CSB Forum: Strategic Partnerships Suggested to Help Maximize Investigations

Offers of strategic partnership and the use of third-party resources to aid in accident investigations were some of the suggestions that came up during an Oct. 11 open-forum discussion hosted by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).

The forum gathered representatives from agencies such as NASA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to offer comments on and suggestions for CSB's strategic draft plan for fiscal years 2007 through 2012.

Elyce Biddle, from NIOSH's Division of Safety Research, said entering into strategic partnerships with other agencies and organizations could help CSB maximize its investigations.

"Partnering up with other organizations could help in increasing access to safety study design," she said. "Also you can could bring in investigators from other areas and learn from their strategies."

CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt welcomed the suggestion, noting that although CSB reviews some 20 accidents a year, the agency only is able to conduct six to 10 investigations a year due to limited funding and resources.

Although having a small budget could be a hindrance in getting things accomplished, it also could be a benefit, according to Owen Greulich, chief of NASA's System Safety and Quality Assurance Division. Greulich said it enables CSB to be "nimble" and look at situations from a fresh perspective.

Draft Plan Calls for More Safety Studies, Outreach

The strategic draft plan emphasizes conducting safety studies that include significant safety recommendations. The agency also plans to focus on broadly disseminating report findings, lessons learned and recommendations through agency outreach efforts.

Associations and organizations not present at the forum submitted written comments, with some - such as the American Society of Safety Engineers - raising concern about appropriate staffing levels and urging CSB to pursue voluntary safety and health professional certification.

According to a CSB spokesperson, the board currently is in the process of reviewing all written comments, which were due Sept. 28. Once the reviews have been made, CSB will choose a date to publish the final draft of the strategic plan.

Meanwhile, Merritt said CSB will "continue to explore means to report and distribute the lessons learned from our investigations in ways that fill the needs of the public and promote prevention of similar accidents elsewhere."

In the coming years, CSB "will continue to review our body of work and use the findings to focus our prevention efforts in outreach and education," she added.

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