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Dissolving Complex Occupational Health and Safety Problems. James E. Leemann, Ph.D. Environmental and Occupational Health Conference Sustaining the Environmental Health Workforce August 1 – 3, 2001 Renaissance Madison Hotel Seattle, Washington. Sustaining the Environmental Health Workforce.

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Dissolving Complex Occupational Health and Safety Problems

James E. Leemann, Ph.D.

Environmental and Occupational Health Conference

Sustaining the Environmental Health Workforce

August 1 – 3, 2001

Renaissance Madison Hotel

Seattle, Washington


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Sustaining the Environmental Health Workforce

Conference Objectives:

  • New opportunities & skills to recruit, train, and strengthen the environmental health workforce

  • Integration of Research and Practice into curricula

  • Examination of environmental health competencies


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Sustaining the Environmental Health Workforce

Conference Objectives (cont’d):

  • Issues surrounding the need for diversity

  • Innovative techniques in curriculum development


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New Opportunities & Skills

Occupational Health and Safety Management II – ENHS 724

Using Systems Thinking to Dissolve Complex Occupational Health and Safety Management Problems Through

Interactive Planning


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Systems Thinking

A System is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts:

And, therefore, when a System is taken apart it losses all of its essential properties and so do its parts

This is why a System cannot be understood by only analyzing it.


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System Analysis and Synthesis

We are typically predisposed to taking systems apart and treating the parts separately. This is

a consequence of analytic thinking.

Analysis and thought are

often treated as synonyms, but analysis is

only one way of thinking; synthesis is another.


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System Analysis and Synthesis

Analysis – Focuses on structure and how things work efficiently and how to repair it when it stops working. Its product is Knowledge.

Synthesis – Focuses on function and why things operate as effectively as they do. Its product is Understanding.


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Dealing with Complex OHS Problems

  • Absolution – Ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away on its own accord.

  • Resolution – Doing something that yields an outcome that is good enough.

  • Solution – Doing something that yields or comes as close as possible to the best possible outcome, something that optimizes.

  • Dissolution – Doing something to eliminate the problem.


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Dissolving Complex Occupational Health and Safety Management Problems

Dissolving problems involves the

redesign of the entity that has the problem, or its environment, in such a way as to eliminate the problem and enable the system involved to do better in the future than the best it can do today, in a word, to idealize.


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2. Integration of Research and Practice into Curricula

Occupational Health and Safety Management II – ENHS 724

Group Research & Practice Projects

Teams range in size from 4 to 8 students


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2. Integration of Research and Practice into Curricula

Occupational Health and Safety Management II – ENHS 724

Group Research & Practice Projects

  • Implementing a PPE Program @ Silver Sutures

  • Idealized Redesign of ABC Health Services

  • Idealized Redesign of a Preactive OHS Mgnt. System

  • Integrating the Systems Thinking Approach via Standards-Based Management @ Multidiscipline Laboratories

  • Aquarians to Antiquarians – Knowledge Mngt. In the Changing ENHS Workforce


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3. Examination of Environmental Health Competencies

Core Competencies for the Effective

Practice of Environmental Health

Assessment – Research, Data Analysis and Interpretation, and Evaluation

Management – Problem Solving, Economic and Political Issues, Organizational Knowledge and Behavior, Computer/Information Technology, Reporting, Documentation and Record Keeping, and Collaboration

Communication – Education, Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Marketing


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3. Examination of Environmental Health Competencies

Occupational Health and Safety Management II – ENHS 724

Course is designed to provoke the use of all 14 core competencies through the Group Project report (40%) and presentation (20%) and the stiff requirement (40%) of class participation


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4. Issues Surrounding the Need for Diversity

Occupational Health and Safety Management II – ENHS 724

Interactive Planning

Key Premise – Interactive Planning requires that those who will be affected by or will affect the system must participate in the planning process. The process thrives on diversity of thought.


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5. Innovative Techniques in Curriculum Development

Tulane CAEPH of the Environmental Health Sciences Department in the SPHTM was established in 1994 to:

Fill a national need to link university faculty and environmental, health and safety professionals in industry and government to promote the practice of environmental health.


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5. Innovative Techniques in Curriculum Development

Tulane CAEPH activities include: 

  • Applying the public health approach to environmental and occupational health

  • Developing communication strategies to disseminate research and management information


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5. Innovative Techniques in Curriculum Development

Tulane CAEPH activities include (cont’d): 

  • Developing traditional and non-traditional educational and training formats (including distance learning technologies and computer-based learning)

  • Incorporating epidemiological and risk-based methods in environmental health science practice


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Opening Thoughts

Our Challenges:

  • To provide new opportunities and skills in environmental health courses that stimulate LEARNING in the context of today’s realities.

  • To integrate researchANDpractice into environmental health curricula.

  • To incorporate the application of environmental health competencies into all courses so that students understand the challenge of delivering superior performance.


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Opening Thoughts

Our Challenges (cont’d):

  • To present environmental health issues in a way that practitioners recognize the importance of diversity, both in thought and in the people who are dealing with the issue.

  • To constantly seek new and innovative techniques in curriculum development, both in delivery and in currency.


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