The evolution of the EHS field, which has been ongoing for 10-15 years since the effective conclusion of the activist OSHA era, is on display here at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo being held this week in Salt Lake City. EHS professionals in 2015 are no longer looked at as “the safety man” or the “industrial hygiene techie” if they position themselves properly, according to speakers. One speaker quoted a senior business leader saying: “I’m glad EHS professionals are changing perceptions of themselves and their work.”

Pros are saying goodbye to being known as the emergency response, crisis-oriented “fire fighter” and the man or woman “here to save the day.” Also, pros are positioning themselves as being more proactive and aggressive, less passive and reactive. They aspire to be change agents and influential coaches and leaders, rather than the old “I’m here if you need me” EHS model.

Today’s EHS pros are working their way out of the traditional EHS “confined space” or organizational silo of being strictly the regulatory compliance cop, PPE distributor, and technical expert. They are accomplishing this by developing non-techie skills, and dispelling the notion that employees don’t want to talk to them because employees don’t understand the EHS jargon. They are also showing senior business leaders improved planning skills, strategic thinking skills, long-term alignment with business goals, and an appreciation for evaluating the true effectiveness and contributions of EHS.