Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Environmental Management in Transition

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Environmental Management in Transition

Article excerpt


Arthur Goguen, environmental health and safety manager for Digital Equipment Corp., Shrewsbury, Mass., sees environmental management as a profession in transition.

On one hand are what he calls the "oldtimers," originally with a manufacturing or engineering background, who have spent the last 10 to 15 years growing into the role of overseeing environmental compliance. On the other hand are the new kids on the block, those who studied environmental science or environmental engineering in college but have little real world experience.

Given this disparity in experience and training, Goguen feels the time is right for a professional association catering to the needs of environmental managers at both ends of the spectrum.

Although he wouldn't call himself old, Goguen, vice president of the newly formed National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM), considers himself one of the oldtimers.

"I fell into this profession about 10 years ago," he recalls. "I was a manufacturing engineer doing a lot of environmental engineering work and a lot of environmental management work for the manufacturing division of Prime Computer. One thing after another kept being dumped on me, because I was the only guy at the time who knew anything about environmental management. Instead of being a small percentage of my job, it slowly became almost my entire job, just handling compliance issues."

When Prime finally decided to start a corporate department for environmental compliance, "they pulled me out of manufacturing and put me into the corporate division, and I became an environmental manager."

Goguen maintains that with the new emphasis on pollution reduction and pollution prevention, environmental management has "become a science unto itself" and requires that managers receive appropriate training rather than relying solely on information picked up on-the-job.

A well-trained cadre of environmental professionals is also important, says Goguen, because increasingly stringent regulations are being felt at all levels of industry. "Now, nearly every single firm, down to almost the very smallest, has environmental concerns to think about," he says. "Because if you manufacture a product, you typically have some type of pollution associated with that process that needs to be controlled."

Defining the role of the environmental manager, one of NAEM's primary objectives, is the first step toward identifying who and what the environmental manager is, what he does, and what he needs to know in order to do it, says Goguen. The more you can define your purpose once and for all, he says, the less you have to do it on a daily basis.

"A lot of what I do as a professional inside my own company is what I call reselling myself to my own management," he says. "Typically, unless you've got a very good firm that has been involved in environmental protection for a long time, upper management in medium-sized or smaller firms really don't have a clue as to what an environmental manager does or should do. They tend to look at it as some kind of housekeeping chore."

While keeping a company in compliance with environmental regulations has its difficulties, Goguen maintains that the environmental manager's toughest job is convincing the boss of his or her own worth.

"NAEM is trying to make environmental management a recognized profession and give it some credence," says Goguen. "If you say you're an electrical engineer, you don't really have to sell yourself. …

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