Industrial Hygienist Calls for Innovation in Field

The industrial hygiene profession must change how it addresses customers and do a better job of marketing itself in terms of the business value it provides, Richard Fulwiler, Ph.D., CIH, told the May 25 general session of the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce) in Anaheim, Calif.

In an address titled, "Innovation Is Not a Choice, It Is a Must," Fulwiler, the president of Technology Leadership Associates, said the industrial hygiene field is faced with declining manufacturing employment, less regulatory pressure and less unionized employment. As a result, the field does not have "powerful, forceful drivers" to promote the use of industrial hygiene services.

Fulwiler said industrial hygienists need to make both a human and business case for their services, and do a "better job of expressing health and safety outputs as business outputs." He said industrial hygienists must be capable of dealing with rapid technological change, such as is occurring in the field of nanotechnology, and respond to a variety of other changes such as increasing service sector employment, rising health care costs and the continuing business preference for environmental, health and safety (EHS) generalists.

Just as industrial hygiene is being integrated into an EHS function today, Fulwiler said he expected that EHS will be integrated in the future into organizations' overall risk management process, and that that in turn would evolve into an integrated work system (IWS) structure such as is employed by Volvo.

Marketing Industrial Hygiene

Fulwiler said practitioners needed to present industrial hygiene in marketing terms that identify the values it provides. He noted that their work helps to enhance health, increase productivity and enable companies to use and maintain potentially dangerous technologies. He continued that industrial hygiene should be marketed as a business-building asset, not a staff cost necessity. He said practitioners could use terms such as sales equivalent dollars to show, for example, how a $10,000 injury in a company with a 5-percent profit margin would force the company to sell $200,000 worth of products in order to cover the cost of the injury.

He also called on the profession to find ways to communicate more effectively about industrial hygiene to the public, and to incorporate occupational health and safety into public school curriculums.

Posing the question, "Is industrial hygiene losing its identity?," Fulwiler said the field has brought a variety of methodologies such as research, standards-setting and control technologies to the workplace. He said an effort must be made to preserve these methodologies or the "real losers" would be millions of workers worldwide.

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