Old pros were trapped in a prescriptive career – the OSHA regulation says this -- now do it.  Doing it took nearly all of the pro’s time. There was little time for best practices. The old pros did, however, build great foundations upon which young pros may leap from compliance practices to conformance objectives.

Letter-of-the-law compliance practices continue, but there’s little appetite among business and others for new prescriptive regulations. The pace of prescriptive law will be slow for young pros, compared to the fast pace experienced by old pros.

Risk-based orientation

A shift to more holistic risk-based treatment for workplace hazards is underway. ISO 3100:2009 Risk Management, and companion documents such as ISO/IEC Guide 51:2014 Safety aspects – Guidelines for their inclusion in standards, set the stage for future risk improvements.

Conformance to OHS objectives is the future. A major conformance tool for young pros is ISO 45001 OHS management system. The standard is on track to be published as a final standard in February, 2018. Young pros should embrace the standard for all its worth, particularly context clauses that may baffle old minds.

Compliance groupthink among old pros may be a detriment to 45001. For example, in the Planning clause in 45001, old pros will look for annual plans because that fits their compliance mindset. Young pros should push for five-year, ten-year and even longer plans.  Rationale for longer plans comes from several OHS objective considerations such as context sub-clauses including “understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties.”  Customer interest in a business’s OHS performance may outweigh OSHA’s compliance interest.

The future is being written

The future of work is technology and its impacts. Drones; autonomous vehicles; collaborative (no fence) robots; wearable sensor technology – presence and hazard sensing (noise, chemical, radiation, heat, etc.); do-everything apps; ubiquitous nanotechnology; local power generation and distribution (solar and other) and are just a few examples.  Technology-inspired threats such as global warming, more virulent infectious and communicable disease, or the health effects of humans bathed in electromagnetic radiations will be real and present dangers for young pros. These risks were just a blip on the radar for old pros.  Here are considerations and guidance for young OHS pros.

New rules of the game

  1. No 30-year retirement with same employer.
  2. Plan for a long career. You’ll most likely feel and act younger at the same age than that of an old pro.
  3. Prepare to have many employers. Place loyalty of career over loyalty to an employer.
  4. Promote your talents rather than job title.  Credentials such as CSP and CIH are a quick way to demonstrate talents.
  5. Don’t get lured into a diploma mill or sham credentials.
  6. Greater diversity in everything – people, products and experiences. Embrace the change.
  7. Embrace the shift from compliance to conformance and risk management. Practice OHS as if OSHA regulations didn’t exist but injury and illness must nevertheless be prevented.
  8. Implement OHS special changes for demographic increases among older people, women, ethnic and religious minorities.
  9. Try to balance the scale with ten OHS leading indicators for one trailing OHS indictor.
  10. Appreciate why the “H” comes before the “S” in the ISO 45001 standard. Old pros focused on injuries and underestimated adverse health impacts.
  11. Enhance industrial hygiene knowledge in STEM topics, particularly chemistry, toxicology and physics. Drive chemistry to the parts per trillion. Learn basics of quantum mechanics to appreciate nanotechnology that will revolutionize many industries.
  12. Plan for life-long learning. The logic of 10,000 hours to master a new field is applicable.
  13. Embrace IH skills, particularly use of hi-tech instruments and “wearable” technologies. Let “big data” mine root causes for injury and illness.
  14. Measure and control EMF, psychological hazards, chemical hypersensitivities and other health threats that old pros underappreciated.
  15. Consider technology that allows individualized medicine also allows individualized IH such as chemical exposures.
  16. Diversify your understanding of OHS risks. Avoid getting pigeon-holed into just a few risk categories.
  17. Develop a daily routine to scan OHS and related topics. Apps such as Flipboard facilitate this routine.
  18. Green building technologies, even in factory settings, should become more commonplace. The more you know about this topic the better.
  19. Prepare for more foreign-owned manufacturing in the U.S., particularly among BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). As standard of living increases among BRICS, production costs make more sense in the U.S.
  20. Understand the connectivity between goals/objectives, policies/procedures, destinations/roadmaps, strategy/tactics and even management/workers. Eliminate either one of the two co-dependent variables and you achieve nothing.
  21. Embrace hierarchy of controls. Eliminate or control hazards by engineering controls first and foremost.
  22. You’ll meet stupid people in your career. Rejoice. Because of them you’re assured of an active OHS career.

Risk-thinking mode

Bottom line: put most ideas into risk-thinking mode – where risk includes positive outcomes. See ISO 31000:2009 if this concept is not clear. Wherever you practice OHS try to manage activities through ISO 45001.

Old pros haven’t been wiped clean from management leadership and old groupthink mindsets toward compliance thinking may hold strong. Ask the old pro if he/she could prevent workplace injury or illness without OSHA regulations. Could risk management be driven within the organization to the level of control such as letter-of-the-law OSHA?  Any hesitation suggests that senior managers haven’t been put into an OHS business mindset.

Old pros tended to act like policemen to enforce laws. This wasn’t a fault but a reality of the times. Young pros must excel at selling OHS practices as strict business performance objectives.  The time is so right for the transition.