AIHF Scholarship Fast Facts



December: Prioritizing Your Work – And other Topics

This month is a mish mash of topics focusing on soft skills that will help the mentee in their IH role.


Prioritizing Your Work


Here is a free webinar for prioritizing and planning your calendar: that the mentor/mentee should review if they have time ahead of their 1:1 meeting.


I recommend setting time on your calendar for a weekly review (one hour).  In fact, the mentee is encouraged to copy and paste the Weekly Review steps below into a recurring meeting on their calendar.  I recommend Thursday afternoon or first thing on Friday morning.


Three Steps for a Weekly Review

1.         Processing and organizing your collection points.

  • Empty Your Head.  Create Outlook tasks for any outstanding items that you recall.
  • Empty All Your Collecting Points (folders, papers, notebooks, sticky notes, voice messages, emails, etc.)
  • Eliminate any leaks in your Collecting System.
  • Review last week’s calendar and reschedule items that did not get completed.
  • Review the coming week for items that require preparation for and create strategic next actions.

2.         Reviewing and prioritizing your planning categories (meaningful objectives, supporting projects and 1:1 meetings)

  • Go through each Meaningful Objective, establish current status and create SNA’s (30,000 foot view that keeps you strategic).
  • Go through each Supporting Project, establish current status and create strategic next actions (SNA’s) or “tasks” .  Ask yourself, what can I do in the next week or two to move this project forward?
  • Go through each 1:1 category (Outlook Task Categories you have created for your boss, co-workers, etc.), establish current status and create SNA’s.

3.         Prioritizing and planning your action categories on to your calendar.

  • Determine time frame for scheduling calendar (i.e. one week or two weeks in advance).
  • Review all SNA categories and delete those items that are completed.
  • Prioritize remaining SNA’s.
  • Move items from the Task Pad into the calendar.
  • If it’s worth doing, it’s worth putting on your calendar.
  • 75% greater chance of actions getting done, if on your calendar.
  • Renegotiate those commitments you can’t keep.
  • Make your weekly review a priority.


Recommended source:  Take Back Your Life:  Using Microsoft Outlook 2007 to Get Organized and Stay Organized by Sally McGhee and John Wittry.


Work Life Balance

I recommend using the same strategy for creating meaningful business goals and objectives back in February for setting personal goals.  Some suggestions for areas of focus might include:

Area of Focus 1:  Career

Meaningful Objective:  Update Resume

Meaningful Objective:  Start Searching for a New Job

Meaningful Objective:  Participate in AIHA’s Mentoring Program

Area of Focus 2:  Finances

Meaningful Objective:  Increase 401k Contribution

Meaningful Objective:  Decrease debt by x%

Area of Focus 3: Spiritual

Area of Focus 4: Fitness

Area of Focus 5: Health/Medical

Area of Focus 6: Home/Around the House

Area of Focus 7: Community Service/Giving to Others

Area of Focus 8: Leisure/Travel


When you have your weekly review for your professional life, consider using this time to also review your personal objectives.  Additionally, consider having a weekend retreat with your spouse, partner or a close friend (or yourself) to reflect on the goals accomplished the prior year and to start capturing the new goals and objectives for the coming year.



TED Talk

Nigel Marsh:  How to make work-life balance work.



Customer Feedback

The mentor should encourage the mentee to take the approach of providing world class support and services.  Try to far exceed the expectations of the customer.  Just don’t try to meet the customer’s expectations; aim high!   If your customers don’t like the services you are providing, they may go elsewhere and that’s not a position you want to be in.  The best way to gauge customer satisfaction is with a survey.  If the mentor doesn’t have a formal customer feedback program at work, help them develop a survey to send to their key customers.  Here’s a sample format (below) that I once used in the form of a word document that I emailed to about 20 internal and external customers at the end of the year.  It is also attached as a Word document.  Try and select a random sampling of individuals you have work with who are considered your best customers and some you think may not have been completely satisfied with some of your prior work.  The idea is to try to avoid skewing the results one way or the other (positively or negatively).  If you send your survey to only people you are friends with, there’s a good chance you won’t get much in the way of useful feedback.  Once you have the results, work with your mentor (if you maintain the relationship) to find specific ways to improve on those areas of weakness.



You have been identified as someone I have worked with since the beginning of the year.  I would like to solicit your feedback on my performance.  I would ask that you spend no more than 5 to 10 minutes on this.  Please rate my performance in the area of using a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest score:


  • Quality of Work:               1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10





  • Dependability:                 1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10







  • Team Work:                       1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10






  • Communication:               1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10






Or if it’s easier for you, just type a couple of sentences.  Please forward them to me via email.  I welcome positive, negative and neutral comments.  If you wish to remain anonymous, please print this email and send it back to me via inter-office mail with your comments.  I thank you in advance.  I am attaching my self-assessment for your review.

The AIHA Mentoring and Professional Development Committee (MPDC) is Looking for Mentors!

The MPDC is making looking for mentors for students.  An immediate need is for the UT-Houston School of Public Health, who just started up a new AIHA Student Local Section.  If you are able to mentor please send an email to: or

AIHA Volunteer Group Spotlight: Computer Applications Committee

By John Campbell

Computer applications are an integral part of our personal and work life. They offer power and efficiency to help us live better and work smarter. The industrial hygiene profession relies on the latest technology to further advance our work and the profession.  It is this technology that provides us the ability to efficiently maintain access, interpret and trend critical data needed for informed decision making.


Computer applications used in the industrial hygiene profession range from cloud-based data management systems, to advanced statistical tools and mobile apps.  The importance of computer applications continue to gain further traction in our profession, in fact ‘Big Data’ is one of AIHA’s six big picture priorities.


The AIHA Computer Applications Committee is committed to providing valuable resources and support to the industrial hygiene community as it relates to successful integration and use of computer applications. Participation as an active member of the committee offers a tremendous educational experience and the opportunity to network with peers and technical experts while contributing to the advancement of this important element of our profession.


For more information regarding joining the AIHA Computer Applications committee, please contact


Chair: John Campbell




Secretary: Monica Melkonian


Showing the Business Value of OEHS Initiatives

By David Downs

Managers of Occupational Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) programs are finding that getting support for their initiatives is becoming more challenging.  The days when the only requirement for making the case for a proposed risk reduction project was “It’s required by OSHA/EPA” have been gone for some time now.  Business managers are asking tough questions:

“We haven’t been inspected by OSHA/EPA in over five years!”

“What are the options?   Can we do it a different way for less cost?”

“We have five other projects going on right now that will increase production.”

“Can it wait until next year?”

Most of us in the OEHS profession did not get very much if any education on the financial metrics used by most businesses to make decisions about the allocation of fiscal resources.  However, many of us are being put into the position of competing with others in our organizations for those very resources.  Kind of like going into an old west shootout with a pop gun…

As OEHS managers, we bring a variety of skills to our jobs, such as technical knowledge, regulatory understanding, and personal skills, among others.  We need to add the ability to build and communicate the business case to that tool kit.

I have been presenting a two-day workshop entitled, “Creation, Measurement and Communication of EHS Business Value for over 12 years at the ASSE and AIHA national meetings, as well as at Local Sections and other venues.  What follows is an outline of the key components of that workshop.


When we talk about creating value for our organizations, the first step is to understand the established business objectives of the organization (note that we use the term “organization”, not “company”; non-profits and governmental entities also have business objectives).   We encourage OEHS managers to actively seek to identify and understand the organization’s business objectives, because if we are not perceived as supporting those objectives, we will likely be marginalized.  While some organizations clearly and actively communicate their business objectives, others do not, and it may take some investigation and discussion with the business managers to get a clear understanding.



Once we have the business objectives identified, it is also important to know the hierarchy or priority of business objectives.  In most organizations, some business objectives are considered more important than others.   We use a tool called a “Forced-Pairs Comparison” to learn about the priority of business objectives.  We convene a meeting of top managers in the organization, and have them compare each business objective to each of the others, on a one-to-one basis.  Using a scoring process for the comparisons, we can generate a numerical ranking of the objectives.  Just knowing this information can be helpful to OEHS managers in making their business case.

We take that information to the next step by using the ranking to create a “Business Objective Weighted Risk Assessment”.  We start with the familiar process of conducting risk assessments of the key OEHS risks in our organization (note that this can be done at any level in the organization – site, division, total organization).  Then we weight the risk assessment score based on the degree of impact that risk has on each of the identified business objectives.  For example, let’s assume that a high safety risk is injuries due to repetitive assembly tasks.  If one of our business objectives is “Minimize operating expenses”, we could determine that there is a high relationship between the safety risk and meeting that business objective.  We do the same weighting of each identified risk against each business objective.  The result is a weighted score that identifies those OEHS risks that can have the most impact on meeting our business objectives.  That is powerful information that can be used to relate our proposals to helping achieve the organization’s business objectives.


Identifying one or more OEHS initiatives is just the first step in building the business case.  We now need to further define the issue in a “Problem Statement” that describes in clear terms what is wrong and why it is bad; where the problem occurs, specifically; how the magnitude of the problem is defined (a metric); and, why it is a business problem (business impact).


Using that information, we then need to define one or more specific objectives that, if achieved, will reduce the identified risk.  This step usually leads us to identifying alternative approaches for further analysis.

Working with the other “stakeholders” in the organization, we then develop a plan of action to achieve the stated objectives.  By “stakeholder”, we mean those inside and outside our organization that will have a “stake” or role in accomplishing the objective.  In the case of reducing repetitive motion injuries, that would normally include production design, supervisors, engineering, and facilities, among others.  The steps needed to accomplish the top-level objective are defined, which also gives us insight to the costs associated with those steps.

Now we are ready to do some financial assessment of our initiative.  The first step is to create a cash flow table that identifies the costs associated with our proposed project, over the time period that it will be executed.  All but the most basic of projects will usually run over several years.  In addition to the costs, we also need to estimate the benefits.  These can be cost reductions related to reduced injury costs or worker’s compensation costs.  We have found, however, that the most significant benefit “buckets” can be from improved productivity, throughput and quality.  For example, if our initiative includes automation of some of the manual assembly tasks, that can have a major benefit in terms of productivity.

While a discussion of the specific financial metrics (such as Net Present Value (NPV), Payback Period, Return on Investment, and Internal Rate of Return) is beyond the scope of this paper, the best approach is to get to know the financial managers in your organization and work with them to develop the metrics typically used to help make financial decisions.

In addition to the financial assessment of your project, it is important to understand and analyze the “non-financial” aspects.  Non-financial aspects can include factors that are important to an organization, but which are difficult to define in financial terms.  Examples include:  employee morale; organization reputation; community relations; attracting and retaining the best employees; reducing regulatory impact.  In some cases, it may be the identified non-financial benefits of your project that are the most important part of the business case.


Finally, once we have built the business case, we need to be skilled at “selling” the proposal.  That means packaging all the information we have gathered into a presentation to the management team.  Often, organizations have very specific approaches to this process; make sure you use whatever approach is typically used in your organization.

For many organizations, presenting the business case for an OEHS initiative may be unusual or unexpected.   Many business managers look at OEHS as one-dimensional – it is only a “cost” and there is no real pay-back.  The effort to make the OEHS business case is not easy – it is not one of the skills that most of us have developed.  But the benefits of your making the business case can be far-reaching, beyond the current proposal.  It can give you the credibility of being a manager who really understands the business and how OEHS supports the organization’s business objectives.


David Downs is President of EHS Management Partners, LLC, located in Shorewood, MN.  He is vice-chair of the AIHA Management Committee, which is dedicated to helping improve the business management skills of OEHS professionals.  Current projects include:  development of a Management Certificate program; defining the skill sets needed for making OEHS business cases; Metrics Manual.  The committee also sponsors several PDC’s, Roundtables and Podium Presentations related to management skills at the AIHCE.  Anyone is welcome to join or visit our committee meetings.