For the past year, we have been engaged in a project to develop a user-friendly, concise, easy-to-read, easy-to-translate guide for occupational health protection for owners and managers of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The sponsor of the project is the Scientific Committee on Occupational Health and Development of the International Commission of Occupational Health. ICOH President Kazutaka Kogi made a special request for such work products at the 2012 ICOH meeting in Cancun. The SC has now approved the final version of the OH Guide, at the request of Dr. Shyam Pingle, chair of the SC.
The Guide is not designed to be a textbook. It is intended to be a user-friendly introduction to walk owners and managers of SMEs through the initial steps of meeting their responsibilities to protect their employees. It seeks to raise awareness, to improve understanding, and to demonstrate that protecting the health of workers does not break the business. The assumption is that they will then “graduate” to a more advanced book, assign someone to study this in depth, or hire someone qualified to do this.
Our objective is to disseminate it in-country through employer confederations, trade associations, NGOs, institutes, and, particularly, large companies that can pass it on to their local suppliers, contractors, and vendors. The Guide is not really written for the US or OECD countries generally – it is designed primarily for developing and middle-income countries. Although the OH Guide itself will not be enough, it is difficult to see how progress can be made without having the OH Guide or something like it as a convenient, inexpensive, and easily accessible resource.
There are proposals to translate it into several languages and we are following up on those. We hope to collect information on the experiences that these pilot projects have with the Guide and to share them so that all users can benefit. Several years ago, a team of my students who had global health experience put together a guide to OHS for owners and managers of small enterprises in developing economies. It was intended to be simple, practical, and accessible. They did a good job (and earned high marks in my course). The students have all graduated and gone on to good careers but they are interested in follow up and would like to make their contribution to global occupational health.
The students wanted very much to see their work used in practice but the original guide was only used once outside the classroom, for a training seminar for health workers in New Guinea. It was found to be very useful, although that was not originally the target audience. It is not too early to begin thinking of dissemination strategies. We will still need help in forming a dissemination plan. Specifically:
- How to identify non-governmental organizations that are interested in adopting the Guide, translating it into the local language and reproducing it for their communities, and are willing to give us feedback on how it was used?
- How to identify governmental organizations, including occupational health agencies but also economic development agencies, that are interested in adopting the Guide, translating it into the local language and reproducing it for their communities, and are willing to give us feedback on how it was used?
- How to identify international organizations that are interested in making the Guide available to their partners and clients, and are willing to give us feedback on how it was used?
- How to identify large corporations that are interested in adopting the Guide and are making it available to their contractors, suppliers, and vendors, and that are willing to give us feedback on how it was used?
Note the recurring emphasis on “willing to give us feedback on how it was used”. We know that rigorous evaluation is difficult but we will need some indication of the impact the Guide will be having.
One task in support of this will be to produce a hard-copy prototype of the Guide (properly formatted) to demonstrate how it can be disseminated in the community. That won’t be expensive but will require a little seed funding. We are not talking about publishing it in large numbers in hard copy (although that may be most appropriate for translations), just creating some samples for others to use in their organizations for making adoptions and dissemination decisions.
Download the report HERE.