Experts Stress Placing Occupational Safety in the Planning Process

Engineers are told they must "lead by driving new and better solutions forward, work harder to find and identify issues, exposures and risks."

William Phillips is urging engineering professionals to include occupational safety, health and environmental issues in the first stages of planning of any project.

"You must lead by driving new and better solutions forward, work harder to find and identify issues, exposures and risks," Phillips, a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers'' (ASSE) and assistant vice president-chief safety officer for CAN, said during the "Safety by Design: Today and Tomorrow" panel discussion held at the Chicago Hilton on Friday, Feb. 22, by the Chicagoland Engineering Council as part of their National Engineering week festivities.

Phillips told the crowded room that "the spectrum of safety has to become a more significant part of the engineering discipline and core curriculum, that there needs to be a better understanding of a broader range of risk and exposures and impact of the work and solutions."

Tom Miller, a professional engineer and member of the panel, urged the audience to bring in local fire officials early in the planning process to ensure that all fire risks, precautions and maintenance are addressed to maximize protection.

"As a fire safety professional, I urge you when building to go way beyond just meeting the basic fire code for the sake of the residents, the workers and everyone involved," Miller said.

In addition to preplanning safety, panel members discussed the significance of the recent acts of terrorism on food, airline and nuclear safety.

Dr. Peter Slade of the National Center for Food Safety and Technology noted that in the past two years the center, also supported by the Food and Drug Administration, has come up with an Operation Risk Management program to protect America''s food from "agriterrorists." The protection begins at the growth stage, and includes the point of selling such as at supermarkets/grocery stores to food services such as restaurants and company cafeterias.

"We are currently educating Illinois organizations with our program before we begin to go national," Slade said. The Center is located at the Illinois Institute of Technology (www.ncfst.iit.edu).

Brian Finlay, the business planning project manager for Exelon Nuclear Security, walked the audience through security measures for the third largest nuclear plant in the world. He discussed the pre- and post-September 11th safety measures and noted that the Nuclear Energy Commission is currently reviewing all safety and security guidelines and bringing them in line with 2002, especially in light of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by planes.

Airport and airline safety is a concern, admitted experts, following Sept. 11th. An official from Chicago''s O''Hare Airport explained the security measures now mandated at each airport. Airports must have an Explosive Detection System (EDS), which costs $1 million for each unit and has an annual operating cost of $2-3 billion, in place by the end of the year. Currently, there are not enough EDSs for all the airports in the U.S. and many will have to wait until they are manufactured to install them.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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