NSF International Sets Standards High To Protect Public Health

Soon after the city of Flint, Michigan switched the source of its drinking water from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014, the more corrosive river water caused high levels of lead to leach out of the city’s old water pipes. Suddenly, the water flowing from the taps in thousands of homes was dark, tasted terrible, and caused skin irritation, leading the government and other organizations to distribute bottled water and drinking water filters because of the health risk of elevated lead levels.

NSF International, a worldwide standards-setting and testing organization that developed the American National Standards for drinking water filters and plumbing products, helped make sure local officials and residents in Flint were using water filters that had been independently tested and certified to reduce lead.

Independent tests found the amount of lead in the water was well above the safe level. A reported 9,000 children, in the age group most susceptible to lead’s wide-ranging harmful effects, were exposed to lead. That exposure, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, can lead to brain damage, learning and behavioral difficulties, as well as hearing and speech problems. This is the kind of public health testing and monitoring that NSF International has been doing for 75 years, since it got its start creating and testing cleanliness standards for soda shops.

Currently, it is helping local municipalities, building owners, and hospitals understand how to prevent Legionnaire’s disease, the pneumonia-like ailment caused by water contaminated with Legionellabacteria. Cases of Legionnaire’s and the related Pontiac Fever have been increasing since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control report.

NSF International is also participating in a committee of experts developing standards for the water that pumps through evaporative air conditioning systems and the water that fills public fountains. Water in those systems contaminated with Legionella can evaporate and spread the bacteria in the wind. The containment effort is particularly important because many hospitals cool their buildings with evaporating water.

“Anyone exposed in a hospital setting may already have a weakened immune system and be at a higher risk of Legionnaire’s disease if the bacteria is present,” says Wayne Overla, NSF global HRIS manager. NSF International has on its staff a “couple of the leading experts in this field in the world.”

As an accredited standards development organization, NSF brings together government regulators, industry groups, consumers, and public health professionals to develop standards for a wide variety of products and systems. The NSF seal on products verifies they passed rigorous safety tests. The company operates its standards-setting efforts as a not-for-profit organization and separately provides revenue-generating product testing services to fund its public health mission. The company maintains more than 70 protocols for the safe use of appliances, from how to sanitize dishwashers to the best ways to clean food-processing equipment.

NSF also certifies foods as organic, and tests sports supplements to make sure they are free of banned performance-enhancing substances.

The demand for NSF International’s services has grown consistently and the company now employs 2,864 employees in 31 countries—including scientists in fields like toxicology, microbiology, and chemistry.

Recruiting Challenge: Landing Smart Scientists

Finding, recruiting, and retaining specialists with such rarefied skills in a very competitive market present considerable challenges for the company’s HR team.

NSF International relies on Oracle Taleo Cloud to acquire top talent. The tool is one piece of a broader transition to cloud-based human capital management applications.

The company first moved to cloud computing as a way to unify its HR operations at all locations, and to devise a standard process to set salaries and bonuses, says Lakshmi Akkena, the company’s senior Oracle applications developer. After considering offerings by other vendors, the management team settled on Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud and its compensation management module.

“Our leaders liked the user interface, and the compensation management functionality in the Oracle HCM was really good,” Akkena says. “It was very easy to adopt.”

Over time, NSF International added core HR functions and talent management, absence management, and benefits modules, making some big HR initiatives possible for the first time. “We were able to compare the performance of our employees apples-to-apples from one region to another, and really pay for performance,” Overla says. “It really built up our employees and our leadership, and helped us come together as a company.”

  • Register for Oracle OpenWorld, September 16 to 19 in San Francisco, to learn how Oracle HCM Cloud is helping other organizations boost business.

The “one HR” approach is particularly helpful as NSF International continues to grow internationally. Using Oracle HCM Cloud, the HR pros can set up operations in new countries in a couple of hours rather than a couple of weeks, as long as “no one bothers me at my desk,” Overla says.

That’s because Oracle has baked in the best practices for extending the number of locations served. “Instead of having to set them up from scratch, we’re actually just configuring each new location to our needs,” he says.

The platform makes it easier for recruiters to post job openings and for candidates to apply from their phones, with user interfaces available in 34 languages.

That capability will come in handy when NSF International starts recruiting in China this summer, with what Overla calls a “simplified Chinese” interface for the Taleo application. Taleo software also helps NSF comply with Chinese regulations that any information candidates and employees provide on resumes and applications remains private. NSF has used Oracle HCM Cloud in China for two years to offer HR services to employees there.

The Taleo recruiting system is helping NSF International lower its “time to fill” open positions. One reason, Overla believes, is that it’s better at reaching job candidates who are attracted to NSF International’s mission of protecting people.

“Recent HR research shows that many job candidates, millennials in particular, like a sense of purpose in their jobs,” he says. “We have a strong, meaningful mission with plenty of purpose to give them.”

[“source=forbes”]

Author: Ayaan