Young Leaders in Industrial Hygiene

Are good leaders born, or are they made? Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines a leader as “a person who has commanding authority or influence.” I asked the president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), Donald J. Hart, Ph.D., CIH, how he defines a leader.

“To be effective [leaders], industrial hygienists must get others to follow,” says Hart. “They must have the skills necessary to ‘read’ others and adjust their communication style to fit the situation. These are skills that are useful in every aspect of life: at work, at home and in volunteer commitments to civic and professional organizations such as AIHA.”

AIHA relies so heavily on the members who volunteer to lead local sections, student local sections and the association's wide variety of volunteer groups that several years ago, the organization identified having a ready supply of well-trained volunteer leaders as a strategic imperative, says Hart. That led to the development of the Leadership Workshop, a weekend-long retreat for incoming volunteer leaders to learn the ins and outs of their new roles.

“By also recognizing the need to develop the leadership skills of early-career industrial hygienists, AIHA launched the Future Leaders Institute in the fall of 2005,” Hart says. “This challenging and rewarding event provides attendees with tools and knowledge to begin a successful career, a network of peers to turn to for professional advice and support and a review of current business management, leadership and communications literature.”

Some of the industrial hygienists profiled here have participated in the Future Leaders Institute, some have not. But all are perceived by their peers to be young leaders in industrial hygiene.

CARTER FICKLEN III, CIH

Carter Ficklen, age 33, attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., receiving a BS in environmental health with an industrial hygiene concentration in 1996 and a certificate in occupational safety in 2000.

As the program manager for Mainthia Technologies, he is responsible for leadership and management of $21.5 million in contracts to provide safety, industrial hygiene, systems safety, fire protection, health physics, emergency response, sanitation, quality assurance and construction inspection support services to NASA Langley Research Center. He leads a staff of 38 people, and his team manages the asbestos/lead management, hearing conservation, confined space entry, indoor air quality and hazards communication programs; provides EHS training; performs comprehensive IH and safety audits; and investigates incidents and near misses.

Ficklen says that one of the aspects of his job he finds most rewarding is the interaction he experiences with so many different people each day. “I joke that I go from the basement to the boardroom, from a director making $250,000 a year to a guy making six bucks an hour,” says Ficklen.

A leader, says Ficklen, helps bring people together “to achieve their best” while promoting their best qualities and minimizing their worst qualities. “When you're putting a team together, not everybody is going to be best friends and sing ‘Kumbaya,” he adds. “But they need to work together and a leader helps them to do that and keeps the morale high.”

Most of today's young professionals went to school for industrial hygiene or safety, Ficklen notes, unlike many of the Baby Boomer-era safety and IH managers, who started their careers as engineers or human resources personnel and transitioned into safety and industrial hygiene positions. “As the Baby Boomers start to check out real estate in Florida, the younger folks can really bring a lot of energy to the profession,” Ficklen states. “We bring knowledge of new technologies, new processes and management systems.” And, he adds, “You can accomplish a lot with energy and fresh ideas.”

Ficklen received the Group Achievement Award from NASA's chief health and medical officer for industrial hygiene support during recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2006. He says the support he and his team were able to give NASA employees and facilities impacted by Katrina is one of the most important accomplishments of his career.

Ficklen managed teams of safety, industrial hygiene and medical personnel, who spent weeks rotating in and out of two NASA facilities in hurricane-ravaged areas. Ficklen's team provided much needed support for the safety and IH personnel at those facilities, who not only were overwhelmed by the safety and health challenges related to bringing their facilities back on line, but who also were trying to rebuild their own homes, communities and lives as well.

“When your home's gone and you're living in a hotel, you just want to work,” says Ficklen. “But we wanted to make sure they did that safely. It sounds kind of corny but it's true: I want everybody to go home healthy at the end of the day and not come down with some nasty illness in 20 years.”

SCOTT MADAR, M.H.S., CIH

Scott Madar, 37, has approached his career as a scientist would approach an important experiment or study: with carefully researched steps that have allowed him to learn what he needs to know while growing as a professional.

He obtained his BS in biology from the College of William and Mary, and earned his MHS in industrial hygiene and safety sciences from Johns Hopkins University. Currently a consultant with ORC Worldwide and a small group instructor at the George Washington University School of Public Health, Mader started his IH career as an OSHA compliance officer in North Carolina.

Working as a compliance officer offered a green recent grad “much training,” says Mader. But he eventually became frustrated with the position. Two things, in particular, prompted him to seek employment elsewhere: “We were limited in the recommendations we could give employers. And for me, the biggest frustration was that the [OSHA] regulations were old and outdated and didn't fit the current technologies on the market.”

From OSHA, Mader jumped to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), eventually serving as the assistant director of the Safety and Health department of the IBT. While in that position, Madar testified before three congressional subcommittees and the National Transportation Safety Board on a variety of transportation safety issues. He also served as the chair of the Occupational Safety and Health Subcommittee of the Labor Research Advisory Committee for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mader currently serves on the Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program of the Transportation Research Board, as well as the Transportation, Warehouse and Utilities Sector Council of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) National Occupational Research Agenda.

Mader says that communication and advocacy for the profession, as well as the ability to see the big picture and not get lost in day-to-day minutia, are the keys to being a leader.

That's one of the reasons why his current position with ORC Worldwide is so rewarding. Mader works with the safety directors of dozens of Fortune 500 companies, helps them to benchmark across industries, conducts short and detailed studies about safety and industrial hygiene topics and holds quarterly meetings with representatives from ORC member companies to discuss best practices. He recently organized a National Summit on Contractor Safety on behalf of the Duke Energy Foundation.

Mader says he enjoys his job because it allows him “to get to know the clients very well, to see the pieces of the puzzles they've solved, [learn] about the solutions they've mastered” and share that knowledge with other member companies, thereby improving the practice of safety across the entire group.

Such knowledge sharing, says Mader, “allows companies and people and even programs to take the lead and look beyond requirements, look beyond tangible solutions.” ORC clients, he points out, “use OSHA regulations and consensus standards as a baseline,” not as the goal of their safety programs.

Mader believes his background in government and with IBT has helped him give good advice to the safety managers with whom he consults. “I understand where both groups are coming from. I can help find middle ground. ”

While he says two of the greatest challenges facing the IH profession are nanotechnology and the globalization of safety, Mader adds another, more insidious challenge: “Stemming the loss of industrial hygienists. I have a suspicion that the pending retirement of Baby Boomers will be a challenge the IH profession, and for the corporations around the world who are looking for that expertise,” says Mader.

“The 9/11 and anthrax situations, unfortunately, presented opportunities for EHS managers to step into the limelight a little more,” he says, “but I don't think they took full advantage of that. Every EHS professional should be advocating for their profession, attending career days, explaining their profession to their friends.”

HEATHER MCARTHUR, CIH, MSPH

Heather McArthur, 37, is the police safety manager/IH for the Phoenix Police Department. She earned a BS in environmental health, occupational health and safety from Brigham Young University in 1992 and her MSPH from the University of Utah in 1999. She began working as an industrial hygienist in 1996 and was board certified in 2001.

As one of the few industrial hygienists employed by a law enforcement agency, McArthur is a leader in her profession. On a day-to-day basis, she might be found testing for asbestos and lead; conducting OSHA, CPR, weapons of mass destruction and chemical awareness training; providing containers and shipping for hazardous waste; catching up on recordkeeping; and conducting fit-testing for full face respirators for 3,500 police officers.

Asked to describe a typical day, McArthur responds, “Well, I got a call in the middle of the night; someone was trying to make [the poison] ricin. My job is never dull.”

“Some older people complain the IH profession is disappearing because we have to wear all these different hats,” says McArthur. “Young people in the profession have already worn all those hats. We never practiced strict, traditional industrial hygiene. I see generalism not as the demise of the profession, but as an opportunity to make a difference in all aspects of the profession.”

Because of her unique skill set, McArthur was named joint operations center event safety officer for the Superbowl, held earlier this year in Glendale, Ariz.

“We began planning 18 months prior to the Superbowl,” she says. “We had to handle the players coming into town, the crowds, extra traffic, staffing for security at all the events and parties. Plus, we had the Phoenix Open and the marathon the same week.”

A joint operations center was set up where the command staff, including McArthur, directed the operations of the fire and public safety departments for the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Glendale. Plus, each city had an area command.

“It was an amazing undertaking,” McArthur remembers. “We had to have safety and medical plans for each day. We had to have an area set up for safe food preparation and storage for 125-250 people who worked each day. I didn't want anyone coming down with food poisoning. We had to have our boots on the ground so the guys weren't left without proper support while they did their jobs.”

Sometimes it was the little things that made the most difference, she adds. Items like hand sanitizer and sunscreen — which might seem small but are important when working outside all day among thousands of people under the Arizona sun — might have been easily overlooked if not for McArthur. “The irony is, after hounding everyone to use hand sanitizer, I'm the one who got sick,” she adds.

McArthur quickly fixed another potentially painful situation that arose: “They wanted to give us folding chairs. I said, no way were we going to sit in folding chairs for 12-14 hours a day. We ordered ergonomic chairs.”

To top it all off, the presidential campaign of Barack Obama came to town at the same time. “The Secret Service gave us a great compliment,” says McArthur. “They said, ‘We thought we were the only game in town because of the professional way we were taken care of.’ I felt good about that.”

DAVID ROSKELLEY, MSPH, CIH, CSP

David Roskelley, 39, decided to go into industrial hygiene while working for a company that removed hazardous materials. “You could say asbestos and lead funded my undergraduate degree,” says Roskelley.

Roskelley, who now is a partner in consulting firm R&R Environmental Inc. in Sandy, Utah, watched his employer's safety officer taking air samples and thought, “That looks like an interesting job. Tell me more about it.”

He said he's always had an interest in science — his father is a chemist — and his undergraduate work focused on pre-med studies. Roskelley received a bachelor of science from the University of Utah in 1994 and his MSPH from the University of Utah, Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, in 1997. “I thought industrial hygiene seemed like a nice marriage between medicine and industry, only the patient isn't an individual, it's a business or a process,” says Roskelley, who also is an adjunct faculty member of the University of Utah.

“I spend about 30 percent of my time teaching and 70 percent in the consulting practice,” he says.

Leaders, Roskelley says, all share some similar qualities and commitments. Leaders are:

  • Interested in mentoring and providing internships for young people starting out in the profession.

  • Won't ask anyone to do something they won't do.

  • Teach and share what they know about real-world practice of the profession.

  • Volunteer with professional organizations to help move the profession ahead.

“I think teaching lends credence to what you do as a consultant; it sets you apart as a leader, someone who is knowledgeable. Whenever I'm training and teaching, people hand me business cards, tell me they've got some business for me. It's a big secret to gaining business for my consulting practice; don't pass that along,” he jokes.

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