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Management: From a Peddler to a Partner

Feeling a little overwhelmed these days? The safety equipment industry can offer you a knowledgeable new partner in the prevention of injuries and illnesses.

Dr. Richard D. Fulwiler, CIH, CSHM

Remember those safety equipment vendors who call on you and distract you from really important work? You probably even refer to them as "peddlers." Well, some of these "peddlers" have the expertise and knowledge to become your partner in preventing injuries and illnesses, improving your health and safety program and even helping you build the business case for H&S. Here is some good news if you want a new partner.

A few years ago the leadership of the safety equipment industry made two observations. The first was that in too many instances, safety equipment or personal protective equipment (PPE) was either improperly selected or improperly used. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study found that improper selection or use of PPE occurs in over 50 percent of the applications. Second, health and safety professionals were getting more responsibility with less time to carry out those responsibilities. To test this, how many of you who stuck with this article up to now are expected to do more with less than, say, 5 years ago? One more question: how many of you would like to have a partner to share your load with and at no additional cost?

You don't need to look any further than your safety equipment vendor for your new partner, if he or she is a Qualified Safety Sales Professional (QSSP). No longer "peddlers," these sales people now have the expertise and knowledge to become your partners. They have completed a demanding course designed and run by the associations of safety equipment manufacturers, reps and distributors. The QSSP process is an intense one-week course focusing exclusively on the technical and regulatory aspects of industrial hygiene and safety that includes class work, hands-on practice and a rigorous exam. To obtain the QSSP designation, a safety sales person must have at least 2 years' experience in the business, attend the course and pass the exam.

The QSSP program began in 1996. So far, there over 500 QSSPs located throughout the United States and Canada, not to mention a few in Latin America. The course is typically offered twice a year.

So if you want a partner instead of a peddler to assist you in your ever-increasing work load, seek out a QSSP who will be better able to provide solutions. If PPE is in the equation, they can greatly reduce the probability of improper selection or use. But the training is not limited to PPE. The QSSP has a greater depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise in the entire health and safety injury/illness prevention cycle (See Figure 2.). This cycle starts with an initial assessment of what is needed to provide a healthy and safe workplace, then selection of the proper control modalities, next training and fitting if PPE is involved, then checking to be sure the equipment is being used properly and doing the job for which it is intended, then assuring appropriate maintenance is conducted and finally assessing the overall performance. This is a continuous cycle and not a one-shot deal. There is a strong similarity to the Plan > Do > Check > Act >... cycle so well known and applied as a total quality tool by enterprises that strive for excellence. When it comes to the health and well being of our work force, excellence is clearly what we all should be striving to achieve.

How can a QSSP apply their increased knowledge and expertise to partner with you? Here are a few examples.

Michael Bage, territory manager at Interstate Safety & Supply Inc., Sparks, Nev., is a recent QSSP graduate. Bage says when he mentions his QSSP training and explains what it means, he is often asked to get more deeply involved in his customers' safety programs. He says, "I've assisted with safety meetings, conducted product audits and even overseen specific aspects of their safety programs."

Kurt Kline is another QSSP graduate who has found himself closely intertwined with his customers' safety programs. A western regional manager for DuPont Personal Protection, Kline worked with an end user recently who needed insights into the Hazard Communication standard which is covered in the QSSP course.

Ken Coates, United Sales Associates, Cincinnati, helped a customer understand how to find standards and references in the complicated OSHA 29 Code of Federal Regulations. Coates states, "I was able to locate the standards quickly and explain to the customer how to locate the proper paragraph for his specific application." He adds, "I was able to do this as a result of the QSSP training."

Jay Arnold, director of Sales - Safety Products for Hagemeyer North America, sums it up very well when he says, "We have found that by participating in the QSSP process, our safety specialists have an enhanced understanding of the entire safety equipment business and how our involvement can have a positive effect on our customers. The training program has definitely helped us understand our customers' needs better and given us new ideas on how to help them meet those needs."

In summary, there is a new partner in the prevention of injuries/illnesses on the scene. This new partner is the Qualified Safety Sales Professional (QSSP) who has the expertise and knowledge to work hand in hand with the overloaded H&S practitioner. The QSSP can be helpful in assessing the needs, selecting the appropriate control modality, training and fitting where appropriate, then checking to be sure the controls implemented are effective and properly maintained and part of sustaining the resultant improvements so it becomes a system and not the proverbial "program of the month."

This partner or QSSP is better able to focus on solutions, prevention and service and not just taking orders. All you need to do to leverage this partner is find yourself a QSSP to be your partner in prevention

Three leading associations sponsor the QSSP course: the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), the Safety Equipment Distributors Association (SEDA) and the Safety Equipment Manufacturers Agents Association (SEMAA). To find out more about the program, including a listing of the more than 500 QSSP graduates, go to

Dr. Richard D. Fulwiler, CIH, CSHM, is president of Technology Leadership Associates, Cincinnati, a consulting firm specializing in increasing individual effectiveness and building organizational capability in the health, safety and environmental arena. After 28 years with Procter & Gamble, he retired as its director of health & safety-worldwide. He is adjunct professor at the College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati; course director for the Leadership and Management Course at the Harvard School of Public Health; and course director for the Qualified Safety Sales Professional Course. He can be reached at (513) 941-1377 or e-mail at [email protected]

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