Open Access Research

A hazardous substance exposure prevention rating method for intervention needs assessment and effectiveness evaluation: the Small Business Exposure Index

Anthony D LaMontagne1*, Anne M Stoddard2, Cora Roelofs3, Grace Sembajwe4, Amy L Sapp4 and Glorian Sorensen45

Author Affiliations

1 McCaughey Centre: VicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health & Community Wellbeing, Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

2 New England Research Institutes, 9 Galen St, Watertown, MA 02472, USA

3 Department of Work Environment, 1 University Ave, Lowell, MA 02130, USA

4 Center for Community-Based Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney St, Boston, MA 02115, USA

5 Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health 665 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Environmental Health 2009, 8:10  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-8-10

Published: 26 March 2009

Abstract

Aims

This paper describes the refinement and adaptation to small business of a previously developed method for systematically prioritizing needs for intervention on hazardous substance exposures in manufacturing worksites, and evaluating intervention effectiveness.

Methods

We developed a checklist containing six unique sets of yes/no variables organized in a 2 × 3 matrix of exposure potential versus exposure protection at three levels corresponding to a simplified hierarchy of controls: materials, processes, and human interface. Each of the six sets of indicator variables was reduced to a high/moderate/low rating. Ratings from the matrix were then combined to generate an exposure prevention 'Small Business Exposure Index' (SBEI) Summary score for each area. Reflecting the hierarchy of controls, material factors were weighted highest, followed by process, and then human interface. The checklist administered by an industrial hygienist during walk-through inspection (N = 149 manufacturing processes/areas in 25 small to medium-sized manufacturing worksites). One area or process per manufacturing department was assessed and rated. A second hygienist independently assessed 36 areas to evaluate inter-rater reliability.

Results

The SBEI Summary scores indicated that exposures were well controlled in the majority of areas assessed (58% with rating of 1 or 2 on a 6-point scale), that there was some room for improvement in roughly one-third of areas (31% of areas rated 3 or 4), and that roughly 10% of the areas assessed were urgently in need of intervention (rated as 5 or 6). Inter-rater reliability of EP ratings was good to excellent (e.g., for SBEI Summary scores, weighted kappa = 0.73, 95% CI 0.52–0.93).

Conclusion

The SBEI exposure prevention rating method is suitable for use in small/medium enterprises, has good discriminatory power and reliability, offers an inexpensive method for intervention needs assessment and effectiveness evaluation, and complements quantitative exposure assessment with an upstream prevention focus.