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Providence, Rhode Island Area Office Increases Effectiveness by Using E-Mail

Reaching target audiences with important information in a timely manner is a goal of all OSHA Regional and Area Offices. In 2002, the Region I Area Office in Providence, Rhode Island started using e-mail contact groups as an aid to communicate with its stakeholders in order to reach them as quickly as possible. In 2001, Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS) Maryann Medeiros in the Providence Area Office thought using e-mail would be beneficial so she discussed the idea with then-Area Director Kipp Hartmann, since retired, who agreed that this would be a good outreach tool. As a result, Maryann collected the names of their stakeholders and organized them into e-mail contact groups in Microsoft Outlook. Now, when OSHA or another organization publishes information that would be useful to any or all of these groups, she sends the information to the appropriate groups via e-mail.

According to Maryann, setting up the groups was not difficult; in fact, the effort was fairly minimal. She set them up in Outlook using the Contacts section, and currently has 12 groups. One group has the name of one contact person from of each of the organizations in Rhode Island (RI) that make up the RIght Safe Coalition-a group of the major occupational safety and health organizations in the state (including the RI Safety Association, the Workers Compensation Employers Association, the OSHA 21(d) Consultation program, the RI Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health, the RI Workers Compensation Education Unit, the Ocean State Section of the Greater Boston Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers). The other 11 groups are construction, long-term care, hospitals, universities, occupational nurses, general industry, chambers of commerce, human resources, safety consultants, temporary employment agencies, and infection control. The groups, which range in size from a few to about 45 members, are not static--members may be added or deleted at any time.

Interested parties have an opportunity to join a group when they come to a compliance assistance event. For example, during an event with long-term care organizations, representatives (employer representatives, employee representatives and association representatives) from related fields learned about the nursing home e-mail group and asked to have their e-mail addresses included in the distribution list for that group.

Recently, Maryann has sent e-mails to:

  • The construction group when the Miller Company issued a product recall for fall protection equipment. The group also received a link to English and Spanish training materials available on Oregon OSHA's website.
  • The hospital safety directors about misleading respirator labeling.
  • The RIght Safe Coalition group to notify them of a Region I Alliance with the New England Disaster Recovery Information Exchange. One of OSHA's roles in the Alliance was informing employers of the existence of this organization, which could send them information about emergency preparedness and response.
  • The construction group when a general contractor sent an accident investigation report about an explosion in duct work under construction. The contractor wanted to share the information with others so that a similar accident might be prevented. Maryann forwarded a summary of the report.
  • Many e-mail groups about a voluntary recall on a particular Kidde industrial fire extinguisher. A Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) participant in Maine informed the regional VPP manager about the recall; he relayed the information to Maryann, who obtained a copy of it from the Kidde Web site and sent it out.
  • The construction group when OSHA issued a Safety and Health Information Bulletin on excavator buckets.
  • The long-term care group when OSHA issued the Ergonomics: Guidelines for Nursing Homes. This e-mail message contained the guidelines as a pdf attachment.

These e-mails reach hundreds of people and have the potential to affect hundreds more. The Providence Area Office has found that the recipients of this electronic compliance assistance and outreach are grateful for the information, as evidenced by responses such as "thank you - great information" from a safety director or a call from someone asking to be added to one of the group contact lists.

For more information, please contact Maryann Medeiros.

As of December 2005.

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