Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: Martin Anderson on Keeping EHS Lean and Enjoying the Challenges

Environment, health, and safety (EHS) work is complex and challenging, with a wide range of factors that need to be accounted for to ensure not only that the job gets done but also that everyone gets to head home at the end of the day. In this installment of “Faces of EHS,” we chat with Martin Anderson, EHS Manager for precious metals supplier LeachGarner, who outlines how he leverages his broad experience across numerous industries in order to utilize lean manufacturing techniques to solve his organization’s EHS challenges.

How did you get your start in EHS?

I was working as an analytical chemist (what I did through co-op in college) and was considering my future (probably going back to school to earn an advanced degree). I was also speaking with other classmates who were starting their careers as industrial hygienists. Something that I will always remember regarding my choice of profession was during an interview in which the company owner (a certified industrial hygienist [CIH]) casually picked up a paper cup and a pad of paper and asked, “Do you know how these are made?” It sparked a curiosity and became one of the core reasons I chose this profession. I’ve always wanted to know a little bit about everything, and being in this profession, particularly if it’s consulting, you get to learn quite a bit about a wide variety of things. I have told people that at this point in my career, I’ve worked in most industries (with a few exceptions) and have seen just about everything from an EHS perspective. I could tell you in some degree of detail how paper is made; how microchips are made; how fasteners (nails, staples, screws, ring screws) are made; how pharmaceuticals are made; how certain types of “smart” weapons work; how electricity is made; how gas/steam turbine generators are made and work; how nickel is mined, refined, and used; and so on. This is what drew me to this profession in the first place and why I continue to enjoy it so much.

What is the biggest EHS compliance challenge at your current organization, and how have you managed it?

At my current organization? Frankly, everything (no exaggeration). I’ve only been here 10 months, so [I’m] not even close to solving the problems that have been identified, forget the new ones that I find.

I can better answer this regarding my last job. There were two areas: process safety and compliance with National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollution, Subpart VVVVVV (NESHAP 6V). The addition of manufacturing capacity drew the company under the process safety regulations. There was already a process to evaluate hazards associated with the chemistry; however, everything else that is required under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) 14 elements did not exist and had to be developed. We used the assistance of a specialist consultant with considerable experience with process safety to perform a gap analysis and then, working with management, formed a team to begin to develop the program. NESHAP 6V was a little different. The facility already had an air permit but hadn’t been following the data collection requirements. The solution was to apply for a new air permit to go along with the expanded manufacturing capacity. Unfortunately, the consultant that was chosen to file the plan approval with the state did not follow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance for batch process operations and chose continuous processing instead. This made it appear that the facility should have had a Title V air permit instead of a synthetic minor. This resulted in a notice of violation (NOV) from the EPA. We selected another specialist consultant to review our permit, data requirements, and process information. The end result was modeling hundreds of processes in order to have the data to prove the facility was actually a natural minor. The company did end up paying a fine to the EPA for late reporting (no environmental harm). I worked with the specialist consultant to develop a Web-based database to enter process data to maintain compliance with the 6V regulations.

The biggest roadblock for both of these was they were largely viewed by operations as EHS problems that should be owned by the EHS department (2 staff, 1 E and 1 H&S). They were real hot potatoes, and nobody wanted responsibility. It took consistent follow-up with operations management (I reported to the general manager, which helped) to get their buy-in. There was also pressure (biennial audits and a focus on process safety) from corporate that also helped to gain buy-in (more like arm-twisting, but whatever works). The key was top management commitment (the corporate pressure didn’t hurt either).

Are there any EHS challenges unique to the work you do that could prove instructive to other EHS professionals?

In my current position, not really. It’s basic EHS.

[In] my previous position, there was an industry challenge regarding containment and handling of potent pharmaceutical compounds. The challenges were two-fold: traditional containment (e.g., isolators) have a large price tag and require specialized support equipment and facilities (negative pressure, one pass air, custom facilities (not flexible)); and a lack of toxicological data because we were manufacturing and handling novel compounds. A solution the industry is moving toward is the use of flexible containment systems/equipment that is relatively inexpensive ($$$) compared with the cost of a customized facility and equipment ($$$$$$). The segment of the pharmaceutical industry I worked in was contract development and manufacturing (CDMO), so everything was project-based with a budget. Unless the cost for containment was initially built in, there was no margin for additional cost. After investigating a recordable injury related to a hokey method for containment (essentially, an asbestos glove bag), I developed a simple, effective, very inexpensive ($$) method using standard off-the-shelf (SS) materials (SS table, SS and fittings) and a custom flexible enclosure from a fabricator that had better ergonomics (they were crouching on the floor with the glove bag), better visibility (clear as opposed to translucent), better productivity, and better containment and was cleanable/reusable within [the] campaign and cheap to replace (the containment) for the next process. It was a factor of 10 times less expensive than what was being sold as flexible containment by other manufacturers. It did have gaps (not negative pressure) but could perform to <0.1 micrograms per cubic meter, which covers most compounds that don’t require an isolator but need more than a just fume hood or a powder hood.

The point behind this example is thinking beyond the industry “norms” and being creative when coming up against a wall.

You mentioned in our initial communication that your current organization is in the process of implementing lean manufacturing processes. What impacts has that had on how you and your team have managed the EHS program?

There really is no team; its just me at this point, and I’ve been trying to incorporate lean [manufacturing] into EHS. I use the quality management system (QMS) for EHS documentation and try to use lean methodologies to promote EHS (thinking 5S = housekeeping; efficiency = better, faster, safer ways of doing things).

Has that transition led to pushback from members of the team? If so, how did you address worker concerns? If not, what do you feel has helped make the transition successful?

The workers aren’t used to lean and all are learning. Management does safety Gembas weekly, and safety discussions are woven into why we are transitioning to lean. Everyone can relate to “better housekeeping equals better safety.”

Do you have any insights you can share with those EHS professionals working for organizations that are preparing to reopen?

We were considered essential from the beginning of the pandemic, so we never did close. We did, however, aggressively implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding social distancing, masks, temperature checks, visitor questionnaires, and routine cleaning and wiping of common contact surfaces (doors, railing, cabinets, etc.). We implemented management audits done weekly. Violators faced consequences. We’ve had some employees test positive for COVID-19; however, we never had internal transmission due to the procedures put in place at the beginning.

What do you like the most about your career in EHS?

It’s never boring. Over my career, I’ve learned a lot about how things work, are made, etc. I also enjoy the problem-solving aspects of the work.

What is the most difficult or frustrating part of your job?

Shifting behavior (or culture) is the most challenging thing. Getting people to follow the rules (or common sense) and [to] not take shortcuts can be difficult.

What do you see as the main emerging trends, both positive and negative, affecting the future of the EHS profession?

On the positive side, the use of technology. The little computer (cell phone) everyone carries around has had the greatest impact (pictures, videos, apps) in documenting, measuring, and communicating information. I remember carrying around a Polaroid camera in the nineties to get instant pictures. The portability of laptops, tablets, etc. (I remember working off a mainframe with just a keyboard and a terminal), has also helped productivity increase dramatically.

On the negative side, I remember the major professional certifications for the business were CIH, certified safety professional (CSP), and certified hazardous materials managers (CHMMs). I feel that these organizations have watered down the value of these basic certifications by adding different levels for people who don’t meet the strict criteria to qualify to sit for one of these.

What’s your favorite job-related story that you like to tell others?

I read a joke once about hazardous waste training that apparently occurred at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The basic support groups (facilities, maintenance) easily got the basic requirement that hazardous waste containers must be kept (tightly) closed when not in use. One of the PhDs asked, “How tight is tight?” You can picture the EHS trainer rolling their eyes in disbelief or exasperation.

The last place I worked, I actually had one of our younger PhDs ask me the same thing. Must be the way they look at the world. [It] also makes me wonder about “common” sense (my uncle has a PhD in Physics and used to say it meant piled higher and deeper). I guess he was right.

What advice do you have for people just entering or transitioning into the profession?

Well, for one thing, a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree isn’t enough anymore. You need at least a Master of Science (MS) degree. Anyone who is serious about the profession should make the effort to become certified. It does help when the decision comes down to hiring someone who isn’t vs. someone who is certified. It also shows commitment. To avoid being pigeonholed, try to become a generalist, or at least learn as much as you can about all three areas. There is nothing wrong with being a specialist, but it narrows your options.

Martin Anderson, CIH, CSP, is an EHS Manager at LeachGarner, a precious metals solutions provider. Trained as a toxicologist, Anderson went on to pursue a career as an industrial hygienist. He has 33 years of EHS experience in industries such as pharmaceutical, chemical, petrochemical, semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, utilities, pulp and paper, health care, and environmental site remediation. Anderson is adept at applying lean manufacturing techniques to solve an organization’s EHS challenges while remaining a customer-focused, results-oriented business partner who is effective at working with people across organizational levels.

 

LeachGarner, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, is a precious metals solutions provider committed to innovation, leadership, quality, and providing best-in-class customer experiences. LeachGarner has a long and prestigious lineage providing precious metals products and services to a wide range of industries. With a solid foundation in the jewelry industry, LeachGarner refined and applied our knowledge of precious metals in the successful support of the Advanced Materials and government markets.

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Would you like to be profiled in a future Faces of EHS and share your experiences, challenges, etc.? Or, do you know anyone else in EHS you think has an interesting story to tell? Write us at jscace@blr.com and cdouyard@blr.com and include your name and contact information; be sure to put “Faces of EHS” in the subject line.