BioPharma EHS Podcast Episode #7

Management Commitment and Involvement – How to obtain it and sustain it for your EHS Program.

In this episode of the Biopharma EHS Podcast, Dean M. Calhoun, CIH discusses Management Commitment and Involvement – How to obtain it and sustain it for your environmental, health and safety program.

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Main topic: “Management Commitment – how to obtain and sustain it.”

Upcoming events and happenings of importance to environmental, health and safety professionals in the BioPharma Industry.

Important announcement to talk about and I’m very excited about this, and I believe you will be too.

Episode 6 we discussed some of key regulatory agenda items for 2011.  Those items on OSHA’s regulatory agenda and having the most impact on the Biopharma industry are I2P2 or injury illness and prevention programs, and the pending finalization of the revisions to the hazard communication standard.

Key parts of I2P2 are likely to be management commitment, employee involvement, and hazard identification.  OSHA has indicated that this is their key regulatory agenda item for this year.  If you want more details on that discussion, I would suggest that you go back to Episode 6 and listen.  You should also stay tuned to the BioPharma EHS podcast for updates on I2P2 in future episode.

We then discussed, how OSHA was indicating that they hope to have the revised hazard communication standard that incorporates the global harmonization system elements into the standard completed by August of this year.  I did mention in that podcast, that these changes will require significant changes to material safety data sheets, and package labeling.  Which also means that you will have to update your written program, your training programs, and re-train employees.  Again, I would suggest that you go back to Episode 6 and listen in.

Well, the discussion on I2P2 and management commitment, leads us into our next topic – Management Commitment – how to obtain it and sustain it.

Often hear EHS managers state, “If I just have management commitment. If I just have management involvement.  Our progress would be so much better.”  Well, first off, any experienced environmental, health and safety professionals knows that “yes” management commitment and involvement is a critical component to a successful EHS program, but as I always tell EHS managers, be careful what you ask for and know exactly what your asking.

Because when you start asking for senior management to be deeply involved in your program, along with that involvement comes a significant increase in accountability and a lot of work on your part.  And if your strategies, your goals, your objectives, don’t deliver on their promises – then senior management may be looking carefully at your ability to make strategic decisions and execute them.

So, before you start asking for their involvement you need to know what you want and what they want.

  • First off, gain a solid understanding of what your company does, the key strategic goals for the next several years, and gain an understanding of their current business cycle – is the business in a rapid growth mode or downsizing mode?  If often surprises me, how few environmental, health and safety professional understand the company that they work for in terms of strategic direction, product and service offerings, and the overall business.
  • You also want to understand who the key influencers in the organization are and why? – who has the ear of the CEO? Who does the CEO listen to?
  • Second, understand the language of the CEO.  It’s been my experience that you can tell a lot about the type of language that they want to hear by understanding their education and background.  Prior to becoming a CEO was their experience in finance, sales and marketing, operations, or science?  In the biotech industry, it’s very common to have CEOs with a science background.  I’ve heard that in the past several years this has been changing, but if science is their language, then whatever strategies that you propose better speak the language of science and be about furthering the science of the company.
  • Once you have some understanding of the company and the background of some of its senior management – pick a few strategic targets where you can involve senior management and get some early success.  One example is drafting an overall corporate environmental, health and safety policy and getting it endorsed by senior management.
  • Next what visible, actionable items do you want management to be involved in?  In the biotech/pharma industry several things that I’ve seen that have work well is at least one senior manager being present in all safety committee meetings.  Ideally, it should be on a rotating basis. At first it may be intimidating for the staff level employees, but it does show the employees that management is willing to spend their time on safety.  One important point here – make sure you have prepared and distributed an agenda ahead of time, and have defined start and stop times.  This can’t be an ad hoc meeting.  Another example of management involvement is senior management participating in walk-through inspections of laboratories and manufacturing area.  I should mention an important point here – make sure that your senior managers are wearing all the appropriate personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, lab coats, and whatever else your company requires.  Nothing causes an EH&S programs to lose credibility more than senior managers going through work areas without the proper protective equipment.  I always can tell the company’s that have developed strong EH&S programs when annual reports have photos of executives in the lab, and they are always wearing their PPE.  Why is that so rare?  Well, taking professional photos of people wearing safety glasses is a real trick. Because you get a lot of reflection and glare off the lens, professional photographers don’t like them and don’t want to spend the extra amount of time to get it right.
  • After you have decided on one or two things you would like to propose that senior managers be involved in, setup a meeting with the highest ranking member of management that you can get access to.  If it’s the CEO – great! If it’s the site head – that’s o.k.  But regardless of who you’re attempting to get access to – you may want to keep your direct supervisor informed or they might get blindsided.
  • Prior to meeting with them.  Make sure you have a plan on what you would like to discuss.  One page of bullet items is fine.  Stay focused and don’t get off topic, unless they want to discuss other issues.  Be open to their suggestions. They may be better than yours.  You should also be careful, not to overstay your welcome or future meetings with them will become difficult.
  • O.k. now that you have proposed some ways for managers to be engaged, what measurements are you going to keep to ensure progress in the right direction.  Without some kind of meaningful measurement you won’t be able to sustain your efforts. Management wants to see that however they spend their valuable time is resulting in progress for the company. You likely will need several metrics and a combination of leading and lagging indicators.  Make sure your metrics are credible.  Software tools like Affytrac, our proprietary compliance management software, can be extremely helpful in tracking completion of actions..
  • Finally, now that you have their attention, it is your responsibility to provide updates to senior management. Use metrics as previously noted, as well as other important items and achievements.  EH&S reports don’t always have to be always negative news. Be sure to mention the things that are going right.  Focus on progress. Keep your report short and condensed down to 1 or 2 pages.  Use graphs where possible.  Comparison graphs are great.  Management is used to looking at these types of graphs.  These reports should be provided at least quarterly.
  • After you have gain the confidence and trust of senior management, and you have a few solid systems in place, you can further advance the progress of the EH&S program by establishing an executive level EH&S committee.  While this may be a stretch for some companies early in the development of their environmental, health and safety program, it is something to aim for.

So, yes management commitment and involvement is key.  If you’re an EH&S professional working full-time at a company, then there has already been some level of commitment demonstrated just by allocating a full-time position to handle these issues. But, there are also some simple things that you can have senior management be involved. Take some small steps and you will see some progress.

O.k.  The does it for the discussion on management commitment. If you have any comments or feedback – I loved to hear it.  You can call our listener voicemail feedback line at 206-984-3214 and leave an audio comment.  You don’t need to leave your last name or anything like that. You can also email us your comments at podcast at

Alright, let’s now talk about some great upcoming events.

The first event is the National Association for Environmental Management Conference to be held on March 2nd and 3rd in San Antonio, Texas.  I will be attending this event, so if you would like to meet up with me, please feel free to call the listener voicemail feedback line and let me know that you’re going to be there.

The second event is the Society of Toxicology meeting on March 6th through 10th in Washington, DC.  Dr. Joe Nieusma, Senior Toxicologist with Affygility Solutions will be attending this event, so if you would like to meet with Joe let me know.

I will be attending South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.  This is going to be an exciting event and I look forward to hooking up with my good friends from E-Webstyle. I’ve never met them face-to-face, but we have known each other virtual for several years now.  I look forward to meeting them in person.

I should also mention, that in April, we have several new EHS webinars starting and you should get out our schedule at  These webinars have been very well attended and we have received a lot of positive feedback on them.  Also for those of you that are Certified Industrial Hygienist, you get 1.5 certification maintenance points for completing all 5 modules of the Advanced Topics in Potent Compound Safety webinar.

Alright, now for some very exciting news.  Just yesterday, Affygility Solutions announced the launch of Affytrac Mobile.  We are extremely excited about this innovative product and how it makes managing compliance programs so easy, and from the convenience of your smartphone.  Affytrac Mobile is the first fully functional environmental, health and safety mobile phone app.  Affytrac Mobile works from your iPhone, iPod touch, Android devices, and certain Blackberry Smartphones.  Check it out by going to  We will be having a webinar going over the features of Affytrac Mobile this next Monday, January 31st, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.  The webinar should last approximately 30 minutes.  Please go to Affygility dot com to register for this free webinar.

Remember to submit your questions to our voicemail feedback line at 206-984-3214. You can also stalk us on twitter at, on Facebook by searching forAffygility Solutions and giving us a “Like”, and finally on LinkedIn by searching for Affygility Solutions.


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"

Affygility Solutions - provider of potent compound safety, webinars, and compliance management software