This month we introduce you to Paul Robbertz, Vice President of Safety, Health and Environmental at Tomkins Industrial & Automotive, one of the members who helps make our network so unique.
1. Why did you join NAEM?
I originally joined NAEM in the mid 1980’s when I was a young environmental, health and safety (EHS) professional. I was looking for an organization where I could simply learn from my colleagues. It was also a time when I was interested in moving into a leadership role and I was looking to gain additional professional insights and expertise and develop a strong network of peers.
After taking a break for several years, I re-joined because I think the organization offers tremendous value not just for me but for all of the EHS professionals in my company.
2. What do you like about your job?
If I had to boil it down to just one thing, what I like best about my job is the opportunity to be involved with every part of the organization and at all levels.
In the EHS profession, you interact with employees on the shop floor, the management in the facilities and the company’s executives. You also get involved with every aspect of the business whether it’s manufacturing, sales, supply chain, research and development, human resources, legal or corporate development. When you do that, you have the opportunity to have a tremendous impact on many levels from strategy and growing the business, to literally saving lives and minimizing a company’s impact on the environment.
3. What motivates you at work?
Fundamentally, EHS is about making an impact on people’s lives and on the planet. Being in the organization and knowing that you’re sending people home in the same condition or better than when they came to work makes me feel proud. The same thing is true for the environment. To help drive change, improvement and sustainability for a business is very motivating to me. It’s an area I like to ask potential EHS candidates about. For me, what motivates individuals in this field is very important and I think it tells you a lot about their past success and is a predictor of future success.
4. What advice would you have for someone entering the field today?
Look for an opportunity where you are working at a site or within a business where you have full responsibility for EHS, where you’re the person that has to help ensure that compliance and a broad range of EHS initiatives are managed appropriately. Think broadly at first to gain a full suite of EHS expertise rather than pigeon-holing yourself. You can always do that later in your career. As an EHS professional, you also need to ask yourself whether you’re better suited working for a non-governmental entity or a for-profit organization. If you decide to go for-profit, what kind of industry do you want to work in? My advice is to look at industries that are growing and investing in EHS.
You also need to be willing to move, not only physically, but in terms of the fields, industries or organizations you work for. If you’re not challenged or stretching yourself, you’re at risk of becoming redundant.
5. What aspect to the natural world/environment impresses you the most? Why?
The one that fascinates me the most is water. Whether you’re talking about fresh water or the ocean, water ultimately has a direct and immediate impact on every living thing. I don’t think it’s getting the attention it deserves. We’re in an era of environmental transformation, but I have concerns about how we prioritize, manage, distribute and protect our water supplies.