Is Industrial Hygiene a Competitive Advantage?

"You betcha!" said Richard D. Fulwiler, who told Professional Conference on Industrial Hygiene participants that health and safety needs to be viewed by senior line management as a "competitive advantage as a well as a business building asset."

"You betcha!" said Richard D. Fulwiler, Sc.D., CIH, who told Professional Conference on Industrial Hygiene (PCIH) participants Sept. 27 that health and safety needs to be viewed by senior line management as a "competitive advantage as a well as a business building asset," not as a staff cost necessity.

To do so, he argued, safety and health professionals need to realize that they are "selling health and safety" and demonstrate to line management that there is a strategic linkage between health and safety activities and their business objectives. Fulwiler, who accepted the Henry F. Smyth Jr. award at PCIH in New Orleans, said industrial hygienists are "great technologists; but, on the whole, our sales skills leave a lot to be desired."

Fulwiler, a former director of health and safety worldwide for Procter & Gamble (P&G) and now president of Technology Leadership Associates in Cincinnati, cited four major tools that health and safety (H&S) professionals have at their disposal to build the case for their activities:

  • Values and Principles: Fulwiler said H&S and business success can be seen as a stool supported by three legs people, public trust and profit. Foremost is the idea that people are entitled to the preservation of life and limb and that they are essential for the success of any enterprise.
  • Technology Enabling: Fulwiler cited his experience at P&G with the introduction of enzymes in detergents in the 1960s. British employee representatives called for the ban of enzymes because of health problems, such as asthma, caused by their use. Unilever acceded to the request, but Procter & Gamble promised employees that it would devise systems to use enzymes safely. Industrial hygiene (IH) helped devise such systems, allowing P&G to market a more effective detergent and gain the No. 1 sales spot with its product.
  • Expressing IH Outputs as Business Outputs: Fulwiler said industrial hygienists should look for opportunities to link H&S activities to business measures such as cost, quality, production, customer satisfaction, product performance and attracting and retaining personnel. They should learn to relate losses, such as workers' comp costs, in terms of sales required to produce that much profit in an organization. He also suggested that injury costs be related to lost product production. For example, he noted, a $500 injury would require a soft drink bottler to sell more than 61,000 cans.
  • Forming Strategic Linkages with the Business: Industrial hygienists should ask senior line management, "What are your business objectives and how can IH support them?" Again drawing on his P&G experience, Fulwiler related how IH was able to help achieve a key objective, bringing new generations of enzyme-containing detergents faster to market by making sure facilities could produce them safely.

"Making the sale" for the value of H&S is not only necessary for the "professional survival" of industrial hygienists, Fulwiler said. More importantly, it is "critical to the health and well-being of the work force of this country."

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