After being in my profession now for over 20 years, it has occurred to me that much of what we do in EHS is that of “knowledge work”. The ever trustworthy Wikipedia defines a Knowledge Worker as:
“A knowledge worker in today’s workforce is an individual that is valued for their ability to interpret information within a specific subject area. They will often advance the overall understanding of that subject through focused analysis, design and/or development. They use research skills to define problems and to identify alternatives. Fueled by their expertise and insight, they work to solve those problems, in an effort to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies”.
This is an interesting wiki on knowledge work worth your reading. That’s a pretty good explanation for what HSE Professionals do at the higher levels. At this point in my career, I spend much of my time attempting to influence leadership to support and drive ideas that my experience and judgment tell me are important for organizational success regarding my area of expertise.
It is critical that we use this accumulated knowledge to do more that tell our companies personnel “no”. To be of real benefit to our employers and our fellow workers we must use this knowledge to enable activities that both maximize EHS performance and support the attainment of the organizations other business objectives. If I were asked by a young person just starting in this field what is the key to success, I would answer: help your team solve problems vs. saying “no”.
That’s why we are knowledge workers.