Since the early 1990’s, and the dot.com bust, many corporate environmental, health and safety managers have seen progress in their industrial hygiene programs grind to a halt. The reasons for this decrease in progress are similar to those discussed in the the article, “The Green Stairway: Surviving and Flourishing in Environmental Management”, but here’s how to move forward in your potent compound safety or industrial hygiene program:
Take a seat at the table. EH&S managers, or industrial hygiene managers, need to have a seat at the table in product development meetings, and facility design review meetings. You need to have a basic idea of each stage of development for lead compounds and compounds needs to be evaluated early. If you’re the head of EH&S for your company, make an appointment with the CEO. Yes, in most cases you can actually do that and they will talk to you. One of the most amazing key note speeches at AIHce was present by Dana Mead of Tenneco in 1996 in Washington, DC. Yes, CEOs will talk to you. If you use contract manufacturers, call them up and connect with their EH&S staff. I know most of them, so if you need help please contact me. Want to grow your corporate industrial hygiene program? Go back and read the American Industrial Hygiene Association article on “Developing and Managing an Industrial Hygiene Program” (1983). The authors of the article were talking “management systems” long before it was in style. Make sure you have the tools to operate efficiently.
- Quit talking OELs, TLVs, PELs, and STELs – we know what those mean, but nobody else has a clue what you’re talking about. Start talking financial terms like IRR, NPV, and ROI and people’s eyes will start lighting up. You can also talk about how “exposure” impacts product yield. Read and re-read the excellent information in GEMI’s Environment: Value to Business. (thank you to my good friend Jim Thomas for an outstanding job on this publication. Jim, you made a difference!).
- Build your business case before you ask. Everybody wants engineering controls, but what if you can’t get them? All EH&S personnel want the engineering controls to eliminate personal protective equipment, but what if you have no capital budget to support them? What if you’re the sole EH&S person in the entire company and no one wants to support you? We all understand the basic industrial hygiene principles of engineering controls – first, administrative controls – second, and personal protective equipment – third, but unfortunately there is the reality of the situation. Understand it, build your business case, and sell it to the decision makers inside the company.
- Conduct sampling, but make sure you know. One sample isn’t enough. I’ve seen it time and time again where an EH&S manager has someone go out and collect 1 sample and believes that if it’s below the occupational exposure limit (OEL) that everything is great! But, then the next sample is 3 times the OEL. Don’t discuss the results with a lot of people till you’re sure. Buy a good industrial hygiene book and study the IH statistics section. One sample doesn’t mean much. Figure out the statistics you want to use and stick with it. Attend our potent compound safety webinar and you’ll learn more.
- Human Factors always outweigh everything else. You can have the best engineering controls in place, but there will always be someone that will try to by-pass them. Stressing good management oversight and supervision makes a huge difference. Training and re-training is very important.
- Always believe that you will make a difference. At least several times in my career, I firmly believed that my actions saved an employee’s life. Hang on to those moments.