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The Galson Blog

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Bill Walsh CIH

02/06/2015

My Trip to Shanghai


Since early August, 2014, Galson Labs has been a part of SGS, a global company providing inspection, verification, testing, and certification services. Although Galson has always had global clients, being part of a company with more than 1,650 offices and labs in 141 countries has been eye opening.  Thankfully, in the six months since we were bought, I have found SGS to be huge, but very collegial.



The increase in available resources provided by SGS has meant that when a client asks ‘Do you have a footprint in (insert country name here)?”, the answer is very likely to be ‘Why yes, yes we do”.  However, determining how deep and broad that footprint might be, and who is the best person to interact, has meant that I have leaned on people who are unfamiliar with us and have other jobs besides answering my questions.  Thankfully, in the six months since we were bought, I have found SGS to be huge, but very collegial (a marked difference from other global companies for whom I have worked). Working with our US clients to identify and provide an offshore IH resource has become a larger part of my role, and one I have been enjoying very much.



One of the other neat things about being acquired by SGS is that Galson is seen as a “Center of Excellence” by SGS for Industrial Hygiene. SGS has major IH labs in the United States, Spain, Brazil, and China, along with smaller IH facilities within labs in other countries.  One of the reasons we were bought is to transplant the programs and procedures that have endeared us to our clients to other SGS IH labs around the world. Ed Stuber, Jim Trainer, and I are being given the opportunity to consult with our coworkers in other countries to both share what we have learned during our careers and to learn how IH is approached in other countries.  In December I traveled to Shanghai to tour the SGS IH lab there (an AIHA accredited lab) and meet with field consultants. At the same time, Dr. Dongni Ou, a senior staff from the Shanghai facility, came to Galson to spend a month learning how we do things.  It was my first trip to China and it was eye opening.



First of all, Shanghai lives up to its star billing very nicely.  It is huge, beautiful, and frenetic. Working in Shanghai is seen as the Chinese equivalent of working in Manhattan. It was not as congested as I expected but the traffic was probably worse than anything experienced in Los Angeles or London.  It can literally take hours to drive across the city and all schedules are made with this thought in mind.  The SGS IH lab, the only AIHA accredited laboratory in China, is located in a technical park, and occupies parts of a six story building along with SGS environmental and pharmaceutical labs. Since this accreditation means that it is ISO 17025 accredited, I was able to easily identify the same processes that take place in all such labs.  However, asking questions and gathering information was made difficult by the language barrier, although everyone tried very hard. Once again, the SGS culture meant that everyone was eager to share information and were open, in fact eager for suggestions.  As we speak, my observations along with what Dr. Dongni Ou learned in Syracuse are being processed for implementation.



I was also able to participate in a field exercise with three Industrial Hygienists from SGS.  We travelled to a huge tire factory about three hours northwest of Shanghai via bullet train. The train was fast, smooth and comfortable. In fact, my coworkers preferred them to flying because of a more convenient schedule and the ability to arrive at the urban centers rather than outlying airports. It remains a little embarrassing to me that these trains exist just about everywhere but in the US. 



The next thing that is easily noticeable is that air pollution is a problem in China similar to the 60’s and 70’s in the U.S. Coal is burned as a primary heat source and the smog is made worse by a winter marine layer that concentrates it.  I had to close my hotel window to avoid smoke coming in.



That problem was counterbalanced by the lack of things that in my naiveté I expected to see. The Chinese are not the homogeneous mass of worker ants portrayed by some news outlets but appear to strive very hard to foster and value a sense of individuality.  The workplaces, at least the ones I saw are not dens of horror and exploitation but were modern, clean, and staffed with employees that cared as much for their safety and well-being as anywhere in the US.  However, I have to point out that I was at facilities co-owned by western companies that applied the same workplace standards in China that they do in the rest of the world. My coworkers were highly skilled technically and had a deep understanding of both the Chinese regulations and how the regulatory system worked.



At any rate I enjoyed my week in Shanghai a lot, was impressed by my SGS compatriots there, and look forward to doing more of this consultation in the future.


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Edward Stuber CIH

11/20/2014

PCBs revisited


In case you missed it, the 8th Annual PCB Workshop was held this past October in the USA - Woods Hole, MA. to be exact.  This conference moves its’ location from year to year.  A primary objective of this conference was to provide guidelines for risk assessment and risk management for PCBs and related compounds as mixtures found in the human environment, especially in school buildings. A second major objective was to present the very latest findings relating to the chemistry, biology, and toxicology of PCBs.



 



Sessions included:



 



·         Analytical Methods



·         Mechanisms of Toxicity



·         PCBs in Building Materials



·         Airborne PCBs movement



·         Human Exposure Assessment & Epidemiology



·         Regulatory Policy



 



Some of you may be wondering what the big deal is with PCBs. You may be saying to yourself – “Wasn’t PCB production and use banned in the US in the late 1970’s?”  You are correct, but unintentional formation of PCBs is ongoing and the PCBs already in place still exist - much like asbestos in building materials that still exist. It is these sources of PCBs that still need to be remediated and controlled as they are found.



 



Although the presence of PCBs is mostly associated with electrical equipment – primarily transformers – there are significant amount of PCBs that could be found in buildings constructed from the 1950s through the 1970s.  You may not realize it but some of the potential building materials that may contain PCBs include:



 



·         Caulk and other exterior sealants



·         Paints



·         Fluorescent Light ballasts



·         Flooring tiles



·         Ceiling tiles



·         Insulation



·         Waterproof coatings



 



In addition to the above sources of the past usage of PCBs, there are some processes that actually create PCBs as an unwanted byproduct - such as certain dye, ink, and pigment manufacturing processes.



The bottom line is, even though PCBs are no longer being utilized intentionally, there is a significant amount of potential PCB exposure out there.  Exposure to PCBs is a major health concern due to their classification as known human carcinogens (IARC, Group 1, 2012/2013), and for other health negative issues, including effects to the immune, endocrine (e.g. thyroid function), and reproductive systems. Some studies also suggest concerns relating to neurological development.



 



If you suspect or know you have a PCB issue, we at Galson Laboratories, an SGS Company, can help. Galson Laboratories has seen a recent increase in analytical requests for PCB analysis. In response to this increase in requests, we have recently added another instrument solely for the purpose of analyzing PCBs. Galson is an AIHA ISO 17025 accredited laboratory for PCB analysis - following NOSH Method 5503   for airborne particulate or vapor PCBs and wipe samples.



 



If you have questions/concerns about possible lead exposure than feel free to contact us at 1-888-432-5227 or utilize our online chat feature and speak with a knowledgeable client service representative. - See more at: http://www.galsonlabs.com/newsevents/blog/page/4#sthash.Jh8TT7ax.dpuf



 


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Edward Stuber CIH

10/31/2014

LEED 2009 Registration Extended to October 2016


I have just returned from the annual GREENBUILD International Conference and Expo held in New Orleans. Spending a week in The Big Easy was indeed easy. Good music and even better food made visiting there a real treat. I was at the conference to be part of an AIHA sponsored round table presentation on the IAQ aspect of LEEDv4. Our session was titled “Indoor Air Quality Management and Sampling” The focus of my portion of the presentation was to compare and contrast the IAQ sampling and analysis requirements between LEED 2009 and LEEDv4. I am happy to say that our session was sold out and very well received!



It has been less than a week since the conference ended and today I found out the USGBC says the market needs additional time to prepare for LEEDv4. When LEEDv4 was put into effect in November 2013, you had until June 2015 to implement it. You could no longer use LEED 2009 after that date. The USGBC has decided requiring new LEED projects to register for LEEDv4 as of June 2015 was too soon and has shifted that date back to October 31, 2016. The USGBC said that it was giving the market more time to get ready for LEEDv4 based on feedback it received during the aforementioned Greenbuild Conference. According to USGBC, > 60% of respondents to a survey said they are “not ready” or “unsure” if they are ready for LEEDv4 and require additional time to prepare. USGBC launched LEEDv4 as a more rigorous and fresh take on the LEED green building rating system. Although there are many more components to LEEDv4 that people may take issue with, the laboratory community had some major issues with the IAQ portion of the new standard and for the most part, we are glad for the extension.



As of today, nine LEEDv4 projects had been certified and 304 had started the process by registering during 2014. That's 15 times fewer than the almost 4,500 LEED 2009 projects registered to date. Between those numbers, the survey, and other market feedback (I like to think the lab community had something to do with this), the USGBC decided it had heard enough and extended the LEED 2009 window another 16 months.



What happens at the end of the extension period? Who knows? Could there be another extension? Possibly. By that time, the IAQ portion of LEEDv4 may not even look like it does today. This summer prior to the conference, members of the AIHA IAQ Committee (yours truly included) and the USGBC IEQ TAG meet and reviewed information and questions about LEEDv4 IAQ sampling requirements. A report, complete with recommendations, has been complied and will be presented to the USGBC for consideration and action. Stay tuned for further developments that may come out of this report.



If you would like a soft copy of my presentation, please feel free to email me at estuber@galsonlabs.com.  I would happy to provide you with the presentation. If you are interested in finding out more about LEED IAQ certification. Click here.



 


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Bill Walsh CIH

09/22/2014

Galson and SGS - Better Together!


As has previously been announced, Galson was recently purchased by SGS, the world’s largest certification and testing company based in Geneva, Switzerland. Those people who know me know that this is not the first time the company I worked for, owned by an equity management firm, was purchased by a Global company.  In fact, on the surface the two situations appear to be similar. 



My first experience of being integrated into a very large corporation can be best characterized as a slow process.  The comparison to my first experience and SGS acquisition of Galson, so far is day and night.



 As a matter of fact, I’m sure that this experience and the benefit to our clients will be one of progress for the following reasons:



1)    Galson was purchased in order to be the flagship operation among a number of other accredited IH labs owned by SGS.  These laboratories are located in China, Brazil, Spain, and Australia. Our purchase is part of an overall strategic plan that will export the procedures and culture that has made Galson successful to these other labs.  I’m sure that Galson will also identify procedures and service offerings that can enhance our US operations. The end result will be that our multi-national clients will have access to local laboratories that will offer the quality and customer service they have come to expect from Galson and our domestic clients will benefit from the lessons and capabilities we will receive from the overseas labs. 



2)    This is completely different from my first experience in merging companies together when in the first case the buyer took two proud companies that were in a very spirited competition with each other for over twenty years, possessing diametrically opposed corporate cultures, dramatically overlapping books of business, and lying in close proximity to each other (300 miles) and then expected them to work together while basically remaining competitors in order to meet their independent (and aggressive) growth targets.  I have deep respect for the people involved from both labs even though the “integration” more often resembled a cage match.



3)    There is no deadline for integration.  SGS management realizes that although Galson is now an SGS company, forcing it into a pre-determined mold could end up hurting the values (innovation, market responsiveness, client empathy) that made it an extremely successful (and profitable) operation.  The value of the Galson brand is recognized and the timetable for integration is strictly “when it makes sense”.  In my previous integration experience, I had to spend way too much of my time trying to manage problems caused by observing artificial deadlines instead of carefully planning out a successful integration.  This was especially true in areas outside of my direct control, such as IT, finance, and marketing.



4)    Along the lines of “making sense” SGS has asked the right questions regarding our book of business and determined that given its makeup, it did not make sense to compete against our clients in the US.  This is in spite of the news that one of our competitors (you know who you are) is attempting to spread that word to our consultant clients.  SGS does offer field services in a large number of other countries and as I have previously said, many of our clients are looking forward to having these resources available. For our consulting clients we will now have the ability to get them involved in Global contracts that we did not have access to previously.



5)    Getting rid of an equity partner is always a good thing.  These companies exist to buy, package, and sell firms in order to make a profit.  This is neither a good or bad thing, just a fact of life.  Part of their operating model is to strictly control expenses which can, as a side effect, stifle innovation and capital investment since they are controlling the money without a deep knowledge of the business. Galson/SGS will now be able to make investments insuring the long-term health and growth of the operation.



So I’m feeling good about the sale. Many IH Laboratories have been acquired (DataChem, NATLSCO, Clayton, and others) by large multi-nationals with deep pockets and Galson will be able to compete on a larger stage with SGS as a parent.  Upper management is being thoughtful about integrating us and I expect the corporate staff to be a great help going forward.  During the phone conversation where I was introduced to upper management I was asked specifically what went wrong last time so it could be avoided, reflecting  the overriding concern that things be done right. I’m not so naïve to think that things won’t change in going from a small, tightly knit group to a company with 80,000 employees, but from what I have seen so far the things that have made Galson a trusted partner to its clients will remain.


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