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Safety and Health Research and Design Need to Keep Pace with New Technologies Presenters Note at American Society of Safety Engineers SeminarFest

Posted in on Tue, Jan 23, 2007

Las Vegas/NV (January 23, 2007) — Safety, health and environmental (SH&E) research and design need to keep pace with emerging new technologies, presenters at the January 21-27 American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) SeminarFest seminars in Las Vegas said today.

Dan Markiewicz, MS, CSP, CIH, CHMM, president, Markiewicz & Associates Ltd in Toledo, OH, noted in his seminar, “Nanotechnology: Being Prepared for the Next Best Thing,” that “safety professionals need to be more skeptical of, dig deep into and communicate more about nanotechnology research because there is not enough research about possible risks and hazards of exposure to nanotechnology or nanoparticles. We need to be able to identify and show how to regulate possible SH&E risks.”

“Working at the nanoscale involves tremendously small measures that are hard to visualize or comprehend; and yet the technology is being developed and working at this level, without knowing what the acceptable levels of exposure are,” said Markiewicz. We are hearing about nanotechnology and the products that are coming out but very little is being said about the safety of those products. Because of the unknown risks of nanoparticles to safety, health and the environment, at least ten percent of all nanotechnology research should be devoted to SH&E issues.”

“Nanoparticle properties are what make nano research so special. A nanometer (nm) is equal to one billionth of a meter, if ten hydrogen atoms lined-up shoulder-to-shoulder all in a row that would equal a nanometer,” Markiewicz noted. “Classic laws of physics change dramatically at the atomic level. For example, in quantum mechanics, a nanoparticle can pass through a surface without altering either the properties of the surface or the nanoparticle. These are concepts that border on the edge of human comprehension.”

Dr. Michael J. Kalsher, associate professor of psychology at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, during his seminar entitled “Building Safety into the Design” said, “technology plays a crucial role in modern society by providing many benefits ranging from dramatic increases in human performance and work productivity to an enhanced quality of life. However, technology is evolving rapidly while the human thought processes remain constant. Incorporating new technology into products and environments can have unintended consequences if people’s physical and cognitive limitations are not considered as part of the product design.”

“Human Factors, which discover and apply information about human behavior, abilities, limitation and other characteristics to the design of tools, machines, systems, tasks, jobs and environments for productive, safe, comfortable and effective human use, are not always considered in the design process,” explained Dr. Kalsher. “The goal of human factors is to make tasks easier, more effective, safer and more satisfying to perform; and yet, product/equipment designers tend to focus primarily on the product and its functions—without considering the use of the product from a human point of view. Human Factors can save companies time, money and people’s lives if applied early in the design process.”

Dr. Kalsher, an expert in Human Factors, noted that to increase safety through design, designers should use the Human Factors Design Principles which include: providing a good conceptual or “mental” model of the product; making things visible—such as controls or buttons on devices; using natural mapping; providing feedback; simplifying the structure or tasks; striking a balance between knowledge in the world vs. knowledge in the head; making it easy to evaluate current state of the system; exploiting the power of constraints; designing to allow for easy recovery; and standardizing.

This week, SeminarFest participants are attending seminars on essential technical, management and skill development topics for the Safety, Health and Environmental professional, as well as certification preparation workshops for the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP) examinations. For more information on ASSE’s SeminarFest please go to www.asse.org or contact ASSE customer service at 847-699-2929 or customerservice@asse.org

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information check ASSE’s website at www.asse.org.



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