Escape from excellence - an NFDA exercise in futility - OPED

As of November 1, 2007, the National Funeral Directors Association entered into an agreement with Stericycle. It will be their job to operate the NFDA OSHA support line.

This job was initially manned by Jay Burnside. Jay was an embalmer and a safety consultant. Following his death, Ed Ranier, an NFDA legal council and a member of Maryland's Occupational Health and Safety board, manned the position. If there was a legal issue, Ed would give those calling their options. If the question related to a technical matter, he would refer callers to an embalmer/safety consultant.

Most of our clients belong to NFDA. We strive to be on the same page. I had a comfort level with Jay and with Ed that I do not have with Stericycle. I can only imagine why it has changed now. There probably are some financial considerations for NFDA. Casting those aside, this agreement is a disservice to funeral directors and embalmers.

I have multiple sources of information about Stericycle. They transport infectious waste for many of our customers. On Stericycle's own website, they claim to be qualified OSHA trainers for the healthcare industry. I take them at their word on that. It does not matter anyway since the funeral industry is not part of healthcare. We are part of the service industry. There are significant and substantial differences. Stericycle has a drop down menu of the standards in which they claim to have expertise. They only list two, bloodborne pathogens and hazard communication. They make no claim to having any expertise on formaldhyde, respirators, or other general industry standards. They are, as they claim, healthcare training experts for OSHA compliance.

I also have clients that used Stericycle to train their employees. Let me just say that when asked about recommendations on handling a CJD case, in every situation, the answer was a resounding, "Duh?" When asked about "Mad Cow Disease" it was the same. When asked about "Flesh Eating Virus", you guessed it.

These are the types of questions an experienced embalmer/safety consultant would know about. It is my understanding that Stericycle representative will not be a funeral director/embalmer or lawyer. OSHA recognizes the value of using industry experts to familiarize those working in the industry about work hazards. They endorse the concept. Apparently, the NFDA does not. They looked right past 50,000 embalmers to select someone without a shred of experience in our industry. By doing this, NFDA inadvertently made a statement about what they think of their membership.

There is something woefully inconsistent about NFDA going outside of the industry to service our industry. In states all over the country, funeral directors are lobbying to limit first calls to licensed funeral directors and embalmers. We say public health demands it. Now here comes NFDA and they select a non-embalmer to instruct embalmers on occupational safety issues. Lastly, I have to wonder what the chances are that Stericycle's training will advise funeral homes that they have an option of disinfecting infectious materials with bleach. This saves the funeral home more than discounted Stericycle rates. Let me take that back. I do not wonder about it. Instead I'm promising you it won't happen. NFDA members might learn from it and save from it, but NFDA and Stericycle would not earn from you using this cost saving alternative.

For the record, Compliance Plus did not seek the OSHA support line appointment. I did inquire about it after Jay Burnside died, but I withdrew my request over two years ago.

I considered Ed Ranier an honest broker. He gave callers their options on legal issues and if they needed technical advice, he gave them multiple sources. Ed was not mindful of which way earned the association the most money. In a perfect world, that is not a consideration. But I'm not perfect, and I don't hold NFDA to that standard.

At some point though, it has to be about qualifications. What we have here is a company that does not even claim to have training expertise outside of the healthcare industry being designated as the expert for an entire industry. They are now your expert. This was done by the association who has the job of protecting your interest. It isn't happening. Put Bill O'Reilly's book, "Who's Looking Out for You" on your Christmas wish list. It's apparent the NFDA has stopped. Oh, Howard C. Rather, we miss you indeed.

Note! 2008 OSHA Renewal Training CD's from Compliance Plus are now available. The price per CD is $125.00. Order online at or call us at (800) 950-1101.

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