Are You a Road Warrior of Environmental, Health and Safety?

Biopharma EHS Podcast Episode #9Environmental, health and safety road warrior in potent compound safety

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Good day everyone, this is Dean Calhoun, President and CEO of Affygility Solutions, and welcome back to Episode 9 of the Biopharma EHS podcast, where this is the podcast helping you take your environmental, health and safety program to the next level.

So, in our last podcast, episode 8, I discussed the future of environmental, health and safety.  Now, when I’m talking about the future, I’m not talking what’s on OSHA’s regulatory agenda for this year or next, I’m talking about 15 to 20 years ahead.  In that episode, the key issues that I personally forecasted and will impact environmental, health and safety professionals include the untethering of the workplace, the widespread use of mobile phone applications for environmental, health and safety, industrial hygiene, environmental compliance, potent compound safety, and more; managing environmental, health and safety in crowdsourcing; just-in-time environmental, health and safety  training; and finally “occupational toxicology on a chip”  This particular aspect will make a big difference for anyone trying to implement a potent compound safety program.  If any of this interests you, I would suggest that you go back and listen.

Alright, so, let’s get started with how to be an effective road warrior of environmental, health and safety?

So what exactly is a Road Warrior?  Well, a road warrior is thought of as a person that travels frequently on business.  In my lifetime, I’ve seen environmental, health and safety professionals that traveled anywhere from once a quarter to provide environmental, health and safety compliance support to facilities, to those that left home on Sunday afternoon and didn’t returned home till Friday evening.  These environmental, health and safety professionals included internal auditors, consultants, and environmental, health and safety managers that were responsible for managing multiple facilities throughout the world.  On the extreme end of things there are some professionals that travel 250,000 air miles per year.

So if you’re a Road Warrior of environmental, health and safety, how do you make the best out of this situation where you are always gone away from the office?  First off, being an effective EHS Road Warrior starts well before you think about going to the airport.  When you travel a lot you need to develop a routine. Plan trips carefully and at least two months ahead.  Make sure you have a way to compare your business calendar with your personal calendar.

Next, you will also want to get the right kind of luggage and laptop computer case.  Look for luggage with lots of outside pockets to stash away all your gear.  True Road Warriors hardly ever check luggage.  It’s just not worth the delay waiting to check/pickup your bags, and the risk of having your luggage lost.  You may also want to pick up a great pair of headphones to listen to music while on the plane or subway.  I personally use a set of Bose noise cancellation headphones.

If you drive your own car to the airport, try to always park in the same general area.  This will reduce the chance that you will forget where you park your car.

When traveling frequently to the same location, try need to find a good hotel that you like and make a habit of staying there.  You want it to feel like home. And, if you check into a hotel and walk into the room and it’s crap, don’t be shy and afraid to go to the front desk and say “I’m going elsewhere.”  This doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk, it just means you need to have personal standards.  The typical things I look for when selecting a hotel: first off, it needs to be close to the facility that I’m visiting.  I hate having to wake up super early just to fight traffic to get to the facility, 2) it better have a decent in-hotel workout facility.  If you’re traveling frequently it is extremely important that you maintain an exercise routine – otherwise, airplane and airport food will cause your health to decline rapidly and you’ll be dead before your 55.  3)  In-hotel bar or restaurant with free Wi-Fi and friendly staff.  Avoid the feeling of isolation and loneliness by getting to know the people that work there, especially the front desk people and the bartender. You never know, you might teach the bartender a thing or two about potent compound safety.

Join the Loyalty Programs

Take advantage of every customer loyalty program you can envision.  Frequent flier programs – no brainer, especially if your company allows you to accumulate the miles.  As a consultant in potent compound safety, occupational toxicology, and industrial hygiene for pharmaceuticals, I’ve received many free flight tickets that I’ve used for my family to travel places.  Don’t use the frequent flier miles for yourself or you won’t get the miles for the trip.  For rental cars, again it’s a no-brainer, nothing is better than by-passing the long lines at the counter and heading straight to your car. Keys in the ignition, show the guy your license, and you’re gone.  For hotels, most hotels have sophisticated databases that know how many times that you have stay there and if you make it to a certain level they will jump through hoops for you.

I should mention that as you join customer loyalty programs, you will accumulate a lot of cards – don’t put them in your wallet or purse. Instead, go to to one of those leather store in the airport or mall, and buy one of those long leather wallets where you can stash all your loyalty cards.

If travel more than twice a month, you should consider joining one of the airline clubs.  Depending upon the airline, you can get free wi-fi, comfortable seating, snacks, and free drinks.  You’ll be thankful you joined the day you get delayed for several hours.

Take Advantage of Technology

When you travel a lot, you have to be organized and travel light.  Get a great smartphone and a light laptop.  In addition to a decent phone, your smartphone should have a great GPS mapping system, a digital camera, a calendar system, a digital music player, and the ability to install apps.  Carry as few of books or papers as you can or you’re going to hate life carry all this crap through the airport.  So, let’s just assume you’re not big on listening to music. That’s o.k., then listen to podcasts, in addition to the Biopharma EHS podcast, there are many great podcasts or digital books out there. Get with the program and use technology to your advantage.  Use digital technology to record notes digitally. Programs like Evernote work great for recording all the tidbits of information.  For compliance related items such as regulatory compliance tasks and corrective action software, I use Affytrac.  In order to be an effective road warrior, you must be able to retrieve information quickly and without saying “Uhh, it’s back at the office.”  Remember that effective Road Warriors has no office.  Your office is in your bag on your shoulder and on your phone.  Another benefit with recording compliance related tasks digitally is that if your bag or laptop gets lost or stolen, it’s simply a manner of changing your password and all is good.

While we’re on the subject of apps you might want to check out Affytrac Mobile – a simple and affordable way for you to manage all your compliance and corrective action management system requirements from the convenience of your smartphone.  If you have questions about Affytrac Mobile, give me a call on my mobile phone at 303-884-3028.

Get to know the Local Environmental, Health and Safety Community

Chances are, chances are, that if you’re visiting a specific facility frequently, that the people you need to meet can’t be available for the entire time that you’re there.  This is especially true if you’re there more than once a month.  Also, in general, these people will likely have family obligations and having to entertain you every evening while your there gets old. Don’t wear out your welcome and find something else to do, but at the same time make good use of your time.  With a little bit of research, you might find that the local chapter of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, or the American Society of Safety Engineers, or some other professional organizations will either have a lunch or dinner meeting at certain times of the month.  Schedule your routine trips for those times and attend those meetings.  If you’re a CIH, you may want to consider giving a presentation at those meetings.  You might get some valuable CM points.

Stay Connected Back Home

O.k. if your idea of technology adoption is using a mechanical pencil – get over it and learn some new stuff.  The world is not going to rewind to your style and you have to learn new skills or you will get replaced.  You should also consider that those evening hours alone in the hotel bar or in your room are just the time to learn them.  If you’re a Road Warrior you really need to be on LinkedIn and Facebook in order to stay socially connected to the the new professional friends that you meet while on the road and the family you have back home.  Don’t be afraid to post pictures of that really cool castle that you drove by when you where going to a potent compound safety review meeting in the middle of Germany.  People love that stuff.

Go with the flow

Traveling on business is full of unexpected things. No need to stress out about it and be nice to people.  During my travels, I’ve run into more than my fair share of jerks.  You know the ones that act like they are the only ones that matter – yelling at everyone that crosses their path, cutting in lines, and just about every rude act you can image.  My feeling, if you hate traveling that much find another job.

Well, that does it for the Road Warrior segment of today’s episode. I’m sure many of you out there have lot’s of other great suggestions, so feel free to email or call them in to me.

Next, let’s go over some important events and happenings that may be of interest to environmental, health and safety professionals in the Biopharma industry.

Discussed events

I should mention that the next Advanced topics in Potent Compound Safety webinar starts on April 7th, 2011.


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