Social Media and Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS)

Social Media, Environmental, Health and Safety, EHSBioPharma EH&S Podcast Episode No. 13. Sunday, March 27th, 2011

The twitter hashtag for today’s podcast is #socialehs

In this episode of the BioPharma EHS Podcast, Dean Calhoun of Affygility Solutions discusses the following:

I’ll briefly cover what we talked about last time in episode number 12.

Note: Click on the player to listen to the podcast:

Then I will cover our main topic for today, which is the use of Social Media in Environmental, Health and Safety industry.

And finally, I’ll then discuss upcoming events and happenings of importance to environmental, health and safety professionals in the BioPharma Industry.

Last time in Episode 12 we discussed the topic of “Creeping Featurism of Environmental, Health and Safety software.  In that episode I shared my four observations regarding the evolution of environmental, health and safety software.  Those four observations were, first, everybody seems to want a comprehensive system that is off the shelf.  Complete with every bell and whistle, and one that keeps track of every possible requirement, waste stream, emission, or metric.  The problem I have with this is, “in most companies with limited environmental, health and safety staff who is going to enter all this data?” My second observation was that an environmental, health and safety management system (EMS) is not equal to MIS, my third observation was that configuration does not equal customization, and my forth and final observation is that comprehensive systems are pricey and difficult to implement.  In episode 12 I also shared some questions that you might want to ask yourself prior to selecting a system.  So, if any of that interests you I suggest you go back and listen to episode 12 and listen to the whole thing.

Social Media in Environmental, Health and Safety

Alright, now before we move into our next topic, I might indicate that it’s going to be slightly different than previous topics that I’ve discussed. For those of you that have been listening in to previous episodes, most of you know that I recently attended South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.  First off South by Southwest was an amazing conference and the speakers were great, and the attendees were awesome – all 19,000 plus of them.  Many of the sessions that I attended dealt with social media and that inspired me to talk about today’s main topic, which is the use of Social Media in Environmental, Health and Safety.

  • What exactly is Social Media? Social Media is a variety of electronic and mobile technologies used to facilitate user-interaction and the production of user-generated content. Now hang on to that term for a moment because it’s important when it comes to social media. User-generated content can include everything from simple micro-format blog posts, like those you see on Twitter, but it can also include digital photos, such as those on Flickr, podcasting audio clips, video such as YouTube or Vimeo, blog posts, or detail articles such as those on Ezine articles.  Then of course there’s Facebook, which combines a variety of media types in a highly engaging forum.  With almost 600 million users, Facebook dominates the social media space.
  • Why Social Media? Social media is all about creating a community of users with liked interests.  A community of users that will be engaged and interact with the host company or organization, AND other members of the community.  For a company or organization the real value of social media is having a conversation with its constituents.
  • Who is using Social Media? Everybody is trying to get into it.  Governmental Organization such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.  In addition, most professional organizations such as the National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), and the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) all have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Many of the larger private organizations also use social media.  Unfortunately, as we will talk about next, most of these organization are not doing a very good job at it and their level of engagement is pretty low.
  • What’s the value in Social Media? First off it helps a company or organization amplify its communications with its constituents. Secondly, it can provide valuable insight to the customers, Third, it can provide a valuable way to attract new employees, and forth it helps start a conversation with constituents.  And finally, a well-executed social media strategy can enhance an company or organizations’ credibility because it is conversational in nature and very transparent.
  • Who is doing it right? Very few. Social media is about engagement between the members of the group.  It is not simply just creating a Facebook Fan page and being a Facebook whore and asking everyone to “Like” your Fan page.  Social media is all about user engagement, and creating an atmosphere where user-generated content is being produced and conversations are occurring.  If the majority of content that is being pushed out is one-way, then it’s really not social media.  If it’s simply posting announcements about upcoming seminars, meetings, and new regulations then it is simply another announcement forum. If you’re just talking about yourself, then it’s not going to be very effective. For social media to be effective, it must be, well, social and facilitate the user-generated content and encourage engagement with those users.  In order for this to properly work – the content must be valuable and interesting to the user community.  It should also be original content. Simply posting content that is already well known through other sources is generally not considered that valuable, or posting content that is trivial is also not generally useful to the user community.  And in order to drive user engagement, you should always ask for their opinions.  On another note, one way that I’ve recently seen social media be effective is the use of twitter at conferences.  The typical way twitter is used is before, during, and after the conference.  Before the conference the organizer will typically make announcements of the conference and assign a hashtag to the overall conference.  For those of you not familiar with the term hashtag (#), it’s the same symbol at the pound sign on your phone. So, for example, if you want to comment on today’s podcast or blog post, you would simply type your tweet, and then amend the tweet with #socialehs. I should mention that all the character in your hashtag count towards the 140 character limit of twitter.  During the conference, the presenter can assign a unique hashtag to the presentation and encourage the audience to tweet questions and comments during the presentation.  Post conference, the presenter can use the assign hashtag to provide resources regarding the presentation, such as copies of the slides on Slideshare, or maybe the audio of the presentation.  The use of the assigned twitter hashtag can also be to solicit feedback from the attendees.  Another interesting use of twitter that I observed at South by Southwest was that instead of attendees using business cards, they were using a smartphone app called Hashable to exchange contact information. So instead of exchanging paper-based business cards, attendees would simply ask, “What’s your twitter handle?” Type it into Hashable and it the other person has a free Hashable account their contact information is now sync’ed with your phone.  So there are many other ways to use twitter at conferences, and they are several good blog posts on this topic so I’ll put them in the show notes.
  • Challenges of social media.  One of the biggest challenges that companies and governmental organization face in social media, is the fear that someone might say something offensive, have a opposing viewpoint, or reveal some proprietary information.  Companies also fear that employees will waste countless hours of time on these sites.  While some of these fears are justified, blocking social media sites from corporate sites is generally not very effective. With smartphone technology the way is it today, if employees want to get on a social network they can easily do so from the privacy of their own smartphone. Blocking the network is simply just a bandaid.  Instead, the best way for organizations to address this issue is to develop a social media policy that fits the culture of your company and your industry, and to train employees on that policy.  It you want examples of social media policies, you can go to for examples of policies.  I looked at many of these policies, and there is quite a wide range of the types of companies and industries that are represented on the site.  Also, if your company or organization does make the decision to engage in a social media strategy, it has to be exactly that – a strategy and not a project, and someone or a group of employees need to make sure that it’s working, and that it’s moderated.  While we’re talking about moderation, one area that your organization will need to make a decision on is “What will be your response if someone posts a negative comment about your company on your social site?”  In most cases that will have to be an internal decision handled on a case-by-case basis, but thought leaders in this area tend to indicate that you should leave it posted on the site and respond in the appropriate way to address the issue.  Otherwise, over moderation of the site may occur and it will lose credibility with the other members.  One of the companies that is doing a great job of social media, is Best Buy, the electronics store.  Check out Best Buy’s Facebook Fan page and you will see that they have over 2.6 million Fans, and that they allow both positive and negative feedback to stay posted on the page.  Ultimately, this should drive better customer service.
  • As a final comment regarding social media, allow the users to have an opinion and to be human. Social media can get a little messy at times with mis-spelled words, the use of slang or jargon, and the occasional use of profanity.  As stated before, it will have to be moderated, but again, be careful not to over moderate.

O.k.  The does it for the discussion on “Social Media in Environmental, Health and Safety.” If you have any comments or feedback – I loved to hear it.  You can call our listener voicemail feedback line at 206-337-4769 and leave an audio comment.  You can also stalk us on twitter at, or follow us on Facebook by just searching for Affygility Solutions and giving us a “Like. You can also email us your comments at podcast at

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

First I should mention, that coming up in April, we have several new webinars starting and you should look at our schedule at  These webinars have been very well attended and we have received a lot of positive feedback on them.  In addition to our very popular webinar on Advanced Topics in Potent Compound Safety, we also have a webinar on Dermal Exposure to Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, Global Harmonization System, Hazardous Wastes for Hospitals, Clinics, and Medical Laboratories.  Again, if any of that interests you, I would suggest that you go to and look at our full schedule.

Finally, as mentioned in previous podcast, I’ve been working on a podcast about the Young Guns of Environmental, Health and Safety.  So far, I’ve had over 100 participants complete the survey.  This week I will be working on tallying up the results and will have a free webinar presenting the results this coming Thursday, March 31st.  For details on the time and how to register, please go to potent compound

O.k.  That does it for this week’s show.  Remember to submit your questions to our voicemail feedback line at 206-337-4769 and stalk us on twitter at, on Facebook by searching for Affygility Solutions and giving us a “Like”, and finally on the Affygility Solutions LinkedIn page.


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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