The Management Committee has concentrated on a number of important issues that impact our profession during the last decade. These issues are closely linked to the tremendous changes occurring in how business itself is conducted, and the shift in the drivers for achieving excellence in health and safety performance.
As companies continue to "flatten" and decentralize their corporate EHS staff, industrial hygienists have had to broaden their technical skills within related health, safety and environmental arenas in order to remain valuable to their organizations. The era of in industrial hygiene specialist is over; we are wither knowledgeable generalists or we are irrelevant.
The change in the nature and location of manufacturing has also impacted industrial hygienists. The heavy manufacturing on which our profession established its base is declining or moving offshore. Newer facilities are more mechanized, use fewer chemicals and are staffed by an aging workforce, all trends that require industrial hygienists to re-focus their knowledge and skills. As manufacturing shifts to locations outside North America, and global communications continue to improve, we are as likely to be responsible for day-to-day activities in a plant in South East Asia as we are for one in the South Eastern United States.
In the past ten years the Management Committee has seen the regulatory threat posed by OSHA diminish, thereby reducing the compliance role played by some EHS professionals. Now these companies focus on a variety of internal efforts aimed at enhancing a companys competitiveness by improving product quality and reducing costs. When properly envisioned and implemented, these efforts integrate health and safety activities into the business goals. The challenge for health and safety professionals remains to translate the value of our activities into language meaningful to the business world and communicate this value effectively. The threat of regulatory action no longer inspires managers to act, but reducing costs to stay competitive does.
It is the consensus of the Management Committee that the next decade will continue to include these challenges and more. We will have to keep broadening our technical and leadership skills to remain effective within our organizations. We will have to respond to an ever-shrinking global workplace, instantly managing issues in different parts of the world within different cultural and regulatory milieus. We will have to develop better tools to help managers truly integrate health and safety issues into a variety of business models. As the next decade unfolds, we think the technological advances that are providing better and smaller instruments, more powerful computers and software, and ready access to infinite information and peer consultations provides a great opportunity for industrial hygienists. We must stay current with these advances to remain effective, or risk being marginalized. We must move past standards aimed at merely ensuring health and anticipate a role in developing lower exposure levels that are more likely to promote comfort and increase productivity. We must recognize that organizations of the future will have little place for a hierarchy of health and safety professionals, but should have room for flexible generalists with a knack for making themselves understood by their management.