Managing EH&S in turbulent times

Facing the worst economic crisis in everyone’s career, many environmental, health and safety professionals (EH&S) are concern about their future. In this article I will offer 6 tips for managing EH&S in turbulent times.

For many EH&S professionals, the stress of our current economic situation is already taking a toll. Besides shrinking retirement accounts and the constant stream of bad news, corporations are looking at every possible way to reduce head count and the associated costs. To make things worse, everyone is stressed, wondering when the next corporate merger or wave of cuts may leave them without a job. Everyone is scared. Most people are searching for answers, but some are so paralyzed with fear that they are taking no action at all. I not here to tell you to not be afraid, and I’m not going to tell you that if you just manage your attitude everything would be alright. Though attitude is important, attitude without action can hurt you in this environment. What I am going to give you is a few common sense tips to help you stay employed so you have the means to make it through these times in one piece and are position to win when we come out on the other side.

Tip 1: Activity is everything. Make sure that all your basic compliance and corporate requirements are covered – inspections, training, program reviews, etc. Now is not the time to slack up on these activities and you don’t want anyone questioning your performance. Activity is tangible and with tools like Affytrac it can be measured, analyzed, and reported up. When you are hitting your compliance targets the perception is that you working hard and continuing to look after the company’s best interest. Your company and your boss are more likely to invest in and keep the EH&S professionals they perceive to be hard workers. One more note, be sure that your reports and your paperwork are perfect and always on time. Now is not the time to turn in shoddy work.

Tip 2: Don’t complain. You’re stressed out and so is everyone else, but don’t complain. Management hates complainers. Don’t complain to anyone, for any reason, at anytime. Don’t complain to co-workers or they will use your words to throw you off a cliff to save their own hides. Keep your mouth shut and stay focused on doing your job. Remember, in today’s economic situation they are limited opportunities, and what ones are out there usually require you to relocate.

Tip 3: Become indispensable. In the past, when companies downsized it was always last in, first out. Today, however, most organizations choose who goes and who stays based on productivity and costs. People that generate more value for the organization stay. It means volunteering for special projects, looking for ways to reduce costs, and consistently asking management if there is anything you can do to help. Change your way of thinking about work. Right now your job must become everything. Devote yourself to it, even if it means putting time with your family aside. Work longer hours, don’t spend your work hours cruising the internet or talking on personal phone calls. Don’t arrive late and leave early, be seen often, and always, always offer to lend a hand and get your hands dirty. Your goal is to create a perception to the organization that you are an employee they can’t live without.

Tip 4: Make no enemies. You must do whatever you can not be make enemies, and if you have enemies repair those relationships. Be flexible with demands and difficult people. Bend over backwards to accommodate. Don’t participate in office politics.

Tip 5: Help reduce expenses. While we all know it’s important to maintain professional certifications and keep up on the latest skills, look for alternative ways to get more out of your training dollars without incurring travel expenses. Webinars, self-study courses, local society meetings can get you the certification maintenance points without the costly travel expenses. It is also not the time to go on corporate boondoggles and spend the company’s money like it was water.

Tip 6: Be prepared to reassign EH&S responsibilities should personnel cuts occur. Know exactly who is taking care of what requirements. Compliance tools that organize and track requirements and who is responsible are invaluable during these times. You need to be always be prepare to answer questions like who is responsible for what. Unlike the old days, today when cuts occur they happen with little or no warning. You must be able to react quickly and with no gap in meeting your regulatory and corporate obligations.

About the author

Dean Calhoun is the founder and CEO of Affygility Solutions. He is an American Board of Industrial Hygiene Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). He has been an environmental health and safety professional for over 24 years.

Prior to starting Affygility Solutions, Dean was the Associate Director of Environmental Health and Safety for Gilead Sciences, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing pharmaceuticals for infectious, viral, and oncology applications. His experiences including development and implementation of global EH&S guidelines, implementation and coordination of an executive management EH&S Steering Committee, establishment of occupational exposure limits for pharmaceutical active ingredients, potent compound safety programs, industrial hygiene program management, and EH&S auditing of research, manufacturing and contract manufacturing facilities.

Dean has spoken for a number of professional organizations including the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, the Colorado Safety Association, the Bay Area Environmental Safety Group, the National Association for Environmental Management, the National Safety Council, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Dean graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Engineering from the University of Wyoming and has dual master degrees in Environmental Policy and Management, and Technology Management from the University of Denver. He is a member of AIHA, ASSE, and NAEM.

Dean can be contact at, found on LinkedIn, and followed on Twitter.


About Dean Calhoun

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Dean is the President and CEO of Affygility Solutions. Affygility Solutions provides environmental, health and safety software, potent compound safety, industrial hygiene, containment validation services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industry. "Dean's Google+ Profile"

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