How Smart Managers Create World-Class Safety, Health, & Environmental Programs

By Charlotte A. Garner, CSP.

Published by ASSE; phone (847) 699-2929; 2004, hardcover, 295 pp.; $84.95 members; $93.95 AIHA/ACHMM members; $96.95 list. ISBN 1-885581-48-3. Order #4406.

This easy-to-read, well-organized book drew me in as though I were reading The Lord of the Rings. This may sound silly, but I truly found it difficult to put this book down until I had finished reading it. I was drawn into the discussion of integrating business into our objectives as professionals. I don't mean business as financial principles, although some compelling numbers are presented. Rather, this book is wide ranging in its use of business principles, quoting the likes of Tom Peters, Steven Covey, Peter Drucker and W. Edwards Deming—some of my favorite organization and leadership authors. As I read, I found myself saying, “I could do that in my next safety meeting presentation.” This book gives SH&E managers the background to discuss SH&E from a business perspective with top executives rather than in safety jargon and difficult-to-understand incidence rates and LTIs.

SH&E books need to be loaded with tools that readers can use to enliven their programs. This book is replete with such tools, in both the text and the appendixes.

It takes the reader on a journey of how to improve an SH&E program under the auspices of OSHA's VPP. Even if participation is not the desired goal, many of the principles apply to anyone implementing SH&E in any size organization, from “mega-major” to “mom-and-pop.”

This text broaches strategic planning, a subject that is rarely covered due to the day-to-day brush fires SH&E professionals face. When caught in “the tyranny of the urgent,” these ongoing important items are often neglected. This book espouses the many benefits of strategic planning and how to incorporate it into company objectives. The suggested methods are not always self-evident.

Garner's book speaks precisely to gap analysis, a process whereby you assess where you are and where you want to be, followed by how to get to there. This is often a gray area, but this book provides clarity and gives form and function to the terms. This tool is useful no matter the initiative involved—ISO 9000, PSM, RMP or VPP.

The chapter on continuous improvement is also well-written. Based on noted business authors, this chapter seamlessly weaves in SH&E themes and discusses how we can continually improve our programs once the train has been built and is running. SH&E needs to keep pace with the times and change—often on a daily basis; this book provides mechanisms for doing just that.

My favorite chapter refers to the future. I agree with the viewpoints the author espouses. Garner indicates that SH&E professionals need to keep up with technology, economic trends and regulatory changes. The book also stresses the need to manage an SH&E program the same way personnel and production systems are managed. What you say must match what you do as you improve the corporate culture. Principles and values last forever.

I strongly recommend this book to SH&E managers who are trying to make a “step function” improvement in their programs. The gap analysis detailed will allow you to benchmark where you are, where you want to be and how to strategically plan how to get there. Once the strategic plan is completed, this book also answers the question “What next?” So, if you are twiddling your thumbs after five years of integrating the programs, this book offers many suggestions for moving to the next level. This book would be an excellent addition to any SH&E professional's library. As the old saying goes, “You manage things and lead people.” This book will help you do precisely that.

Mark D. Hansen, P.E., CSP, CPEA, CPE