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Borek: Training is available for small businesses

Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 10:47 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 10:51 p.m. CST

Preventing accidents and introducing renewable resource practices are important to business. Safety and sustainability increases worker safety while saving natural resources and money. However, the expertise needed may not be available on staff and the cost of obtaining outside support may not be affordable for small businesses.

Now a program is available to a provide companies in DeKalb County and northern Illinois with safety and sustainability training and consulting services free-of-charge. Companies with 100 or fewer employees may for a limited period of time secure safety and sustainability training from the Northern Illinois University Department of Technology’s Environmental Safety & Health program.

The following “packages” of services are being offered to small companies:

• Environmental sustainability assessment, program and training;

• Hazard communication assessment, program and training;

• Job safety analyses/personal protective equipment assessment, program and training; and

• Industrial and office job station ergonomics assessment.

NIU students working with highly experienced faculty will provide these services for a limited period of time – February through August of this year. This program is provided in cooperation with Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (www.imec.org).

Two pilot projects already have been completed. NIU Environmental Safety & Health students wrote a stormwater pollution prevention plan for a small company in DeKalb and helped a one-person car wash address potentially fatal electrical safety issues.

The NIU ESH team is working with business associations in reaching out to identify companies to work with. Their work will include consulting support to address the delivery of educational information which will allow the companies to carry on the work after the assignment is over. Faculty will be available via phone and email after the consultation to provide guidance.

For example, a typical Hazard Communication project would include:

• Training supervisors on Hazard Communication program management by involving them in process;

• Reviewing chemical inventory and Safety Data Sheets (formerly called Material Data Sheets);

• Preparing/updating programs to meet new OSHA regulations on Globally Harmonized System; and

• Training employees on general and job-specific chemical hazards and protection.

The faculty managing and supporting this work are highly experienced.

Theodore J. Hogan was corporate head of safety and industrial hygiene for Commonwealth Edison in the 1980s, and then a consultant to more than 400 small and large companies for 20 years before joining the faculty of NIU.

William Mills has 30 years of experience in ESH, having worked in government agencies, corporations and consulting before joining NIU.

These experienced practitioners understand the realities and limited resources of the targeted owner-operated small businesses. This perspective is designed to provide solutions that are realistic and manageable. For information about this program, contact Hogan at thogan2@niu.edu or Mills at 815-753-5366 or wmills11@niu.edu.

• Paul Borek is executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.

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