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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

TMI: Is there such a thing as Too Much Information for environmental monitoring?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jun 20, 2011 7:25:00 AM

by Barbara Alves

It’s funny, let’s face it. Someone shares some tawdry detail about their personal life and we wince. TMI…please just keep it to yourself! We chuckle or shake our heads. In reality, information equals power. The more we know, the better decisions we can make. If we have only half the important details, we will make weak decisions.

Let’s use some history to drive this home. Although the Allied Forces ultimately won WWII, overconfidence from the D-Day invasion and the quickness with which the Allies pushed the Germans eastward across France, caused Eisenhower to underestimate the tactical abilities and determination of Hitler’s army. This resulted in the disastrous Operation Market-Garden in the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. Because of lack of current data in the Market-Garden strategy, the Allies were not in Berlin by the end of 1944 as they expected. Instead, by December of 1944 the Germans had broken through into the Allies' line of advance in the Ardennes and caught us ill-prepared. Poor intelligence cost tens of thousands of lives.

This is perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of “not enough information”, but it makes the point. Amazingly, with the communication capabilities of today’s wireless, cellular, Internet and other “instantaneous” technologies, many choose NOT to use this power to gather all the project information that they can get. Like an ostrich with it head in the sand, if they don’t know something, they feel that they don’t have to react or worse, be held accountable. This “ignorance is bliss” type of decision-making is often the primary reason people make the choice to NOT implement real-time environmental monitoring on construction and remediation sites. “If we don’t know that it’s dangerous, than it must be ok, right?” Sounds crazy, but it’s true!

Using a modern and proactive approach, technology is available (right now) to continuously retrieve important and fluctuating intelligence about environmental field conditions. The information is gathered and immediately transmitted wirelessly to smart phones, PDAs, PC and laptops – all accessible by the Internet for all authorized viewers. And the data keeps rolling in throughout the project’s life cycle. What power!  To be able to make an immediate decision (or better yet, a correction) from a remote location and save time, expense, and ultimately, human health.

And what about the ability to review, store and retrieve project environmental data, which was collected over a period of time, for comparison or trending?  Super powerful! This can only result in better planning. Adding better decision-making abilities to better planning capabilities should ultimately result in doing a better job, a cleaner site and healthier workers. Who wouldn’t want that?  So the real question is, if an environmental monitoring system is NOT collecting reliable, real-time data, aren’t you really just making anecdotal decisions based on guesstimates instead of a foundation of actual data?

Many historians feel that Eisenhower’s planning of Operation Market-Garden was anecdotal because it was based on what the Allied Forces experienced coming out of Normandy. It was certainly wrong. Historians also believe that what turned the war around was the unbelievable ability our forces had to assess the real-time intelligence they gathered as they were “living in the field of battle” to make tactical decisions and outsmart the enemy.

If real-time, reliable data is available to help you make good, solid decisions, get it and use it. You will do a better job and make fewer mistakes. Information is power and you can NEVER have too much of it.  How have you used TMI to develop a better project or framework?
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Topics: indoor air quality, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, Air Monitoring, Hazardous Waste Management, Air Sampling, construction, remediation, technology, environmental monitoring, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, perimeter monitoring, air montoring

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