“My biggest challenge was to move away from doing to planning
and organizing. I needed to stop being overwhelmed by day-to-day
activities and actually develop an IH process.”
industrial hygienists in identifying the business impacts of
health and safety interventions, calculate the return on invest-
ment, and communicate the value to business leaders can be
transformational for the profession. [Editor’s note: For more in-
formation about the AIHA Value Strategy, visit www.aiha.org/
As I mentioned earlier, understanding your organization’s
business goals is the first and most important step. Often, OHS
risk management interventions can help achieve management’s
goals beyond improving the health and safety of workers. A
good example may be an ergonomics intervention to reduce the
incidence of musculoskeletal disorders on a packaging line. The
industrial hygienist may propose the installation of mechanical
lifting and handling devices; however, these may be viewed as
too expensive. But when the industrial hygienist considers how
these devices can help achieve management’s goal of improving
speed-to-market by reducing packaging cycle time and keeping
employees injury-free and, therefore, on the job, there’s an op-
portunity to have a different conversation with management
about the value of these ergonomic improvements. The er-
gonomic risks are reduced, the injuries are controlled, and man-
agement achieves its goal of improving cycle time.
Would you agree that in the future more health and
safety professionals will be generalists? What management challenges are associated with this trend, and how
should industrial hygiene managers respond to these
I do believe that the trend in industry is toward more generalists. I started to see that trend toward the end of my tenure in
industry. Specialists were hired as contractors or consultants if
there was a specific need.
I don’t want to dismiss the concerns of industrial hygienists
that generalists may not have a full appreciation for industrial
hygiene hazards and risks. That is a concern that I have as well,
especially when we consider how few of the chemicals in commerce have authoritative occupational exposure limits and analytical methods. I worry that the work of the IH in identifying
and characterizing the hazards to these chemicals, assessing the
risks from occupational exposure, conducting exposure monitoring surveys, and appropriately interpreting the survey results
will not be done by generalists, even for recognized hazards.
When we add to this all of the chemicals without OELs, it is unwise to believe that generalists can take the place of the IH.
Therefore, our profession needs to drive the selection of
higher-level controls, including elimination, substitution, and
engineering controls, for all chemical hazards with the potential
for significant health effects from occupational exposure, not
just those with an OEL. The control banding approaches used in
the pharmaceutical industry have been very successful and
should be explored for all chemicals without OELs. This will as-
sist us in having a more comprehensive approach for control-
ling IH risks. But this means our profession needs to work more
closely with product designers and engineers. Equipping IHs
with the skills to participate in product development and engi-
neering design, and educating engineers and business leaders
about the value of including the health and safety of workers in
business processes, is my vision for the future of our profession.
So I think it’s a matter of us not trying to do all of the activities
we have done in the past with fewer resources. Rather, it’s
about using our resources differently to have an even bigger
Ed Rutkowski is managing editor of The Synergist. He can be reached at (703)
846-0734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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