AIHA Ambassador to France Dr. Thomas Fuller is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) who has more than 34 years of experience in a variety of industries, including nuclear power, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and academia. Fuller has twice chaired AIHA’s Nonionizing Radiation Committee, and is part of the Healthcare Working Group and the Safety Committee. Now in his seventh year as associate professor and director of the safety program at Illinois State University, Fuller spends his summers outside of Paris where he meets with occupational health and safety professionals to help build AIHA’s knowledge of the profession in France. The Synergist: What are your duties as AIHA’s ambassador to France? Thomas Fuller: As an AIHA ambassador, I act as a liaison with safety professionals in France and a resource for AIHA members who might want information on working there. I’ve been working on building a network of contacts over there, and I’ve met some of those people at the International Affairs Committee meetings at AIHce. While I’m in France, I meet with my contacts and talk about how the occupational health and safety programs and systems work in France. For example, last summer I was able to tour the Sanofi Pharmaceutical headquarters outside Paris and interview several employees of the environmental health and safety department about their work and the structure of the company. Recently I’ve been working on a glossary of occupational health and safety terms in French to help developing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia where French is the working language. France is fairly sophisticated, and this glossary could help developing countries that don’t have a lot of occupational health and safety expertise or information. I’m also working on an informational document that will include short descriptions of all the French agencies and organizations associated with occupational health and safety for the AIHA website. TS: How is the importance of occupational health and safety perceived in France versus the U.S.? TF: Our whole approach with industrial hygiene is to anticipate and recognize hazards in the workplace, measure them, and then take controls to make sure that workers are safe and healthy. In France the approach is a bit more reactive than proactive. The approach has been for injured or sick workers to seek and receive medical attention, and then the job site is evaluated to reduce the hazards. It’s taking a long time in France to switch around and be more proactive to protect workers before they get sick or injured. Occupational health and safety in France has been oriented around occupational physicians, so medical doctors and occupational physicians are the ones who’ve “run” OHS. And it’s stuck with them even to the present; some of France’s workers’ compensation organizations are still top-heavy with medical physicians, and that hierarchy also appears elsewhere. For example, France’s federal requirements make it the responsibility of employers to have an occupational health and safety committee at every workplace. The committee has to be made up of a variety of people: first there’s the occupational health physician, then the occupational health nurse, then the occupational health trainer and data keeper, and then they might have someone with expertise in occupational health and safety like an industrial hygienist. That structure’s a challenge because we’re not number one—we’re more like number five on that committee.
Editor’s note: This article is the first in a new Synergist series called “Pole to Pole.” Exclusive to the digital magazine, this series will focus on how industrial and occupational hygiene is practiced around the world. Each month, the digital Synergist will feature an edited Q&A based on an interview with an industrial hygienist about how the IH/OH profession differs from country to country.
|Pole to Pole: France |
An Interview with AIHA Ambassador Tom Fuller