Someone who accepts the risks and rewards of developing, launching, and running a new business is often called an entrepreneur. But this is narrow thinking.

Per Wikipedia’s latest entry, “Entrepreneurship” is broadly defined as the creation of value. Wikipedia states that entrepreneurs “are leaders willing to take risk and exercise initiative, taking advantage of market opportunities by planning, organizing and deploying resources, often by innovating to create new and improving existing products or services.” Entrepreneurs often are called solopreneurs, freelancers and self-employed (that represent about 30% of the US workforce) because initially they work by themselves with a specialized skillset to establish creation of value.

Types of entrepreneurship defined by Wikipedia include: Ethnic; Institutional; Cultural; Feminist; Social; Nascent; Project-based; and Millennial. Wikipedia does not include OHS entrepreneurship, but it should.

Lose your job?

COVID-19 offers great opportunity to consider OHS entrepreneurship. If your OHS job has not been subject to lay off, furloughed, or elimination – or some other drastic change – it likely will be in the coming months. There are many reasons for this prediction.

First, consider the broad economics. Manhattan Institute April 29, 2020, Issue Brief, Coronavirus Budget Projections: Escalating Deficits and Debt, projects that added costs and declining revenues because of COVID-19 will produce a 2020 federal budget deficit more than $4.2 trillion and add $8 trillion in federal debt over the next decade. These figures do not include federal legislative monetary aid to state and local governments that are likely.

Government budget deficit numbers are unprecedented; therefore, outcomes and solutions are unprecedented, too. Politicians will dance around the topic, but eventually business and personal taxes must rise and probably substantially. If taxes do not rise, highly unlikely, then government services must fall. Business will do what they must to be economically competitive. An economic tightening of belts or cost-reductions through innovations, among all segments of the economy, is certain – but again because of COVID-19, unprecedented.

OHS awareness

Every business owner, to varying degrees, has health and safety on their mind. OHS awareness among business owners is unprecedented in American history when we consider that OSHA, EPA, and associated regulations were sparse prior to 1970 and rise of occupational health threats and solutions over the past decades has been phenomenal.

OHS awareness, however, is unlikely to translate during these COVID times into additional full-time OHS positions. Using past recessions as a guide, initial cost-savings by larger US employers often focused on salaried workforce reduction to eliminate significant benefit and associated costs such as training. Essential OHS services were added to the workload of those OHS pros that remained or were outsourced when workload became unmanageable.

Examples – OHS entrepreneurs

Here are a few examples of entrepreneurs who are “leaders willing to take risk and exercise initiative, taking advantage of market opportunities by planning, organizing and deploying resources, often by innovating to create new and improving existing products or services.”

Jim Deardorff is the president of Superior Coating based in Chillicothe, Missouri. Jim has over 25 years’ experience in the application and maintenance of protective coatings. COVID-19 concerns prompted Jim to expand development and promotion of a Nano-Clean coating product. Jim incorporated nano-sized silicon with micro-molecular polymer into an ultra-thin protective coating that, in simple terms, reduces surface hiding places for microbes such as coronavirus. How clean is clean is a challenge when surfaces are wiped down with a disinfectant. Sampling for coronavirus is not practical, even when done results are delayed by a few days. Nano-Clean coating provides prompt quality assurance by ASTM F-22-02 water break test in combination with contact angle measurement. Jim’s promotion of Nano-Clean will draw him further into the OHS world.

Ted Radar was instrumental in establishing Chemwise, a chemical recycling and disposal organization, based in Findlay, Ohio, more than 15 years ago. Although business interests came first, interest in OHS concerns drove Ted to earn through part-time classes an MS in Occupational Health followed by achieving the Certified Industrial Hygienist credential about a year ago. The CIH® served as a steppingstone for greater aspirations. Ted’s now in med school and eventually will graduate to become a physician that holds the CIH® credential. New OHS services are on the horizon for Ted.

I established Markiewicz & Associates Ltd., a solopreneur OHS consulting service, based in Toledo, Ohio, in June 1999. My OHS consulting business was established when my 12-year plus corporate OHS position was eliminated following acquisition by another corporation. I did not want to uproot my kids from their school and friends and no other nearby employment could match my corporate pay. Starting my own business was a risk I was willing to accept. What have I learned during the 20 years of running my own business? No regrets. I really like what I do. In retrospect the corporate position was too easy and may have eventually stagnated and narrowed my skills. I enjoy the challenges that come with running a solopreneur business. I am optimistic about OHS’s future.

What about you?

If faced with desire or necessity, I encourage others with a passion or strong curiosity for health and safety improvement to consider OHS entrepreneurship. You will need an entrepreneur mindset as described above. There are no hard rules to starting an OHS business. Interestingly, there are no hard rules for what OHS is or is not.

Risk, in business mindset, means the effect of uncertainty upon achieving objectives. When you understand and support each employer’s objectives, you will get repeat business. If you could only choose one credential to market yourself, choose the CIH® which is the oldest (est. 1960) of all OHS credentials. The CIH® opens more business doors than any other credential.