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Everything Old Is New Again

Aug. 6, 2013
I'm Josh Cable, the "new" senior editor of Penton's  EHS Today. I put "new" in quotation marks for a reason. In 2004, I began my tenure at Penton as an associate editor of EHS Today's predecessor, Occupational Hazards.    Although the name was different (and a lot more ominous sounding), the focus was largely the same: providing news, insights, research and best practices to help EHS leaders excel at their jobs.

I'm Josh Cable, the "new" senior editor of Penton's  EHS Today.

I put "new" in quotation marks for a reason. In 2004, I began my tenure at Penton as an associate editor of EHS Today's predecessor, Occupational Hazards.   

Although the name was different (and a lot more ominous sounding), the focus was largely the same: providing news, insights, research and best practices to help EHS leaders excel at their jobs.

When EHS leaders excel at their jobs, I quickly learned, workplaces are safer, more productive and more profitable.

I never lost sight of that, even as I moved on to other publications within the company (after three enjoyable years at Occupational Hazards). The value of safety was especially relevant during my time as a senior editor at IndustryWeek, a magazine that focuses on operational best practices in manufacturing.

Walking the factory floors of world-class manufacturing facilities, I got to see how safety fits into the grand scheme of operational excellence.

Safety is just one of the key metrics that IndustryWeek uses to judge applicants for its Best Plants program (others include quality, inventory management and on-time delivery). But more often than not, facilities that received the Best Plants award told us that safety was their key metric – their ultimate indicator of performance.

Time and time again, plant managers and continuous-improvement leaders from world-class facilities told me that safety was the first topic on the agenda of every meeting in every department; that all employees were empowered to halt entire production lines if they observed unsafe conditions; and that their senior executives were champions of their EHS initiatives.

Cold, Hard Reality

While I step into my "new" role at EHS Today inspired by those organizations that view safety and sustainability as the foundations of long-term success (and rightfully so), I also realize that not every EHS professional has it so lucky.

The cold, hard reality is that too many EHS leaders are stuck in companies and facilities that still view accidents and injuries as a cost of doing business. Driven by a moral imperative to protect workers from harm, these EHS professionals try in vain to seize the attention of upper management – only to watch safety take a backseat to production and budgetary pressures.

Sound familiar? I hope not. But I know these types of environments still exist.

Why? Because nine years after I first started writing about occupational safety and health, factories continue to blow up and workers continue to die.

Coming Full-Circle

Nevertheless, I think we're making progress on some fronts. Over the past few years, I've watched from the sidelines, so to speak, as more and more organizations take a serious look at important EHS issues such as wellness, workplace bullying, off-the-job safety and ergonomics.

And I've also watched from the sidelines (although just a few cubicles away) as editor-in-chief Sandy Smith has built EHS Today into a publication that is truly making a difference, whether through fearless writing and reporting or through the America's Safest Companies Conference. (Incidentally, I've also watched the trade-industry awards pile up outside Sandy's office.)  

With all of that said, I'm excited to bring my journalism career full-circle, back to the field of environmental, health and safety. It's a noble profession fraught with challenges but also blessed with opportunities. And I'm blessed to be a part of it.

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