ISHN 50th anniversary: Challenges and Opportunities - thought leader essays
On becoming a strategic value
The biggest opportunity/challenge I see for the future in H&S is for H&S professionals to convince senior line management that H&S is a strategic value to their enterprise and not just some regulatory necessity. For this to come to fruition H&S pros must learn to speak in the language of the customer where the customer in this case is senior line management. This requires them to be able to express H&S outputs in terms that directly relate to the critical outputs of their enterprise e.g. cost, productivity, sales equivalent dollars, customer service, etc. When this is the case, excellence is the outcome.
I was honored when Dave Johnson, editor of ISHN, asked me to write a brief essay on the future of H&S for the 50 Year Anniversary edition of the magazine. I have valued ISHN over the last 50 years of my 55 years in the H&S field. Mr. Johnson has been a true gift to those of us in H&S. He has shared his prescient views with us in many modalities, not just print. We are indeed fortunate to have a “trade” publication of the quality of ISHN. Actually, I consider it a professional publication and continue to value its content. Thanks Dave, and carry on!
Dr. Rick Fulwiler, CIH, CSP, CSHM
President, Technology Leadership Associates
Developing a brother/sister keeper’s culture
“If you see something, say something.” This contemporary slogan reflects a widespread debilitating fear of interpersonal conflict, abuse, and violence that is jeopardizing human welfare worldwide—the peace and freedom U.S. residents take for granted. It seems human discourse these days is more about hate, mistrust, and revenge than love, trust, and kindness.
What will it take for a dramatic paradigm shift? How can the opening quotation become a social norm? Not only that people everywhere notice and report potential threats to safety, health, and security on a routine basis; but they are continuously on the lookout for actively-caring-for-people (AC4P) behaviors to reinforce with positive recognition and appreciation.
Many safety pros, consultants, and line workers have practiced the very procedures that can bring the opening slogan to life, and thereby cultivate a culture of interpersonal empathy, compassion, and AC4P behavior. While these safety processes have many labels, designed to market an “original” approach to prevent workplace injuries, the essential ingredients are the same for each—peer-to-peer behavioral observation, feedback, and coaching. This interdependent process operationalizes the opening quotation and could save the world if practiced effectively on a large scale.
This is easier said than done, of course, but the industrial safety and health (IS&H) world has addressed the human dynamics of safety and security with AC4P coaching, leading to brother/sister keepers’ cultures. Safety pros know what it takes to make this happen. The challenge: spread the evidence-based principles and procedures of this AC4P process beyond the workplace.
This is a potential future and positive legacy of IS&H in America. Show the world how to cultivate a culture in which AC4P behavior becomes the norm—expected at work, at school, at home, and throughout the community. The result: organizations without personal injuries, schools without bullying, families without abuse, communities without violence, and nations without wars.
Dr. E. Scott Geller
Distinguished Alumni Professor Department of PsychologyVirginia Tech
“Our image to management is a weakness and holds us back”
I am not an advocate of events as having direct impact on the safety profession. Certainly, they can if management teams that employ safety professionals are influenced by these to take a closer look at how they are managing safety. But that is hard to pin down.
You just don’t seem to hear any outcry: where were safety professionals in these events? In most cases they fade from view rather quickly and seem to rarely invoke legislation or regulation that would require safety professional staff support.
I like to consider the entire history of ASSE as a mirror. It started as an association of safety staff at workers’ comp insurance companies who had these professionals on staff to visit their insureds and see how they were doing in terms of safety management. Eventually, the larger companies elected to have their own safety and health staff. ASSE continued to grow.
Obviously OSHA was a growth influence. However, I recall some years ago seeing a plot of ASSE membership. I noted that there was a noticeable increase in ASSE membership around the time of OSHA’s inauguration. My recollection was that it was not large.
I think an important point is that there are 35,000 ASSE members and probably another 12,000 AIHA members. The standard number of workplaces that OSHA has under their jurisdiction is typically reported at 7.5 million. So the number of sites with safety and health professionals on their staff is minor.
I think that the evolution during more recent years of going beyond compliance issues, developing management techniques for safety and health, and focusing on sustainability for safety have increased the attractiveness of having safety and health professionals on staff.
I believe that our professional associations could promote this profession more by being strong public advocates for safety and health professionals as value add-on staff supporting management teams and fellow employees. The image projected has been over many years that safety and health professionals are extensions of OSHA in the workplace and are more a servant to OSHA than a supporter of our management teams.
So, the safety and health profession has improved in technology understanding but our image to our management teams is a weakness and holds us back. The safety profession has improved and advanced but there are abundant opportunities to be greater.
Some years ago at an ASSE PDC Management Forum a company manager said this in response to the question: What advice can you give to the safety and health professionals listening to you today. He said: “We know that you know safety and health. We need for you to know us.”
Tom Lawrence, P.E., CSP
Society Fellow, American Society of Safety Engineers