I have often wondered why I began my career in the EHS field and stayed in it most of my professional life? As a child, I used to get bundled up and take long winter walks in a field close to my home and look for animals. Since then, I have steadily built on the foundation of being outside and enjoying nature. During my junior high and high school days, and coming from a farm community, I started to learn about chemical usage, erosion, soils, crop rotation, occupational safety and the adverse effects it had on people that I knew. These experiences left an indelible mark on me.
Perhaps the biggest break into the EHS field came to me vis-a-vis the US Air Force. I enlisted under the general mechanical category and wanted to be a jet engine mechanic. Uncle Sam thought differently, though. He assigned me to become a water and waste water treatment troop. I thought I was going to die when I received my orders! Working on an F4 Phantom had to be sexier than working with waste water? Looking back, it was probably the best job (for me) that I could have been assigned. Throughout my years in EHS, I have been exposed to significantly more than just water and waste water treatment, which has really given me an appreciation for the profession.
After working in EHS for over 25 years, I have formulated some thoughts around what some of my biggest takeaways are about the profession maturing. These thoughts include the following:
- Communities expect to live in green and safe neighborhoods (the residence are aware of their surroundings).
- Companies and leadership are taking the profession much more seriously (moral beliefs and legal concerns).
- Integrating EHS into the business is more of an expectation (proactive vs. reactive).
- The latest management trends are adapted to meet EHS needs.
- In many cases, specialist are becoming generalists (less overhead but more responsibility).
- Certifications tend to reflect expertise.
Several summers ago, while my children and I were driving across Northern Wisconsin, we began discussing the EHS profession and what it entails. I explained to them that it was a profession that uses engineering, science, psychology and many other disciplines to either stop a risk from happening, or to significantly reduce it, so that the chances of the risk occurring is so small that it is acceptable.
I then proceeded to tell them about the people I have come in contact with, and how I tried to help them with their concerns, which included leadership as well as the workers. I explained that in many cases, if I did my job well, I would never know that I helped someone from becoming injured, or ill, or that I assisted in not generating another truck load of hazardous waste. After the discussion was over, I then realized what EHS means to me, and why I had chosen it as my life’s work! I hope you too reflect on your EHS experiences and recognize that it is a worthy and honorable profession.
Contact me, Edward Ballo, at e3s Consulting regarding the EHS profession and/or your EHS needs. Call 501-749-0912 or contact me online.