Biopharma EHS Podcast – Episode #8

The Future of Environmental Health and SafetyIn this episode of the Biopharma EHS (Environmental, health and safety) Podcast, Dean M. Calhoun, CIH, President and CEO of Affygility Solutions discusses the Future of environmental, health and safety. Alright, in the last episode – Episode 7 our main topic was management commitment and involvement – how to obtain and sustain it.  In that episode I indicated that one of the most important things to consider is to know exactly what you want and try to understand what they want and the important issues on their plate.  So, if this is a topic that interests you, I would strongly suggest that you go back and listen to episode 7.

Our next topic for today is the future of environmental, health and safety.  So, looking ahead  looking ahead at the environmental, health and safety profession, the field, what’s going to happen in the next 10 – 15 years. Let’s call it EHS 4.0  As most people know making predictions 10 -15 years out is pretty tough to do.  In most cases we don’t do a very good job of predicting want is going to happen week.  And we always run the risk of some disruptive technology or issue happening that could cause some sea change of activity, something we didn’t think of, if you will, in another direction.  But let’s go ahead and give it a shot based on trends that are occurring today.

The trends that I will be talking about center mostly around three main areas – technology, regulatory, and societal.  The first trend , the first trend that will have a significant impact on all environmental, health and safety professionals is what I call:

The Untethering of the Workplace

In the past, the workplace,  the workplace as we know it, was traditionally a fixed location where everyone would typically work a somewhat fixed set of hours and days of the week.  When the economy in the U.S. was primarily driven by industrial manufacturing this made sense,  but  but as the U.S. economy shifts more to a knowledge-based economy, the added overhead expense of a fixed office space no longer makes economic sense.  In addition, communication technologies have improved to the point where it is no longer necessary to have everyone in the same physical location to effectively work together on a project.  As an aside, I know a pharmaceutical company that uses Halo Collaboration Studio by HP and , in a sort of Star Wars like fashion you feel like you have Obi-Wan Kenobi sitting next to you.   So, being in the same physical space is no longer necessary.  Therefore,  therefore, as companies continue to seek out the best talent in the world, that talent may come from anywhere in the world.  Sure, for research and development centers we will still need fixed locations, but even then, but even then, research clusters are becoming so predominant that sharing of workspaces on as needed basis will become more popular.  This will present unique, unique challenges for traditional occupational health and safety programs in determining who is the host employer, this will present challenges in conducting EH&S training, and as I will talk about later you will see an explosion in just-in-time training.

The second major trend I would like to call “There’s an “App for that”

I’m not sure how many of your have a smartphone, but look for a significant increase in smartphone applications or as they call it “apps” for industrial hygiene, environmental compliance, health and safety.  Before I get into a lot of detail about what an app is, maybe  may I should first define what is a smartphone  A smartphone is a mobile phone that offers more advance computing power and connectivity than a traditional mobile phone.  Smartphones typically are equipped with a mobile phone, web browsing capabilities, a global positioning system (a.k.a. GPS), a digital camera, and the capability to run small application programs know as “apps”.  These apps are typically digitally downloaded from the Internet for little or no costs.  The apps that are free typically come with ads, the ones that aren’t free don’t.  As of today, there already are apps for games, mapping, checking in to physical locations, getting reviews on just about anything, and much more.  In the future your smartphone will become an industrial monitoring device – equipped with apps that will be handling all sort of things – chemical, biological, and physical exposure information. Monitoring for potent compound safety won’t be an issue, you will just program the molecule into your app and instant monitoring.  Even today, even today, my smartphone – which is an iPhone – has a sound level meter app.  I’ve compared the apps reading to those measured by sound level instruments costing hundreds of dollars more and it’s relatively close.  Technology will only get better.

In addition to Apps, RFID tags or similar technologies will be embedded in your phone to make it location aware.  Filling out information on the location of industrial hygiene monitoring will no longer be necessary – your smartphone will know. Heck, industrial hygiene instrumentation should already have these tags built in – it’s not that difficult.  For those of you that personally know me – I do a lot of snow skiing in the winter.  My ski pass has a RFID tag built into it and tracks every lift I boarded, and how many vertical feet, ski days and runs that I skied.  Then throughout the day, I can check my smartphone’s app and see my sats –  it’s not that hard.

On the environmental side, there will be complete data collection of facility inputs and outputs that will all be readily available and controllable by some app on your smart phone.  No longer will environmental professionals have to spend countless hours collecting data on hazardous waste generation, electric utility and water usage, and solid wastes generation.  All this data will become available real-time and  at your fingertips on your smartphone’s app.

We haven’t  we haven’t even, even to begun to see the potential use of these devices.  Here at Affygility Solutions we recently released Affytrac Mobile – a cross platform compliance management software web app that helps busy environmental, health and safety professionals manage their programs across multiple facilities, languages, and time zones.  Look for more great things from Affytrac, including potent compound safety on the go.

O.k., so that covers, there’s an App for that.  The next main trend I’d like to discuss is Managing health and safety of Crowdsourcing

So what the HECK is crowdsourcing?  Well, crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks , outsourcing tasks traditionally performed by employees or contractors to an undefined large group of people through an open call. I know , I know that there are many of you that are saying – “well we’re different, we’re different, confidentiality issues and the intellectual property issues will prevent this”, regardless of those issues it WILL happen, IT WILL HAPPEN – because the knowledge of the crowd will be greater than anyone company.

So with crowdsourcing, , with crowdsourcing, I might ask who will be the employer?   Who will be the one responsible for the health and safety of the as we may call it “the crowd.”  Think about it – this will be a challenge.

Just-in-time EHS training

Along with the end of the traditional workplace and the increase in crowdsourcing, methods to provide the required environmental, health and safety training in a just-in-time fashion will be necessary.  This can easily be done for those training requirements that are primarily information transfer, but what about those activities that require a hands-on component?

Conferences will become much more social

Conferences as we know it will be a thing of the past.  Most environmental, health and safety professionals know that the real experience and knowledge learning from a conference doesn’t come from the speakers – most speakers aren’t that great – the real knowledge comes from the crowd – from the attendees themselves – the ones in the hallway.  As I was writing this article I had, I had to ask myself “Is there such a thing as a Certified Social Hygienist?” and what the heck I found a link to: Social Ergonomics

I’ll post the link in the show notes – so check it out.

The final trend  the final trend that I would like to present is what I’d like to call “Toxicology on a chip.”  We will see , we will see in the very, very near future, the ability for a company to put a small amount of a research compound on a computer chip and have all the toxicology information we could possibly need – and it will categorize, classify – whatever information we need.  Why do I believe this?  Because of the market  and the market drives innovation.  Today – it’s too expensive  too time consuming for companies to conduct all the necessary tests for drug safety, potent compound safety classification, IATA and DOT classification, REACH, GHS information and many other requirements.  In the future – put it on a chip – print the potent compound safety classification report and the MSDS.

So folks, that does it for the Future of Environmental, Health and Safety.” If you have any questions or comments – please call our listener voicemail feedback line at 206-984-3214.  That’s 206-984-3214.

O.k. Let’s now discuss events, events and happenings – you know – the things that are important to environmental, health and safety professionals – the things that make you look forward to doing your JOB.

The first event is the National Association for Environmental Management – MIS conference in San Antonio, Texas – yay, that’s right, San Antonio, TX on March 2nd and 3rd.  I’ll be there talking up Affytrac Mobile.  If you would like to hook up with me – please call me at 303-884-3028.

The next event is South by Southwest – oh yay major event.  I was at the pre-party in Boulder, Colorado last night and the host said that last year there was over 14 thousand people there.  Again – call me – let’s meet.

Alright, we’re nearing our time limit for today, so I need to end today’s session.  As always you can stalk us on twitter at, connect with me on Linkedin, or Like us on Facebook by searching for Affygility Solutions.  Click on the player below to listen or subscribe to the Biopharma EHS Podcast in iTunes.

That does it for this week’s podcast – see you next week.  Please call our listener voicemail feedback line at 206-984-3214.  Have a great rest of the day.


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