Professionals with Leadership Skills Make Better Industrial Hygienists

Not all environmental health and safety (EHS) professionals are industrial hygienists but some of the most successful industrial hygienists (IH) share a core skill set with EHS professionals, according to NAEM’s “Career Profiles” research, which included survey responses from the members of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

The results identified the skills IH and EHS professionals demonstrate at each career stage and articulated the success factors that distinguish those on a leadership trajectory. To understand what this looks like from an IH perspective, we spoke to AIHA Executive Director Peter O’Neil about what this means for his members and for those entering the profession today.


NAEM: Why is the topic of talent management/competencies a timely one for AIHA and its members?
PO: The world of work has changed.  Our members cannot rely upon their employers to provide a career path and professional development.  For those who lead teams, talent management is an ongoing challenge in general, but with so many baby boomers retiring and leaving the workplace, managing talent will be an even larger challenge.

NAEM: What are companies looking for when recruiting young IH or EHS talent?
PO: They want bright, engaged, solution-oriented professionals who know how to communicate well, can influence others, and are willing to take personal responsibility for their growth and development.

NAEM: How important are the ‘soft skills’ for those in a technical IH or EHS career?
PO:  They are not just important, they are critical. If a technical IH or EHS professional cannot succinctly and persuasively present a business case for a need, they will not receive funding, and that puts worker health at risk.

NAEM: From your perspective, what was one of the most surprising results from the research?
PO: The extent to which our members understand that soft skills are as important as technical skills.

NAEM: If you had one piece of advice for those who are interested in an IH or EHS career, what would it be?
PO: Take responsibility for your career and train/develop yourself around all-important soft skills that complement your technical skills…and your career will soar.

To learn which skills NAEM identified as most critical at each stage, join us for AIHA’s “Career Stages” webinar on Thursday, January 28 at 2:00 p.m.

About Peter O'Neil

Peter J. O'Neil, CAE is the Executive Director of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) in Falls Church, VA, an international professional society representing 10,000 occupational and environmental health and safety professionals.

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