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SAFETY 2003 - ASSE'S Professional Development Conference and Exposition, June 22-25, Denver, Colorado.

ASSE understands that it can be difficult to find time for EH&S Training, however, we urge you to attend the ASSE Safety 2003 Conference! As someone who understands the educational value of the ASSE Conference, you owe it to yourself to learn more about this year's new sessions, seminars and special events. SAFETY 2003 attracts the top speakers, authors and experts on EH&S, and brings together thousands of professionals like you to share their experiences and learn from the leaders.

Earn 1.7 CEUs, with additional CEUs available at pre-conference and post-conference seminars. Register today at


Legal Pitfalls of Incident Investigation Seminar

When an organization experiences a loss or near-miss its safety professionals and lawyers often disagree on the proper approach to investigation and report writing. This tension results from a) perceived antagonism between the goals each profession strives to accomplish; b) misunderstandings about the meaning of words used by both; and c) unfamiliarity with tools available to help both meet the organization's needs.

This 4-hour seminar provides participants with a fundamental understanding of the legal pitfalls inherent in investigations and suggestions to avoid them. For more information, go to


Dear Subscriber,


In the next three editions of ISHN's e-newsletter (6/6, 6/13, 6/20), we apply the economic concept of "creative destruction" to safety and health programs, and the careers of safety and health professionals. For pros, their programs, and their professional societies must figure out how to benefit from this merciless, but ultimately progressive process.

"I'm trying to find the emerging trends that will bring industrial hygienists back into the picture," says one IH. "The problem is, there is no mystery about our jobs anymore. Almost anyone can sling a pump. I network and network, but I don't see the silver lining in the clouds."

"After 20 years in safety I wonder where the excitement is," says a consultant who works from a home office. I don't see anything new out there."

6/6 - Creative Destruction: The Price of Progress

6/13 - Don't Build Safety Programs to Last

6/20 - Cashing In On Chaos



Have you been experiencing what economists call a "state of disequilibrium" lately?

Feeling spooked by the endless rounds of layoffs?

Join the club. Everyone is having trouble understanding an economy that supposedly is on the road to recovery, yet keeps destroying jobs. Since March, 2001, 2.1 million jobs have been lost in the U.S. New work, meanwhile, can be hard to find. In the past year, almost 2.8 million people have run through their unemployment benefits. And educated employees, such as environmental health and safety managers, are having a tough go of it. Of almost two million workers who have been unemployed for at least half a year, one in five is a former executive, manager, or professional, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project.

Specific technical expertise can be something of an albatross in this economy, limiting job choices. Compounding the challenge, some technical work has become a commodity, courtesy of technological advances that have dumbed down jobs like air sampling. "The art has gone out of industrial hygiene," says one IH.

That chill wind you feel has a name. It is the gale of "creative destruction." Joseph Schumpeter, an Vienna-born, Harvard-educated economist coined the term in the 1930s. He's all the rage in Washington these days. Capitalism, said Schumpeter, needs destruction in order to sustain itself. A never-ending cleansing process of sifting out loser companies and industries and reallocating resources to the winners.

Everyone from Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan to the warring parties in the Microsoft antitrust case is quoting Schumpeter. "The economy of the future is likely to be 'Schumpeterian'," observed former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers. Creative destruction will be the norm. Innovation - especially products based on ideas like music, film, software and pharmaceuticals - will drive wealth, and drain capital from stagnating old-line industries.

This is true of the safety and health field, too. Most of the popular, and profitable, developments in this mature field in recent years have been based on ideas: behavior-based safety, Voluntary Protection Programs, international safety and health management systems certified by auditors, Internet-based "distance learning" courses, electronic networks of specialized consultants, web-based MSDS libraries, downloadable safety programs and "e-tools", Intranet-based corporate safety communications and reporting, electronic data collection, wireless hand-held auditing devices and monitoring instrument networks. . .



An industrial hygienist in his 40s, who shall remain nameless for the sake of his privacy, is at this moment taking stock after the recent mega-merger between his employer, for whom he's worked most of his adult life, and a competitor. "It's good for shareholders in the long run, lousy for employees," he says. "For every winner, there will be ten losers, some who will lose their jobs, be transferred or retooled.

"I feel a chapter is ending and beginning in my life with the passing of this deal. I'm carefully weighing my options and opportunities in this new world." The Wall Street Journal calls it "a new economic order."

This IH is going through his own personal process of creative destruction, or professional "mutation", a concept Schumpeter applied to evolving industries. It's messy, confusing, and for those out of work for months and months, painful and cruel. It's a process that could lead to this IH reinventing himself, his niche in the professional marketplace, his personal branding as a specialist. This is what creative destruction forces individuals, companies, entire industries to do.

He's embracing the chaos, as management consultant Tom Peters urges. We don't have much choice. In this "new economic order" there are no safe harbors.

Timing is everything. We're in the midst of the biggest change in the way business is conducted in the past two to four hundred years, Peters says. Globalization gives us a world without borders, and companies can abruptly shed jobs in the U.S. and move them to cheaper climates like Mexico, China, or India. Technology boosts productivity, allowing businesses to do more with less. Other jobs are automated or outsourced out of existence in the squeeze for more output.

Profits are no protection for many employees. A.O. Smith, a Milwaukee manufacturer of electric motors, announced that its net earnings rose 13 percent in the first quarter of 2003 - five days after it eliminated 300 jobs at its plant in Tennessee by deciding to move production to Juarez, Mexico, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. A vice president explained that "we're doing this to improve our cost position."

The safety and health profession of course has not escaped the blows of creative destruction.

Dangerous industries where safety and health received early attention, and resources, years before OSHA no longer generate many jobs for pros. Railroads in the U.S. employed two million people in 1920; today that number is down to 231,000. High-hazard smokestack industries have been in eclipse for years. In just the past two years, manufacturing cut 1.7 million jobs.

At the same time, thousands of new jobs have been created by the likes of Microsoft, Wal-Mart and Dell. In 1960, there were fewer than 5,000 computer programmers and operators. Today there are about 1.29 million. The health care sector is booming, currently employing about 1.38 million medical technicians. In 1910, there were none. But these high tech and health care service fields offer limited opportunities to health and safety pros.

Here is another shift: Significant safety and health shortcomings need to be addressed in developing nations. Multinationals are worried about their liabilities, and are searching for help. But how many safety and health pros are prepared to jump the pond and relocate to a place such as England, like consultant Kathy Seabrook, CSP, did last month? The opportunities are there - for some. Organization Resources Counselors, a successful Washington-based safety and health consulting firm, launched its first European EHS Forum in Brussels in March. The Phylmar Group, a network of EHS consultants, is rapidly contracting with affiliates in Asia to meet growing demand, says principal Mark Katchen, CIH. And Safety Performance Solutions, a behavior-based consulting business, has one partner spending weeks on assignment in Puerto Rico.

These are the choppy waters that must be navigated by pros, like that IH experiencing the after-effects of a mega-merger. But he's far from alone.

Also confronting creative destruction: Professional societies faced with declining membership, local chapters that can't attract members to monthly meetings, university EHS programs faced with declining enrollments, and even OSHA, which is trying to morph from compliance cop to outreach assistant.

"Unchartered territory" was the fitting theme of last month's American Industrial Hygiene Conference in Dallas. "It's been a strange couple of years," said an American Industrial Hygiene Association official. "Since 9/11, things have not been normal."

Or as Yogi Berra once said, "The future ain't what it used to be."


Excerpt from Part 2 next week:

For the better part of 30 years, OSHA insulated and protected many safety and health pros from having to compete for resources and influence within their organizations. Pros were shielded from change, from creative destruction. It was nice ride. Many new safety and health jobs were created. Careers were predictable and secure. And OSHA's standards and penalties definitely had a positive effect, helping to clean up many workplaces and lower injury, illness, and fatality rates.

But the government's shield left pros, and their programs, vulnerable. When political pressures forced regulators to retrench in the 1990s, professionals and their programs were exposed to the brute realities of creative destruction - intense internal company cost-cutting campaigns, competition for resources, and an ongoing need to prove your worth.

Shock waves are still being felt throughout the safety and health world.

If you want to read all three parts of our "Creative Destruction" series in one file (approximately 4,000 words), email


Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.


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Are you a safety and health pro or a manufacturer or provider of occupational safety and health products or services who enjoys writing?

Shakespeare need not apply, but ISHN is looking for authors to publish short articles (1,000 words) in our monthly issues.

Topics include: safety success stories, close calls and personal experiences, training tips, use of software, engineering controls (machine guards, lockout-tagout), gas detection and air monitoring, confined space safety, personal protective equipment, and OSHA compliance issues.

If any of these topics interest you - or if you have other ideas - e-mail editor Dave Johnson at

We will also consider articles you've already written but not submitted to any safety magazine.