Sat, 12 February 2011
Biopharma EHS Podcast Episode #9
So for today, first off, I'll mention what we discussed last time, then we I'll cover our main topic for today - which is how to be a road warrior of environmental, health and safety, and then finally, I will mention important upcomings and happenings that are applicable to environmental, health and safety professionals in the Biopharma industry.
So, in our last podcast, episode 8, I discussed the future of EH&S. Now, when I'm talking about the future, I'm not talking what's on OSHA's regulatory agenda for this year or next, I'm talking about 15 to 20 years ahead. In that episode, the key issues and technologies that I personally forecasted and will impact environmental, health and safety professionals include the untethering of the workplace, the widespread use of mobile phone applications for environmental, health and safety, industrial hygiene, environmental compliance and more; managing environmental, health and safety in crowdsourcing; just-in-time EHS training; conferences becoming much more social; and finally "occupational toxicology on a chip". If any of this interests you, I would strongly suggest that you go back and listen to the entire episode.
Let's now go ahead and move on to the next topic, and get started with how to be an effective road warrior of environmental, health and safety?
So what exactly is a Road Warrior? Well, a road warrior is typically, is typically, thought of as a person that travels frequently on business. So far, in my lifetime, I've seen environmental, health and safety professionals that traveled anywhere from once a quarter to provide environmental, health and safety compliance support to facilities under their control, to those that left home on Sunday afternoon and didn't returned home till Friday evening. These EH&S professionals included internal auditors, contract manufacturing auditors, consultants, and EH&S managers that were responsible for managing multiple facilities throughout the world. On the extreme end of things there are some professionals that travel 250,000 air miles per year. To put that in perspective, that's approximately one roundtrip flight from Denver to India per month.
So if you're a Road Warrior of EH&S, how do you make the best out of this situation where you are always gone away from the office?
First off, being an effective EHS Road Warrior starts well before you think about going to the airport and requires careful planning. When you travel a lot you need to develop a routine. To the extent possible, try to schedule your trips at the same time every month and then block them out on your calendar. Plan trips carefully and at least two months ahead. Make sure you have a way to compare your business calendar with your personal calendar. After all you don't want to schedule a trip and then realize that it's conflicts with important life events.
Next, you will also want to get the right kind of luggage, the right kind of laptop computer case, and other travel accessories. Look for luggage with lots of outside pockets to stash away all your gear. True Road Warriors hardly ever check luggage. It's just not worth the delay waiting to check/pickup your bags, and the risk of having your luggage lost. You may also want to arm yourself with a really good set of headphones. I personally use a set of Bose noise-cancelation headphones and they are great the next time you have a screaming baby sitting next to you.
If you drive your own car to the airport, try to always park in the same general area. This will reduce the chance that you will forget where you park your car. This is especially true when you start having back-to-back trips. If you can't always park in the same place take a picture of the parking lot location sign with your smartphone's digital camera.
When traveling frequently to the same location, whether as a routine visit or for a project, try need to find a good hotel that you like and make a habit of staying there. You want it to feel like home. And, if you check into a hotel and walk into the room and it's crap, don't be shy and afraid to go to the front desk and say "I'm going elsewhere." I remember many years ago I had to perform some emergency response training in the middle of nowhere in Georgia. I got to my hotel and there where roaches running across the floor and the toilet was all yellow urine stained. I didn't last 3 minutes till I went to the front desk and said bye. This doesn't mean you have to be a jerk, it just means you need to have personal standards and try to maintain them while traveling. The typical things I look for when selecting a hotel: first off, it needs to be close to the facility that I'm visiting. I hate, I absolutely hate, having to wake up super early just to fight traffic to get to the facility, 2) it better have a decent in-hotel workout facility. If you're traveling frequently it is extremely important that you maintain an exercise routine - otherwise, airplane and airport food will cause your health to decline rapidly and you'll be dead before your 55. 3) In-hotel bar or restaurant with free Wi-Fi and friendly staff. Avoid the feeling of isolation and loneliness by getting to know the people that work there, especially the front desk people and the bartender. Hey you never know, you might be able to teach the bartender a thing or two about potent compound safety.
Join the Loyalty Programs
Take advantage of every customer loyalty program you can envision. Frequent flier programs are no brainer, especially if your company allows you to personally accumulate the miles. As a consultant in potent compound safety, occupational toxicology, and industrial hygiene for pharmaceuticals, I have received many free flight tickets that I've used for my family to travel places. Don't use the frequent flier miles for yourself or you won't get the miles for the trip. Use them for your family. Another benefit of enrolling in the customer loyalty programs is getting miles for elite status which may entitled you to early boarding and free upgrades. For rental cars, again it's a no-brainer, nothing is better than by-passing the long lines at the counter and heading straight to your car. Keys in the ignition, show the guy your license, and you're gone. For hotels, most hotels have sophisticated databases that know how many times that you have stay there and if you make it to a certain level they will jump through hoops for you. Again, another reason to stay at the same place.
I should mention that as you join customer loyalty programs, you will accumulate a lot of cards - don't put them in your wallet or purse. Instead, go to to one of those leather store in the airport or mall, and buy one of those long leather wallets where you can stash all your loyalty cards. If you can, stash a way a couple of extra twenty dollar bills in there as well. You don't know when you might need it.
If travel more than twice a month, you should consider joining one of the airline clubs. Depending upon the airline, you can get free wi-fi, comfortable seating, snacks, and free drinks. You'll be thankful you joined the day you get delayed for several hours.
Take Advantage of Technology
When you travel a lot, you have to be organized and travel light. Even if you have to pay for it out of your own pocket, get a great smartphone and a light laptop. In addition to a decent phone, your smartphone should have a great GPS mapping system, otherwise you're going to get lost, a digital camera, a calendar system, a digital music player, and the ability to install apps. Carry as few of books or papers as you can or you're going to hate life carry all this crap through the airport. Especially, with the way security is these days. So, let's just assume you're not big on listening to music. That's o.k., then listen to podcasts, in addition to the Biopharma EHS podcast, there are many other great podcasts or digital books out there. Get with the program and use technology to your advantage. Use digital technology to record notes. Programs like Evernote work great for recording all the tidbits of information. For compliance related items such as regulatory compliance tasks and corrective action software, I use Affytrac. In order to be an effective road warrior, you must be able to retrieve information quickly and without saying "Uhh, it's back at the office." Remember that effective Road Warriors has no office. Your office is in your bag on your shoulder and on your phone. Another benefit with recording compliance related tasks digitally is that if your bag or laptop gets lost or stolen, it's simply a manner of changing your password and all is good.
While we're on the subject of apps you might want to check out Affytrac Mobile - a simple and affordable way for you to manage all your compliance and corrective action management system requirements from the convenience of your smartphone. If you have questions about Affytrac Mobile, give me a call on my mobile phone at 303-884-3028.
Still on the subject of apps, I should mention that restaurant apps such as Yelp or Urban Spoon are also great for finding that great restaurants. You can use location-based apps such as Foursquare or Gowalla to check-in and keep a virtual "journal" of your trips. Make it fun and don't worry about oversharing.
Get to know the Local Environmental, Health and Safety Community
Chances are that if you're visiting a specific facility frequently, that the people you need to meet can't be available for the entire time that you're there. This is especially true if you're there more than once a month. Also, in general, these people will likely have family obligations and having to entertain you every evening while your there gets old. Don't wear out your welcome and find something else to do, but at the same time make good use of your time. With a little bit of research, you might find that the local chapter of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, or the American Society of Safety Engineers, or some other professional organizations will either have a lunch or dinner meeting at certain times of the month. Schedule your routine trips for those times and attend those meetings. In addition to meeting new people, you begin to get a deeper understanding of the local regulations.
Stay Connected Back Home
O.k. you may be so old school that your idea of technology adoption is using a mechanical pencil - get over it and learn some new stuff. The world is not going to rewind to your style and you have to learn new skills or you will get replaced. You should also consider that maybe, just maybe, that those evening hours alone in the hotel bar or in your room are just the time to learn them. If you're a Road Warrior you really need to be on LinkedIn and Facebook in order to stay socially connected to the the new professional friends that you meet while on the road and the family you have back home. Don't be afraid to post pictures of that really cool castle that you drove by when you where going to a potent compound safety review meeting in the middle of Germany. People love that stuff. They want to see you as a real person, not some robot. While I'm on that subject you can connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook. Please invite me to be a connection on LinkedIn and "Like" us on Facebook. In either case just search for "Affygility Solutions" and you will find us.
Go with the flow
Traveling on business is full of unexpected things. No need to stress out about it, and be nice to people. During my travels, I've run into more than my fair share of jerks. You know the ones that act like they are the only ones that matter - yelling at everyone that crosses their path, cutting in lines, and just about every rude act you can image. My feeling, if you hate traveling that much find another job.
Well, that does it for the Road Warrior segment of today's episode. I'm sure many of you out there have lot's of other great suggestions, so feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them in to me.
Next, let's go over some important events and happenings that may be of interest to environmental, health and safety professionals in the Biopharma industry.