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Green Growth, Inclusive Workplaces and What Makes a Good Knife: EHS Today’s Weekly Reads

April 15, 2022
This week, we're admiring our potential through these stories of inspiration, innovation, growth and hope.

This week, we’ve been blessed with sunshine and somewhat warmer temperatures. That’s put a bounce in our step and helped us to see our corner of the world in a new light. Plus, we’ve enjoyed seeing people and their dogs emerge from their homes and fill the sidewalks and parks. Seeing our neighbors helps us feel connected, and we believe that dogs (and cats) bring out the best in us.

If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend, we recommend the documentary “Cat Daddies,” which is available to stream through the Cleveland Independent Film Festival for a few more days.

We have been heartened by some other examples of good work. Two such examples come from the April 14 edition of the Here and Now radio show and podcast. The first featured an interview with two religious leaders from Long Island, New York, who reminded us of our humanity and put into context the religious observances of Easter and Passover amid the war in Ukraine. We were also struck by the story of how neighbors in Portland, Oregon, addressed rising gun violence.

Stories like this have challenged us to reexamine the workplace and ourselves. The following stories offered us lessons, a la Aesop’s Fables for ways to see the world through someone else’s eyes. We hope you enjoy—even if you don’t share our worldview. Until next week, be safe and be well!

Green Job Growth

Green jobs are in demand, according to new LinkedIn data. These jobs include wind turbine technician, solar consultant, agronomists and arborists. No surprise there, as renewable energy and resource management will be more important in response to climate change.

But we were surprised by the position that took the top spot: environment, health and safety specialists. LinkedIn describes EHS specialists as the “career equivalent of a building manager’s ‘master key’ — the unique job title that opens the hiring door at practically every company.”

LinkedIn data found off the chart an annual growth rate for EHS positions since 2016, especially in leadership roles: 26% for “head of EHS,” 17.3% for “EHS manager” and 22.1% for “EHS specialists.” The professional networking and job finding site combined all three roles in the top spot to avoid repetition.

“Across the full sweep of the U.S. economy, these EHS specialists help keep workplaces and their surroundings safe," according to LinkedIn." Their roles focus on everything from broad policies to detailed on-site inspections.”

This isn’t news to any of you in safety, as you know the work you do saves lives. Still, we thought the mention and praise noteworthy, as it seems that many of you stumbled into the a safety role or discovered it later in your career. At the very least, EHS specialist probably isn’t a job you heard about at a high school or college career day.

We’re glad to see more awareness for what we consider to be one of the most important roles within an organization. We hope this translates to bigger budgets, increased staff size and more applicants the next time you post an opening.

View the full list and a brief report here.

More Inclusive Workplaces

In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 1 in 44 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Statistically speaking, we should know at least a few people with ASD, including perhaps our colleagues in the workplace.

People with ASD have been taught largely to adapt to the world around them, even at great discomfort or difficulty. We know some people who struggle to understand the subtleties of social norms yet are also outcast or mocked for failure to conform.

So, when we saw a story about neurodiverse people carving a niche for themselves in cybersecurity work, we were intrigued. Many have taken advantage of the change in environment and workflow that the COVID-19 pandemic prompted, including as remote work and written communications. Many have also enjoyed a reprieve from small chat, face-to-face meetings that required sitting still and extended eye contact, and sensory overload (e.g., harsh lights, strong odors).  

The article offers anecdotal evidence of work from home (WFH) benefits. WFH allows people to have more control of their own environments and be more comfortable as well as focused, which in turn leads to greater productivity.

We were especially heartened by this comment about accommodating a more diverse workforce from Daniel Clayton, vice president of global security operations at Bitdefender Inc: “This is just understanding what somebody needs to be successful and then setting conditions for them to be successful.”

We know many of you must work onsite; that dictates certain conditions and can create real barriers to creating a more diverse workforce. But are there any barriers that, upon closer inspection, could be removed or altered to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment?  

In a case of good timing, we found this article, in which Elon Musk shares some of his struggles with Asperger's, considered part of ASD. The piece also noted that about 1.5 million people with ASD will reach adulthood in the next decade and enter the workplace, meaning if you aren't electing to create an inclusive workplace today, you will have to in the coming years to attract more applicants. 

Read the full article and view some accessibility resources here.

Wielding the Knife

We were scrolling the news when we were struck by this headline: “A Wooden Knife Sharper Than Steel? Scientists Say So.” We could never imagine such a thing, so we read in earnest—and learned much about knives and the centuries honed art of knife making.

Last year, a group of researchers announced they developed wood that they claim is 23 times harder than its natural counterpart. The type of wood, basswood, was chosen for its high-performance qualities, as it is often used for woodworking and the bodies of musical instruments. Hardening the wood required chemical treatment, water rinsing and both cold and hot presses, followed by a soak in food-grade mineral oil.

Many knife makers, design experts and cooking enthusiasts were interviewed. Some were skeptical of the performance claims of this hardened wood knife, but most were open to at least trying it. Therein lies a question: When confronted with information incongruent with what you have known and heretofore experienced, how do you respond or react?

It may seem irrelevant—we’re talking about knives for chopping vegetables and steak, after all. But what if the process to make the wood knife could be replicated or expanded for other aspects of daily life? Or, as is much more likely the case, what if, during the course of your work, you are presented with a product or idea that challenges convention—and your way of thinking?

It can be difficult for us to admit we’re wrong. It can also be difficult for us to imagine something so different from what we know. We like to think we are open to new ideas…until we’re presented with them.

Read the full article here.

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