The Dawning of a New Era


Frank Brandauer

It would seem that this time the “economic” sky really is falling. The majority of Companies and their EHS programs have been severely impacted by the economy. It is anyone’s guess how severely and how long our programs will be affected.

Some, including Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer, are now suggesting that it is not about an “economic restart” but about and an “economic reset”. The next economic cycle may require that we adjust to a long period of fundamentally lower consumption and slow growth.

For most, right now the emphasis is on dealing with the need to provide fundamental EHS coverage with frozen budgets and reduced resources. Difficult as this may be, it is time to start to consider how we will meet and hopefully shape expectations in this new, and perhaps more sustainable, environment.

The only thing clear to me is that we, as a profession, need to network more than ever to find and share new solutions and approaches. How do you see this developing? How can NAEM function as a cost effective vehicle for this process?

Since you can’t travel, you might as well join in the discussion.

About Frank Brandauer

Frank Brandauer is the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Therapak Corp. and a former member of the NAEM Board of Directors.

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  1. David Williams

    January 26, 2009

    While it might seem cliched or trite to say that with every situation comes new opportunities – one’s perspective can shape to a large extent whether this will be a negative or positive experience. One key perspective to have in the forefront is this – think about EHS (or any function) in terms of value delivered and not just cost incurred. A value focus continues to move you in the right direction, even if it is in smaller increments than you might desire due to temporary constraints like budget cutting. A cost focus generally gets exactly what you focus on – lower costs and likely nothing else.

    In a consulting or a professional services firm “leverage” is one of the key business aspects that needs to be focused on. Leverage means being able to generate the most value from the lowest cost to provide a good or service. For example, if you have a great system implementation methodology that allows you to implement a system quickly and efficiently yet charge a fixed price fee that equates to a higher hourly billing rate, then you have good leverage.

    EHS needs to look for leverage opportunities. For manufacturing industries one good place to start looking is integrating and aligning with operations and quality. Lots of commonality between management systems and operational excellence. Does EHS have a good task observation program? If so, if it doesn’t include quality elements then work with the quality function to include them. The supervisor or manager is already on the shop floor doing the task observation, get more value by having them look at all relevant tasks. Same deal with critical task management.

    If your EHS professionals are not proficient in the fundamentals of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, then get them up to a “Yellow Belt” status. This is another area of potentially great leverage for EHS. If a company has a lean and/or Six Sigma program, there is generally a lot of emphasis placed on this and these projects are where the action is. Getting EHS involved put EHS professionals in the middle of the action and can also ensure that the EHS aspects are considered in the project execution.

    Perspective is the key. There are usually many more opportunities in any given situation than one can initially realize.

  2. Brenda

    January 26, 2009

    LOL – Frank, I always enjoy your practical approach to things…. “since you can’t travel, might as well join the discussion.”

  3. Stephen Evanoff

    January 28, 2009

    Take the Long View!

    There is no doubt that the next 6-12 months will be challenging. While I agree with the points Frank and David make for the short-term, I think we have good reason to be optimistic if we take the long view.

    Here’s why.

    Our profession is inextricably linked to and directly affected by politics, legislation, and regulatory agency policies. The incoming administration has already demonstrated it is serious about EHS issues by its appointments, positions and executive orders. The other evening one the Pundit Class on a TV news program said that this administration is going to be “friendly” to “environment, health and safety issues”. Yes, the phrase EHS came out of the mouth of one of the talking heads. Astonishing. Tom Friedman has practically trademarked the phrase “green is the new gold” and has been writing and talking incessantly about the environment as a business opportunity. The term “green” has entered the mainstream lexicon and is infused into advertising for consumer products and business branding.

    All this is significant and positive for us. We need to seize the opportunity. It’s time to find ways to remind management of the value of the traditional EHS function (there’s a new sheriff in town, he’s hyperkinetic…and armed; we’re cheap insurance, so keep us around), while at the same time aggressively carving out new career opportunities related to global warming, sustainability, the new energy economy, new urbanism architecture and planning, innovative vehicles, public transportation, etc. If we think broadly and strategically, and move outside our comfort zone, we will prosper. It’s time to sharpen up the soft skills, network with innovators, entrepreneurs, and business developers, and look for new companies, products and lines of business.

    Our profession is on the brink of being rejuvenated to a level we haven’t seen since the 1980s. Don’t hunker down. Buck up. Yes, we can create a bright future for ourselves and the EHS management profession. Our best days are ahead.

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