Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The World Is Flat—And That’s Okay

Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (2005), discusses how historic and geographical divisions are becoming irrelevant in business. These concepts also apply to our profession. Merhaba! Bon jour! Ciao! Zdravstvujtye! Sannu! Hello! I could fill my message this month just simply saying “hello” in all the languages spoken by our nearly 34,000 members in 75 countries.

The words we use to conduct business, training and develop programs are different, but the concepts that form the core basis for SH&E protection are the same. Even legislation and regulatory requirements are beginning to flatten our world as international harmonization standards are discussed and developed.

Addressing the flattening of the world is critical to better serving our members and advancing our profession. One of our Society goals is to “foster and sustain a global community among SH&E professionals.” According to our member surveys, networking—a sense of community—is one of the greatest benefits of membership.

Networking is essential to our professional growth. Through networking, we develop understanding and increase our knowledge and skills. SH&E is too broad for any single one of us to know it all. We need one another to achieve our goals of protecting people, property and the environment.

In many areas, that sense of community is achieved through local chapter meetings. While those meetings remain a viable tool for networking, ASSE is working to provide opportunities for those who are geographically isolated. And geographical isolation is not necessarily a matter of distance. Many of us live in congested urban areas where traveling 20 miles to a meeting across town can take 2 hours. One way ASSE is facilitating member networking is through our many LinkedIn groups which enable members to share best practices and exchange ideas on real-life problems and solutions.

Networking is not limited to chapter, region and Society events, or even online communities. ASSE also is reaching out to other SH&E organizations around the world to create better understanding, increase the knowledge available to our members and advance the profession globally.

For example, ASSE is a founding member of the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations (INSHPO), along with the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering and the U.K.’s Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. INSHPO was formed in 2001 to provide an international network for generalist practitioners in occupational safety and health.

Since then, it has grown as more and more practitioner organizations from around the globe join, including groups in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, South Korea, Russia, Mauritius and Singapore, as well as additional SH&E-focused groups in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

You can learn more about INSHPO at www.inshpo.org. We are currently working with INSHPO colleagues to define core competencies for the SH&E profession. This will facilitate employment transferability and increase the knowledge and skills of SH&E professionals around the globe.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” ASSE is moving into a future where the world is flat, where we must know more and understand more, must know it all more quickly and must work with a more diverse group of people to accomplish our work.