of overexposure, the resulting side benefit was to also educate them on all these other safety issues, hence expanding their horizons to think in terms of safety.
Likewise, engineers need to be educated in terms of technological safety with a resulting side benefit of expanding their horizons to understand other safety related facts. Other benefits include catching the unsafe design and making the necessary changes or adding the safety features during the design phase not after production where a recall may be necessary, or after a major accident has occurred.
TSDS is an excellent tool to utilize because of the following reasons (Lippy, 2001):
The latest addition to TSDS was conducted by the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the form of hazard color-coding. This latest addition is an excellent enhancement since it directs the reader to focus on the most important hazards first. Less hazardous situations are also summarized on the same sheet, but are rather placed on secondary importance, as opposed to high-hazard situations.
This quantitative risk valuation and hazard rating is calculated based on Risk = Probability of occurrence (5 possible probabilities: A-Improbable, B-Remote, C-Occasional, D-Probable, and E-Frequent) X Severity (5 possible levels of severity: I-Negligible, II-Marginal, III-Critical, and IV-Catastrophic). The resulting four possible levels of Risk are Low (indicated by White), Medium (indicated by Yellow), Serious (indicated by Orange), and High, indicated by Red (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Color Coded Hazards by Severity and Probability
Source: IUP's TSDS for a Thermal Desorption technology
While engineering curricula is extremely condensed, injecting some level of safety- and health- related topics is a much needed task. The following topics should be taught to undergraduate engineers (Bryan, 1999):
Using the proposed tool, the TSDS, in a simple way to teach to engineers or at least given as a short class project will force them to research and learn the above mentioned topics just to be able to fill out the TSDS forms. This learning process may be conducted on their own as a research topic, or formally discussed in a class. It may also be taught by an online deliver method. This way, their exhaustive curriculum is not overburdened to make way for safety and health, yet they still capture the idea and the thought process of a safety professional.
In addition, engineering faculty administration should require their faculty to start to learn this tool and require them to teach it in their courses. Furthermore, ABET should consider adding this requirement as part of their accreditation procedures (Farwell, et al, 1995).
We don’t have to wait for a significant engineering-related disaster to mandate better safety education for engineers. Like MSDS is to chemicals, a tool needs to be implemented to educate technology designers and users of the potential hazards that these users maybe exposed to. During their undergraduate education, engineers need to learn these safety terms, and open their horizons to understanding safety in general.
A TSDS is a comprehensive hazard analysis tool that can be utilized at various stages of a technology, but most importantly, at the design phase. Engineering students in various disciplines must be taught the basics of analyzing a system or a technology in terms of safety using TSDS. Not only will this teach them design safely, but also will give them a broad range of knowledge and understanding of basic safety issues.