Hygienists Told to "Embrace Change"

"I'm telling organizations that if by 2004 they don't have the internal capacity to reinvent themselves every 12 to 18 months, they will not be in business."

This was the bracing message delivered yesterday (June 4) at the opening session of the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition by futurist Edward Barlow, Jr., president of the consulting firm Creating the Future, Inc. "Embracing Change" is the theme of this year's conference, held in New Orleans June 2-7.

Barlow believes the boundaries of industrial hygiene will continue to expand, encompassing safety, the environment and "social accountability." Social accountability includes such things as discrimination, working hours and compensation, community relations, discrimination, as well as the traditional fields of environmental, health and safety performance.

Barlow said that in the future companies would have to do social accountability audits in addition to traditional financial audits. He encouraged industrial hygienists (IHs) to seize this new opportunity, by expanding the boundaries of what they know, learn, and think.

"Eighty percent of what you need to know to make your business successful in the 21st century is outside your industry and field of expertise," he said. In addition, 20 percent of what we know will be obsolete in one year, he contended. Barlow then gave his audience some print and Web site resources to help them keep abreast of change, such as www.ceoexpress.com.

Barlow emphasized the challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly changing workforce and work environment. In particular, he stressed the importance of learning to adapt to a multicultural workforce in the U.S. and the enormous international opportunities presented by global trade.

"Global employment opportunities will be absolutely unbelievable," Barlow predicted. He also told his audience of the importance of learning foreign languages, because fifteen percent of the workers needed in the U.S. in the near future will be non-English speaking foreigners. Barlow foresees continued rapid growth of the U.S. Latino community, especially in manufacturing. By 2050, 25 percent of the nation will be Latino, he predicted, and referred to DiversityInc.com as a resource for this issue.

The increasing pace of change can be stressful, and Barlow pointed to recent data linking stress to higher health care costs, low productivity and turnover. A key future training need, he said, will be training people in emotional intelligence in order to manage and reduce stress in the workplace.

While the future offers tremendous opportunities to those who seize them, Barlow concluded by warning of the perils those who ignore change will face.

"Some people make things happen, others let them happen, and others ask, 'What the hell happened?'"

EHS Professionals Need to Market Accomplishments

When EHS professionals are looking for a job, they should make sure their resume reflects their accomplishments and not simply provide a list of jobs, a leading recruiter told an audience at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition in New Orleans.

"You are a brand. You have skills," said Dan Brockman of Brockman & Associates, Barrington, Ill. But he said he sees resumes every day that are "mostly a replication of duties and responsibilities. Very rarely do I see a list of achievements and accomplishments and results." However, Brockman said a long list of assignments "does not show my client you can accomplish anything. You have to have some results. Show you cut some costs, reduced citations, implemented engineering controls, cut down on workers' comp costs. These are metrics that need to be in your resume."

Other tips that Brockman had for industrial hygienists who were entering the job market:

  • Contact consulting firms and offer to be on call for them. Put together a list of 10-20 firms and you will have a full-time practice, Brockman noted.
  • Market in your own backyard. Brockman said the internet had created the belief among employers that "they can find someone local" through city-oriented job Web sites and avoid the problems with moving families. "Start looking at local industrial parks and factories and see if they need industrial hygiene services, he suggested. "Go in and ask to speak to the safety and industrial hygiene director," he said. "If they don't have one, you just found yourself a job. You can go in one day a week, three days a week, one day a month. It doesn't matter. Those people need some help."
  • Put your resume in an electronic document and have it ready at all times. "I still have a post office box, but I hope I never see another resume there again, because it is useless. A folded up resume in an envelope does me no good, because I'm not going to scan it and I can't e-mail it." He added: "Written communications using a cover letter and a folded up resume are a sign you do not know what is going on in the marketplace."

If you are laid off, Brockman advised, the first step is to survey your employer and find out if there are activities still going on that you can help with. You can go back in as a contractor and handle continuing activities such as sampling. Safety suppliers are another possible employment opportunity, he said. "Often, you can work for them because you are a good resource. You know what is going on in the market."

What about going back to school and getting a Ph.D. to bolster your job opportunities? Brockman said most companies don't want people with advanced degrees because they figure "it is too expensive." Certification, on the other hand, is "well worth the time and effort," he said.

by Steve Minter

Corn: EHS Organizations Need to Form Federation

To face future challenges head-on, environmental, health and safety (EHS) professional organizations need to form a "federation" to become a common voice, according to a speaker Monday at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition (AIHce) in New Orleans.

Morton Corn, Ph.D., B.Ch.E., CSP, president of Morton Corn and Associates, told a few hundred AIHce attendees that groups such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) may never agree to merge into one or two organizations. Yet, they should be able to form alliances and partnerships to further the cause of the EHS profession.

"A federation would signal to the rest of world that these fields are related," said Corn, whose environmental consulting and engineering practice in Queenstown, Md., provides EHS litigation support.

With one, solidified voice, Corn said, the EHS profession could combine forces to battle against such challenges as private industry suing ACGIH over its authority to issue Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Congress' use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the OSHA ergonomics standard. Instead, "we are duking it out with our colleagues" over "turf battles" as competing organizations.

Corn listed advantages to forming a federation:

  • Professional titles. If member organizations of a federation could agree on mutually beneficial certifications, it would help convey to state and local governments, as well as the public, a consistency in what the professional titles mean and their importance to the EHS field.
  • Standards development. When ACGIH is sued over its TLVs, for example, a federation would be better equipped to deal with such a challenge, especially financially, than one organization by itself.
  • Governmental affairs. A federation would increase the profession's efficiency and effectiveness in influencing governmental policies. An alliance of 50,000 EHS professionals would carry more clout than each association on its own, Corn said. "Having been in Washington, I can tell you that numbers speak."

Hank Lick, Ph.D., CIH, installed this week as AIHA president, realizes that "each organization has a unique perspective of the world" and that "sometimes it's hard to get beyond those perspectives and have meaningful conversations" about working together. Still, he said, with the convergence of the proper leadership, timing and events, it may be possible one day to seek an alliance such as a federation to further the EHS cause.

"By ourselves, each crying out in the wilderness, not too many people hear," Lick said. "If unified, people would hear us."

At this point, "pettiness" between the groups often makes their viewpoints polarized, especially concerning federal government issues, Lick said. "We really need to say that health, safety and environmental is our 'religion.' Yes, there's different ways to 'pray,' but if we don't speak out for workers, who speaks for them?"

Lick noted how progress often comes following difficult times. As a former EHS leader at Ford Motor, he noted how the auto industry turned itself around when it nearly went bankrupt several years ago. Recent setbacks in the EHS profession, he said, may help trigger a realization that the professional organizations need to work together.

"Maybe this CRA and [TLV] lawsuit business isn't so bad. Maybe through it all, we can see a new concept [such as a federation]," Lick said. "Sometimes you have to look into hell before you find Jesus."

Whether or not a federation is the "salvation" of the EHS profession, Corn said, an alliance will never work unless leadership in the professional organizations develops ways to bring the issue before their memberships. "We need some giants to step up to the plate."

by Todd Nighswonger

Global Safety Standards Are Coming, Says Johnson & Johnson's Top Safety Executive

When Arthur Williams, Jr., vice president of worldwide safety and industrial Hygiene for Johnson & Johnson, looks into his crystal ball he foresees stress and global standards as two key issues the safety and health community will be grappling with in coming years.

"I believe stress is going to be the injury of the century," predicted Arthur Williams, Jr., vice president of worldwide safety and industrial Hygiene for Johnson & Johnson.

Williams was the keynote speaker yesterday (JUNE 5) at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, which is being held in New Orleans.

Causes of higher job stress, according to Williams, include dual career families, a rising workload, and heightened job insecurity because of the changing work environment.

Williams is responsible for the health and safety of 111,000 people in 194 Johnson & Johnson companies operating in 51 countries. He said that stress, or 'well being', has already emerged as a key issue in Europe, and is likely to spread around the world.

Williams predicted that within the next five years there will be global standards for safety, and that major customers will require companies to abide by such standards. This has already happened with ISO 9000 and ISO14, 000 (environment) is next, he added.

Another key theme of his speech was the importance of IH professionals taking responsibility for the health of employees, and Williams linked this to the emergence of global standards.

"As safety professionals we must accept responsibility to ensure that our standards are global," said Williams, a statement he repeated for emphasis. He explained that this was a financial as well as a moral imperative. For example, after revelations about the use of child labor in some of its overseas plants, Nike's stock price fell 10 percent in one day.

Ergonomics is another example of a global safety issue, according to Williams, though he confessed, "we really don't have ergonomics under control."

"When you travel the regions," he added, "you see the same repetitive motion issues, the same over exertion issues you see in the U.S."

Williams said Johnson & Johnson is committed to being a world leader in safety and health, with the goal having an injury free workplace. "Safety is not a priority for us, it's a core value," he explained. As a result, safety is taken into consideration during the design of new products at Johnson & Johnson.

Williams said his company believes it is best to go beyond mere compliance with regulatory standards, because if compliance is the goal, inevitably a facility will fall short of the regulations, and then someone can get hurt.

One example of this approach is Williams' desire to eliminate all hearing protection and respirators from the company's facilities.

"Because over time hearing protectors and respirators don't work, and when they fail people get hurt," he said.

Williams concluded by listing some of the opportunities available to IH professionals and the companies they work for.

He said a major opportunity for companies is to anticipate and influence new global standards, so they will be more prepared than their competitors.

A second major opportunity emphasized by Williams is the taking of responsibility.

"I hold myself, and line management, accountable for every injury in every Johnson & Johnson facility," Williams said. He invited his audience to do the same.

How Will Genetic Testing Affect the Workplace?

Implications of the Human Genome Project on the 21st century workplace will carry practical and ethical consequences for employers and employees, according to a genetic expert who spoke Wednesday at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition (AIHce) in New Orleans.

Alan M. Guttmacher, M.D., senior clinical adviser to the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., explained that genomics, or "new genetics," provides knowledge of individual genetic predispositions in humans. This knowledge, he said, can have a positive impact by allowing people to use medications to prevent or delay genetic-related illnesses, such as taking anti-hypertensive agents before hypertension develops.

"A genomic approach to medicine emphasizes disease prevention and health maintenance rather than disease treatment," Guttmacher said.

Genetic testing, for example, would allow employers to use a person's genetic makeup to predetermine whether a worker is susceptible to a particular injury or illness. "This will help you think about workplace risks to the individual rather than to categories of workers, whether it be chemical or other kinds of exposures," he said.

The problem, Guttmacher said, is that there are ethical implications to genetic testing. "What happens when an employer wants to treat workers different because of their genetic makeup and their likelihood to develop a workplace-related injury or illness?"

This happened recently with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad, which demanded that employs applying for workers' compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) undergo genetic testing to determine whether they had a genetic cause for CTS.

From a scientific viewpoint, the company faced a number of problems, Guttmacher said. For one thing, even though people with the mutant gene are at a higher risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, not everyone with the gene develops CTS. In addition, such mutations are relatively rare.

Instead of proceeding with genetic testing, BNSF settled a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission contending the testing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The company, which admitted it tested certain employees for a genetic marker, "agrees it will not request employees to undergo genetic tests, will not discipline any employees for refusal to submit to genetic testing and will preserve all records in its control."

Complicated social issues with using genetic testing raise many issues that have no easy answers, Guttmacher said. Does an employer have the right to demand that employees learn medical information they may not want to know about and that may have implications for other family members? Will genetic information gathered by an employer influence hiring, retaining and promoting employees? Will genetic information be shared with insurers?

While it may be hard to overcome the many ethical implications to genomic medicine and its impact on the workplace and society, Guttmacher believes there are many positive reasons to accept genetic testing, such as helping cure diseases. He noted former President Clinton's comment on June 26, 2000, in announcing the completion of the human genome draft sequence: "It is now conceivable that our children's children will know the term 'cancer' only as a constellation of stars."

by Todd Nighswonger