Blog is short for weblog, originally a chronological set of postings about, well, about whatever. Blogs are/were journals that were published publicly but also allowed readers to comment, read, react and in some ways affect the content. How much dialog and two way communication there was depended on the blog. Some have virtually none, although monitoring traffic and interest is one kind of reader feedback that doesn’t depend on a formal comment facility. Others are highly interactive, with lots of comment, a community feeling and vigorous discussion. The big innovation, though, was that the internet made publishing and distribution available to anyone with an internet connection for little or no cost. Conventional print media are finding out, to their rue, what this means. The landscape of publishing has changed radically.
Along with that change has come new players. Government agencies are now starting blogs, not because they didn’t have the means to publish and distribute, but because the internet has become a public venue that cannot be ignored. While all agencies have websites, they are mostly static, one-way affairs. Good if you need a specific piece of information, but no reason to come back until the next time your needs dictate. These websites are certainly no way to engage readers, but presumably that’s OK with most agencies. They don’t want to engage their readers.
But in occupational safety and health it’s important. Very important. The federal agency that researches issues in occupational safety and health is part of CDC, and is called the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). As its name indicates, it is a research agency (like the other NIH institutes), not a regulatory one. It provides the science that is used by the federal regulatory agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which is in a different cabinet department, the Department of Labor. And it now has a blog.
I took a look at it and you can, too. I hope they won’t take offense if I say that it kind of lacks what the TV and movie folks call, “production values.” Which is to say it is pretty bare bones. It looks like someone actually constructed a website from scratch. Not really necessary, these days. There are many open source or free hosted platforms that could have been used. I’d recommend it. Right now it looks pretty awful. It would not only look nicer but have more functionality.
But bare bones or not, the skeleton is there, and so, it seems is the right idea. The first post is dated November 1 and is about heart risks to firefighters. Important and interesting topic. There is a comment facility so you can talk back. The second post is almost three weeks later, November 19. It’s about truck driver safety. Another important topic. Still, I’m not going to check in often if there’s only a post every three weeks. Publishing and distributing a blog post may be almost no cost, but blogging with a frequency and content that will get readers is costly in time and effort. Trust me.
So welcome to the infant NIOSH blog.With so few public health blogs and even fewer that bring news of occupational safety and health. The late Confined Space is the exemplar here, whose mantle is being assumed by The Pump Handle. It is hard to see how an official NIOSH blog could ever assume their roles. But we can hope that it will blaze a new trail, the government agency blog. It won’t survive unless it has some upper level support. This kind of thing will be a failure if it is done “on the fly” along with a million other duties. To do it right it’s probably at least a half FTE (Full Time Equivalent).
Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. But good luck to them anyway. We’ll put them on the blogroll.