The evolution of EHS systems and the pivotal role Intelex continues to play

On last week’s EHS This Week podcast JP and I talked about the new OSHA National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Isocyanate. If you listened you know that Isocyanate is one of the chemicals that was responsible for the devastation in Bhopal in 1984 that left an estimated 20,000 dead and hundreds of thousands injured, with many of them being permanently disabled. 

It reminded me how infrequently we here at Intelex talk about that catastrophic event despite the fact that our company history is deeply ingrained in the story. With almost 30 years between the tragedy and today I suppose it is to be expected that the close tie is all but forgotten.

I thought I’d use this post to remind the Intelex community of the role we have played in helping companies ensure the safety of their employees and in mitigating the occurrence of horrific tragedies such as the one in Bhopal in 1984.

I won’t go through the details of the tragedy, there is an article on Wikipedia that gives a thorough account of what happened. I’ll start from where Intelex became involved which happened a couple of years after the disaster when the industrial gases division of Union Carbide (then called Linde, now called Praxair) recognized that the paper-based environment, health and safety (EHS) management system  they had developed after the tragedy was insufficient to handle the increasing complexity of their operations.

Linde approached Intelex co-founder Ted Grunau to build a DOS-based EHS system to help manage the volume and complexity of EHS information that they generated and shortly after granted Grunau and partner Andy Jaine the right to re-sell the technology to other companies. *Believe it or not we still have a few clients who love that old DOS-based system and use it to this day!

Intelex was officially founded in 1992 and found moderate interest across Canada and the United States. There were two pivotal moments in our history that powered our growth by ensuring companies could fully leverage the system; moving to the “cloud” in 2000 (back then we just called it the internet!) and the development of a technology called iForms (now called Application Builder) in 2005. Finally companies could easily access their data from locations virtually anywhere in the world with an Internet connection and the software was flexible enough to allow them to configure it to map to existing processes in their organizations.

We’ve continued to grow at an average of 40% per year since 2004 and owe that to an incredible community of employees, clients and partners. But lets get back to the original point of the post which was to look at how EHS systems have progressed since 1984 when the worst industrial disaster in history shone a spotlight on the need for formal EHS systems.

Well, data from NIOSH indicates that occupational fatalities in the USA for the period 1980-1984  occurred at an average annual crude rate of 8.8/100,000. If you look ahead to today – that rate came in at 3.5 for 2011 according to the US Bureau for Labor Statistics. While I know we can’t take all the credit for those improvements, it certainly shows how the field of health and safety had matured over the last few decades and as an Intelexian, it makes me proud to be part of a company and an industry that helps ensure that an increasing percentage of workers arrive home safe every day.


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