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Planning and prioritizing health and safety programs and activities: what to do when there's too much to do.

Moser R Jr.
Effective management of health and safety programs: a practical guide, 3rd edition. Moser R Jr., ed. Berverly Farms, MA: OEM Press, 2008 Mar; :19-37
In order to be effective, managers must be able to plan and prioritize their units' activities. They must then organize people and other resources to accomplish the planned programs. This chapter considers some planning and prioritization aspects, Chapter 4 discusses planning for emergency events, Chapter 5 addresses methods of implementing plans, and Chapter 6 focuses on organizational factors, including the position of some health and safety programs in a few typical organizations. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS: Planning should be the initial step in developing or modifying a health and safety program. A misstep of many managers is to simply keep doing what has always been done. In my experience, this is particularly likely when a manager moves to a new position; however, it may also occur in many long-running programs. The numerous pressing demands that the manager faces, including crises, heighten this tendency to continue in-place activities. It also is not unusual to experience resistance to planning on the part of other health and safety members. If it is done effectively, planning takes time, and this requirement often means that other work is deferred to the point that significant extra effort is necessary to remain current with day-to-day challenges. Those who have seen extensive time and effort spent on developing plans that are then placed in thick three-ring binders that are not touched until the next planning cycle are, not surprisingly, prone to be quite vocal in their resistance to planning efforts. Another stumbling block is the difficulty of responding to variable, rapidly changing challenges and opportunities, particularly in regard to disaster planning, wherein a typical comment is "No disaster will ever folIow a plan, so why plan?" The questioner is quite correct that a disaster will not follow a plan. However, in my own experience in disaster response situations or evaluating them, it has been apparent that health and safety units with a well-developed and practiced plan were able to respond in a coordinated, organized, and effective way. These units also responded readily to the rapidly changing situations that typically occur during disasters. Conversely, groups that believed they could "play it by ear," tended to take confused, ineffective actions that not only reflected poorly on the unit but, tragically, resulted in life-threatening treatment delays. The next chapter considers disaster planning aspects in more detail. The point is that if planning can produce beneficial results in a disaster situation, it should be of even more value to health and safety programs in more normal settings. As Mackay [1] and others have noted, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." Basic concerns in planning are "Where are we going and how are we going to get there?" As Covey observes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it is important to "Begin With the End in Mind" and "Be Proactive" [2]. Clearly defining the outcomes and priorities for the health and safety program, and stipulating how the results are to be achieved, are crucial for managers in effectively directing their organizations.
Management-personnel; Occupational-health-programs; Occupational-safety-programs; Decision-making; Training; Education; Occupational-health; Environmental-health; Work-operations; Work-organization; Emergency-response; Safety-programs; Health-programs; Behavior-patterns; Group-behavior; Group-dynamics; Disaster-planning
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Moser R Jr
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Effective management of health and safety programs: a practical guide, 3rd edition
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University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division