A conversation with Maximillian Hekmat
Maximillian Hekmat is the Associate Director of Gilead Sciences, Inc. and a transformational EHS leader. Max is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), Registered Environmental Manager (REM), and Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM), with decades of experience in the specialty chemicals and pharmaceutical industries. He has designed and implemented many successful EHS management systems, including ergonomics programs and EHS management systems in laboratories, manufacturing, and office areas.
We recently sat down with Max to learn more about the ergonomics challenges he’s faced over the course of his career and his upcoming presentation at the 2018 National Ergonomics Conference and ErgoExpo in Las Vegas:
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the EHS space?
In college, I had a great professor who made science really fun. He had previously worked in Big Pharma, so he had a lot of great stories of what it’s actually like to work as a Scientist. I decided to choose Chemistry and graduated three years later.
However, during my third year of college, I discovered that working with people is more fulfilling to me. That is why as soon as I graduated with my BS, I started working on my Master’s degree in EHS. That way, I can be a scientist while working directly with people. Since then, I’ve worked for a few different Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies in R&D and manufacturing, and I’m looking to continue my career along this path.
What aspect of ergonomics are you most passionate about? Why?
The way your desk, laboratory, and workspace is set up has a major impact on the health of one’s lower back, neck, and shoulders. This set up also affect ones productivity throughout the day, as it is hard to focus when you are uncomfortable. I believe ergonomics should be viewed as one element of the EHS system. A vital one, and an element that operates based on Plan, Do, Check, Act concept.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
The greatest challenge I've faced in my career to date has to be the key role I played in helping my company to add value while implementing a Safety and Health Management System. Far too often, we look for the best program in Ergonomics and proceed with implementation without regard to company’s culture and people involved. This will definitely lead to failure. One of my biggest challenges has been identifying the culture and assessing what ergonomics program best fit that culture and workforce. Time after time, organizations have launched ergonomics programs that lack strong foundations and are incompatible with their culture, only to have them fizzle when the business climate, direction, or key leaders change.
What does it take to make an ergonomics program successful?
A successful ergonomics program is an integrated one. Considering ergonomics as a interdependent and vital part of a culture is a vital key for success.
What's changed the most since you started working in ergonomics?
Science and technology is constantly changing. However, one vital change is better understanding management system and its importance to success. We need as much leadership engagement and support as we do employee participation.
So you're presenting at the NECE in Las Vegas this August - can you share one of the takeaways of your presentation?
I simply would like to share my experience with implementation of ergonomics program and compare results so audience can decide what best fit their organization. How one may transform a basic ergonomics program to a great, engaging and cost-effective ergonomics strategy and program. What are the elements of successful ergonomics program management? How can we strengthen strategic elements of our current programs to improve performance?
In your opinion, what is/are the most important trend(s) to watch in ergonomics right now? And what future impacts do you foresee?
Ergonomics may be considered pro-active engineering and design so people can use tools and equipment more comfortably, efficiently and safely. Elements to consider may be human capital, use of space, functionality, collaboration and mobility, to name just a few.
What advice or best practices would you suggest for a company that's thinking about creating an OES program?
Consider your ergonomics program as an extension of your human capital. Consider it as a system that complements all other elements within your organization including your organizations culture and history. Consider what makes a successful learning organization such as personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning and system thinking.