Every year brings with it new challenges and new opportunities for success in EHS. With the 2012 presidential election behind us and 4 more years of the Obama administration ahead of us, some uncertainty we faced last year has been resolved. However, the country's slow economic turnaround, continued uncertainty in Europe and the Middle East and the slow pace of OSHA rulemaking continue to impact EHS in the United States.

Nine EHS leaders offered their opinions about the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the profession, the impact of the election on EHS, the impact of the economy on EHS and where the EHS community should focus its efforts in 2013 to have the greatest positive impact on worker safety and health.

Question #1

What are the greatest opportunities in EHS in 2013?

Richard A. Pollock, CSP; president, American Society of Safety Engineers:Richard A. Pollack, President ASSE

In 2012, ASSE and the safety profession saw much growth and change. We see great opportunities for EHS in 2013, including:

  • The increasing awareness and inclusiveness of occupational safety and health in corporate sustainable reporting and activities;
  • The development of an OSHA injury and illness prevention program (I2P2) standard. If done well, it has the promise of changing the paradigm of how the country regulates workplace safety and health by dramatically increasing risk-based management of workplace hazards;
  • The continued advancement of the safety profession and the quality of professionals protecting the work force;
  • The momentum of research-to-practice, as professionals increasingly prioritize the use of fact-based solution in their daily practice;
  • A greater emphasis on the role of safety professionals in process and work design; and
  • The rapid growth of technology, enabling the safety profession to use more advanced methods to protect workers.

Aaron Trippler, Director of Government Affairs, AIHAAaron Trippler; director, government affairs, American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA):

I hope the biggest opportunity for the profession is the number of jobs that will be available. If the economy picks up, the outlook is bright. As for the outlook for EHS itself, I think the fact that employers and employees realize that success only will occur if they work together is a positive. In addition, the expansion of the "global economy" has opened up the opportunity to not only export our EHS experience to other countries, but allow us to learn from them.

Treasa M. Turnbeaugh, Ph.D., MBA, CSP, CET; CEO, Board of Certified Safety Professionals:Treasa M. Turnbeaugh, CEO Board of Certified Safety Professionals

The greatest opportunity for EHS in 2013 is movement toward a united front of recognizing EHS as a profession, not as an administrative function. There is progress being made in EHS organizations working together to bring the importance of being viewed as a profession to the forefront. It is important to educate people who make hiring decisions about the need for professionals in the role of EHS. [The related] Professions have three key elements in common: education, based on a defined body of knowledge; experience in the given field; and certification by accredited credentialing bodies. Acknowledgement by the federal government of the need to have EHS professionals employed in the private sector and public sector would go a long way in advancing safety and health for employees. The need for certified EHS professionals is recognized in other countries and, in fact, the profession is expanding globally, yet we are not fully recognized as a true profession in the United States.

Jim Swartz, VP Intercontinental Hotel GroupJim Swartz; vice president, risk management (Americas), Intercontinental Hotel Group:

The best opportunity for EHS professionals is to be business professionals. This added edge gives them the opportunity to integrate EHS into the boardroom. It is critical to integrate into the business rather than become a "bolt-on" at the end of a speech.  Do you have a seat at the capital-planning table? If not, you are losing an opportunity.

Fay Feeney, CSP, ARM; CEO of Risk for Good; chair, ASSE Foundation:Fay Feeny, CEO Risk for Good

On top of your compliance efforts, get yourself a role on your company's team that is taking on "value" creation for your business. This could be exploring new supply chain opportunities, CSR investments, process improvements, etc. Use the risk management process and replace "loss" with "value." To do this, be the "go-to" person on the team with process knowledge and skill to identify, analyze and examine new opportunities coming forward. Help your team as they select, implement and monitor progress. Businesses are playing catch up to a technological revolution and are looking to minimize the frequency or severity of losses or to make losses more predictable. Your expertise as a safety professional is unique in providing a contribution to the team.