When Ather Williams, Jr., vice president of worldwide safety and industrial Hygiene for Johnson & Johnson, looks into his crystal ball he foresees stress and global standards as two key issues the safety and health community will be grappling with in coming years.
"I believe stress is going to be the injury of the century," predicted Arthur Williams, Jr., vice president of worldwide safety and industrial Hygiene for Johnson & Johnson.
Williams was the keynote speaker yesterday (JUNE 5) at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, which is being held in New Orleans.
Causes of higher job stress, according to Williams, include dual career families, a rising workload, and heightened job insecurity because of the changing work environment.
Williams is responsible for the health and safety of 111,000 people in 194 Johnson & Johnson companies operating in 51 countries. He said that stress, or ''well being'', has already emerged as a key issue in Europe, and is likely to spread around the world.
Williams predicted that within the next five years there will be global standards for safety, and that major customers will require companies to abide by such standards. This has already happened with ISO 9000 and ISO14, 000 (environment) is next, he added.
Another key theme of his speech was the importance of IH professionals taking responsibility for the health of employees, and Williams linked this to the emergence of global standards.
"As safety professionals we must accept responsibility to ensure that our standards are global," said Williams, a statement he repeated for emphasis. He explained that this was a financial as well as a moral imperative. For example, after revelations about the use of child labor in some of its overseas plants, Nike''s stock price fell 10 percent in one day.
Ergonomics is another example of a global safety issue, according to Williams, though he confessed, "we really don''t have ergonomics under control."
"When you travel the regions," he added, "you see the same repetitive motion issues, the same over exertion issues you see in the U.S."
Williams said Johnson & Johnson is committed to being a world leader in safety and health, with the goal having an injury free workplace. "Safety is not a priority for us, it''s a core value," he explained. As a result, safety is taken into consideration during the design of new products at Johnson & Johnson.
Williams said his company believes it is best to go beyond mere compliance with regulatory standards, because if compliance is the goal, inevitably a facility will fall short of the regulations, and then someone can get hurt.
One example of this approach is Williams'' desire to eliminate all hearing protection and respirators from the company''s facilities.
"Because over time hearing protectors and respirators don''t work, and when they fail people get hurt," he said.
Williams concluded by listing some of the opportunities available to IH professionals and the companies they work for.
He said a major opportunity for companies is to anticipate and influence new global standards, so they will be more prepared than their competitors.
A second major opportunity emphasized by Williams is the taking of responsibility.
"I hold myself, and line management, accountable for every injury in every Johnson & Johnson facility," Williams said. He invited his audience to do the same.
by James Nash