As the economy is expected to rebound late fall and into early next year, environmental, health and safety (EHS) professionals in the Life Science industry should prepare themselves to accept and handle changing demands. There are six things that you should expect to see.
- Getting a clear feeling about what the company’s strategy and growth plans will be difficult. No one wants to commit to anything and everyone wants to maintain ultimate flexibility. The economic rebound will be sluggish and until everyone sees clear signs of a recovery information will be limited. If you’re responsible for EH&S strategy at your organization, you need to attempt to gain a clear understanding of exactly what senior management really wants and expects for EH&S performance. Every EH&S manager should read or revisit the article “Ten Recommendations for EH&S Executives” by MacLean, R., Bowers, D., and Sugar, W.
- It will be a long time before hiring additional staff starts to reoccur. As indicated in the Kiplinger Economic Outlook, companies will likely extend hours for existing staff and use overtime for manufacturing employees as a means to fill orders. If you oversee the environmental, health, and safety efforts at a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, expect to see the existing employees work overtime before any hiring of additional staff occurs. If this becomes routine, you should look careful at any occupational exposure limits for your active pharmaceutical ingredients, since they are typically based on an 8-hour exposure period. Several models have been published for adjusting OELs, but do your homework ahead of time.
- Expect to see limited travel for training and professional development. In 2009, travel budgets were slashed. Expect them not to come back for some time. Depending upon your position, you will likely have to justify any travel to conferences. Just because you need certification maintenance points is not the company’s problem. Whenever possible use on-line training or webinars for professional development. The time and cost saving are significant. You may not get the social interaction with your industry peers, but other ways such as LinkedIn will help you stay in touch. Continue to build a strong network of professional peers both inside/outside of the company but do so in a way that doesn’t impact your budget.
- Expect to take on additional roles such as business continuity, sustainability, security, or energy conservation. Unfortunately, no one is really going to care that you’re not an expert in some of these topics, but you will be expected to get up to speed on them real fast. Just a couple days ago I was exchanging emails with a pharmaceutical industry peer and they indicated that “their position has been eliminated.” Earlier this year I was having a conversation with a pharmaceutical industry EH&S Director and he indicated that he expected to spend at least 60% of his time on sustainability. Roles and responsibilities are constantly changing. Make sure that you have the EH&S tools to manage all of the requirements and responsibilities efficiently without having to travel significantly.
- Expect to have to cost justify any improvements of engineering controls and containment. I don’t know how many times that I’ve heard the rhetoric of “100% containment and zero personal protective equipment” when handling potent compounds, but then there is no capital budget to support this goal. Talk to your finance department and find out what kind of economic tools that they have that can assist you in this process. Brush up on financial terms like NPV, IRR, etc.
- Expect to be efficient and add value in everything you do. While it seems like common sense, don’t spend work hours cruising Facebook, playing computer games, texting friends, etc. Even if you spend 60-70 hours per week at the office, get caught once doing non-productive activities and you risk the chance of being labeled as “not adding value.” Perception is everything. You should always being asking “what can I do to help?”
Finally, be positive and upbeat. Managers and fellow employees like to be around people that show energy in what they do. If you have any questions or comments send me an email.