Special Topics in Safety Management

An Interview with Lorraine M. Martin, President and CEO of the National Safety Council!

Read the transcript of a very special episode of the EHS on Tap podcast, where we talk with Lorraine M. Martin, the president and CEO of the National Safety Council, about her background, her vision for the organization, and what she sees as the biggest emerging trends in workplace safety!
Lorraine Martin EHS on Tap
This episode was released on September 5, 2019, and you can listen to the full audio here.

Justin Scace: Hello, everyone, and welcome to EHS on Tap. I’m your host, Justin Scace, senior editor of the EHS Daily Advisor and Safety Decisions magazine. There are many organizations out there that promote safety, and one of the most well-known organizations that is deeply committed to promoting safety both at work and at home is the National Safety Council, or NSC for short. Today, on a very special episode of EHS on Tap, we’re going to talk with the new leader of the Council about her background, her vision for the organization, and what she sees as the biggest emerging trends in workplace safety.

We’re very excited today to be joined by Lorraine M. Martin, the president and CEO of the National Safety Council. Lorraine has a very long and impressive résumé, including such roles as U.S. Air Force officer, executive vice president and deputy of Rotary and Mission Systems at Lockheed Martin, and cofounder and president of the nonprofit Pegasus Springs Foundation. As a champion for advancing women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, Lorraine was recently named among STEMConnector’s 100 Corporate Women Leaders, and she joined NSC as its new president and CEO this past June. So, Lorraine, thank you so much for being here to chat with us today on EHS on Tap!

Lorraine Martin: Justin, it’s an honor to be with you and your listeners.

Justin Scace: Thanks so much. So I touched on a few things when I introduced you, but tell us a little bit more about your background. What was your career like prior to NSC, and how did these positions put you on a safety-focused path?

Lorraine Martin: Well, thank you. Yes, as you mentioned, I did start my career with the U.S. Air Force and then eventually was working in the aerospace and defense industry in general at Lockheed Martin for 30 years. So I got an opportunity to work on all different kinds of projects, both when I was in the Air Force and then at Lockheed Martin, many of them in very high-consequence environments, production environments, building products, not only that we needed to ensure the people who use them, the men and women of our armed forces around the world, that they could use them and come home safely after using them—the consequence there is very high—but also for the employees that built the products, to make sure that they had the tools they needed, they had the work environment that they needed, and that we and the organizations that they were part of had the culture that said that safety was not a convenience, it was an imperative.

At Lockheed Martin and, I think, most aerospace and defense companies, we understand that responsibility and it’s really baked into who we are as organizations and who we are at providing products to, again, those who do the things that we ask to do for us on behalf of our nation around the world. So it really helped me kind of have that in my career, that focus of safety and of knowing who you’re working for and ensuring that they got home safely, whether it was from work or from their mission, every time. I kind of bring some of that, obviously, as my lens to the National Safety Council. I have been in an industry-type environment for the last 35 years, and it’s really exciting now to look at not only how I can bring that experience to the workplace that we serve, but also to the other environments that we serve in our communities at large and looking at how we can help people live their fullest lives and have safety be something that is there for all of us.

You know, it is really about leadership when you get right down to it. It’s about understanding what kind of strategies are important in each of the environments and for each of the issues we’re looking at. Then, at the National Safety Council, for us, it’s always about following the data so that it can really show us where we need to put our attention, where we need to put our efforts so that we can get ahead of things that might be coming.

Justin Scace: Definitely. So what made you decide that you wanted to take the reins at the National Safety Council?

Lorraine Martin: Well, it was a joint decision, and I’m very glad that they also wanted me to take the reins! You know, I was really looking for, “What’s the next right thing to do after 35 years in the aerospace and defense industry?” I was ready to give back, so I looked at a variety of different nonprofit opportunities for leadership. I really was able to come to the conviction that the thing that motivated me was to help human beings, people that we serve, live their fullest lives. When you think about what the National Safety Council is all about, it’s about ensuring that people are not harmed and certainly don’t perish because of something that we can prevent. At the core of that, it’s ensuring that people live their fullest lives.

So it really was a nice match for me because I do bring the industry perspective, and the ability to help the organization with the products and services, and the business-sides of what the National Safety Council does. But it also then enabled me to fuel the passion that I have of helping human beings with their dreams and doing everything that they were born and aspire to go do.

Justin Scace: That’s great. So, you must be extremely busy in your new role as president and CEO. What is NSC up to right now that you’re most excited about?

Lorraine Martin: Well, you have caught us at probably one of our busiest moments in time because we’re about a week away from our biggest event of the year and that is the National Safety Council’s Annual Congress and Expo. That’s the world’s largest annual safety exposition. Have you ever been to that?

Justin Scace: I have not been to that, yet, no.

Lorraine Martin: Oh, we’ll have to get you there, Justin.

Lorraine M. Martin

Lorraine M. Martin

Justin Scace: Absolutely.

Lorraine Martin: It is this year going to be held in San Diego from September 6th through the 12th, and it’s been taking place in some form or another for about the last 100 years if you can imagine that. But this year, we will have about 15,000 safety professionals and folks that are in that world of providing services and practices for the safety missions that we need to address for our nation. It’s actually got a lot of international participation as well.

It’ll be my first time, as well, attending. I’m really looking forward to engaging with the exhibitors, the attendees. There’s educational forums as well. So it is really is the place to be for safety professionals, at least for that few days and time here, again, it’s going to be in San Diego. Also, we have 15,000 members. So the council also is a membership-based organization as well as products, services, and philanthropy, and advocacy. I’ll get a chance to meet a lot more of those members there, really hear from them about what’s going to be most important to them in safety and in the bigger world of EHS. So really just a listening opportunity for me, as well, to hear from our core constituents.

I get a chance to be on the stage to kick it off, but following me, we’re going to have a guest speaker, really inspirational, I got a chance to read his book, look forward to meeting him personally, Mick Ebeling. He is the cofounder and CEO of something called Not Impossible Labs. His whole focus is about understanding that you can look at something that’s impossible and sometimes you just need to show up, not know how you’re going to fix it, not know what you’re going to do, and just tell yourself you’re going to do it, and amazing things can happen. So look forward to hearing his speech and having that inspire us.

Then, we also use this forum to really be the annual combination of both our company and individual award winners for accomplishment over the year in safety. So we’ll get to do a lot of congratulations and celebrating with those folks as well.

Justin Scace: That’s great. That’s fantastic.

Lorraine Martin: So, yes. We’re busy.

Justin Scace: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. So really busy right now—what’s your vision for the future of the organization?

Lorraine Martin: Well, thank you, I have been giving that quite a bit of thought. I’m now not yet at 100 days, I’m a little over two months in the job, really getting a chance to understand the incredible team we have, all of our stakeholders, many of them I just mentioned. I’ve come to the understanding that what I want to do is have the biggest impact, so really diving in and understanding this mission of eliminating preventable deaths and injuries in our workplaces—how do I make sure that our efforts are really going to move the needle? There’s some things that the council has done over its 107-year history that have been very much needle-moving, things having to do with seat belts and airbags. We’re doing things right now in the opioid epidemic that have really been impactful.

So my challenge is to really look at all of our initiatives with a fresh pair of eyes, just like any new leader brings to the team, appreciating everything we’re doing, and then looking for opportunities where we really can focus in on the greatest impact. Then, we have the ability to go invest and make sure that we’ve got updated tools, processes, awareness campaigns, legislation that’s going to enable us really to make a difference in the world.

So I don’t have one initiative. I’ve been asked that question by some of the staff even, “What’s my thing?” It’s really going to be about looking at all of our initiatives and understanding where we can have the highest impact and then just making sure that we’ve got the engine, the resource, the talent to go make that happen.

Justin Scace: So speaking of the future, what do you see as the emerging issues in workplace safety right now? Are there any areas that you think maybe aren’t getting enough attention?

Lorraine Martin: Yeah. Thank you for asking that. You know, the one I’d really like to start with, and I kind of commented on earlier, is the opioid epidemic. Workplace safety evolves with our community. As there’s more risks or new risks that emerge for our populace, you know that those are going to be brought to the workplace in one way or another as human beings live and spend a lot of their time in the workplace.

The opioid epidemic, right now, it wasn’t even on our radar in the ’90s—while it was affecting individuals in our communities, it certainly wasn’t something that we all had awareness of. Employers weren’t front and center on this. Today, a recent poll that we just did, 75% of employers in the U.S. have directly been impacted by opioid misuse. We also surveyed those same companies and only 17%—17%!—of their safety professionals and HR employees felt ready to deal with this issue. So that’s a big gap that we have put a lot of effort into providing tool kits and resources to help the workplace truly understand that this is something that we need to have a role in and that there are tools to help with.

I say the other one that’s really coming to forefront for us right now is fatigue in the workplace and the issue that that places when people are in safety-sensitive jobs. 97% of American workers report at least one risk factor around fatigue. I could go and talk a lot about this, I know your podcast probably doesn’t have enough time for that, but those two issues in the workplace, I think, are really important for us as employers. I am one, and I have to take care of the employees here at the National Safety Council, but then for industries across our country, really understanding how we are resourced on these two issues for the people that put their responsibility and their trust in us as they come to work. So that’s a big one.

The other one I would say that we’ve started to really get some excitement around is technology, in general. As you mentioned before, I was in the technology field. I had a computer science, computer engineering background as I entered industry. But technology can help us with the products we build, how we manufacture them, what technology is actually in the products in our homes and in our lives. But it also can truly help us with our safety, and how we build those products, and what environments we put human beings, and where we can use technology like artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, sensors, wearables, drones, robotics. Those all have not only the ability to help with productivity and efficiency but also safety. If you can put those two together as you’re bringing them into the workforce, that’s a double bang of really high payoffs.

So we have started to partner with some organizations to really look at how we can leverage technology in the safety world as some of these really neat new capabilities are available. I will tell you one thing that’s become very clear to me, not only in my industrial career but also now here, is that we ask a lot of employees. We really do. We ask them to learn new best practices every day. Something new is coming along, we ask them to upgrade their skills to change how they do their work. One thing we cannot ask of them is to put their own safety at risk at work, and technology is one of the things that we can help to mitigate some of those risks. Exploring that’s going to be really exciting. We’ve got a lot of things we’ll be announcing at the event next week regarding what we call “Work to Zero.” We would really like to be a nation, a country that doesn’t have any human loss of life in getting done the industry that fuels our economy.

Justin Scace: Absolutely. Now, I’ve noticed, and you actually touched upon this a little bit in your last answer, I’ve noticed that NSC highlights a lot of issues that affect not only workplace safety but public safety in general, things like safe driving, and as you mentioned, substance abuse prevention. So what do you think about the overlap between on-the-job and off-the-job safety, and is there anything that safety professionals can do to help make their communities as well as their workplaces safer?

The National Safety Council’s memorial to victims of the opioid crisis

Lorraine Martin: Yeah. Those safety professionals, they truly can have a huge impact, especially given the things that they learned and the tools that they learned at their workplace. There’s a huge overlap, as you’ve just said. I mean, human beings are human beings, and we can get ourselves into trouble and risky areas no matter what that location is. When employees go home, if they’ve learned techniques, whether it’s safe driving, distracted driving awareness, whether it’s first aid techniques, whether it’s dealing with someone who potentially is in an opioid overdose and what they can do to address that, all of those things that workplaces often are helping provide skills and tools to their employees, those can go straight home with you to your families, to your communities and you can be an advocate to bring that to a wider audience. I’m sure many—most and all safety professionals understand that responsibility.

I will tell you motor vehicle crashes, until the opioid epidemic, it was our number one preventable death in our country. It has now been eclipsed. But at the workplace, it’s still the number one preventable death. Motor vehicle techniques of driving, of technology in cars, of understanding what impairment is and distraction, those apply to our roadways no matter where they are. So many workforces have to have vehicles and move things, people and other things, that driving is a huge piece of their business and how they get their business done. Those same techniques for being safe apply equally well on our roadways in general and then for workforce. So there’s protections that we think of that are outside of the work that can go into the workforce and then vice versa. There really is a very synergistic perspective that we should have on that.

Justin Scace: Definitely. So my next question for you—you’ve taken on many leadership roles in your career, what advice would you give to safety professionals who are looking to be strong team leaders but maybe also trying to gain the attention of corporate leadership when it comes to workplace safety issues?

Lorraine Martin: Yeah, that’s a great question. Some of, I think, my thoughts on this will really center around really just leadership in general. Whether or not you’re an individual contributor or you have the responsibility to manage people, safety leaders are leaders. They are folks that are coming into an organization to try to have impact, to try to, in many cases, change things so that they can be safer, that we can mitigate risks that they see. So they have to have a voice. That’s the same for many professions. If you don’t have a voice in your work environment, you’re not probably going to have as much impact as you could.

So when I’ve talked to various communities about leadership, safety, and others, the first thing I’ll recommend is that you really need to know your craft. You need to know the job you’re doing, so make sure you come to the table with your voice, but know that you have done your homework, whatever that might be. Then, make sure you understand what impact looks like in your environment. For a safety professional, that’s pretty easy to understand. It’s about making sure people don’t get injured, that the work can continue to progress, that you can make deadlines, but that you do in a way that ensures that each and every employee and the equipment is safe and sound during that process.

So know what impact looks like, and spend some time really thinking about, for the organization, how to characterize that impact and then have your voice and make sure you come to the table with your voice. That, again, is a leadership thing that’s really important for us all to learn. You know, you don’t need to bring something if nothing needs to be said. But when it does, make sure you know how to use your voice.

I’ve been really thinking about the safety professional’s challenge and especially the leadership piece of that. One of the things that I know when I was in manufacturing environments and had large workforces that were doing things that could put them in potentially risky situations is to really, as a leader, to show up where your people are doing the work. Make sure you put your eyes on it. You ask them, “What’s in your way? What doesn’t feel safe?” Or, “Do you feel like you don’t have the right tools or the right protections to do your job?” They’ll know what it is. Sometimes you just got to go ask. The best place to ask that is in where that environment is, whether that’s in the field, whether that’s in a plant, whether that’s in an office environment. So I would also recommend to safety professionals, show up. Go find your people and ask them.

My final thing, I guess, I would say is that as you’re exploring what the impact is for your organization, and how to have your voice, and asking folks what you can do to help, a healthy dose of humility and confidence at the same time, I think, goes a long way to helping people feel comfortable to tell you what they need and for others to hear you when you have something to say.

Justin Scace: Absolutely. That’s some great advice. Before we sign off, is there anything else you’d like to talk about or share with our audience about workplace safety and what’s happening at the National Safety Council?


sturti/E+/Getty Images

Lorraine Martin: Well, I commented about technology in the workplace. I’d like to maybe just put a little cap on that a bit. We actually have an initiative that we’re calling Work to Zero, and I hinted at it before, to really focus on what it would take to get to zero fatalities. Over the last decade, workplace injuries continually go down, which is fantastic because that’s a big number, really big number, and every person that we can have avoid getting injured in some way is exactly what we should be focused on. But the number of fatalities has remained kind of flat, and that’s with a lot of initiatives. So there’s something more we need to be doing or something we need to understand as our environments change and more technology gets brought into them for doing the job and creating more complex results. We have to kind of figure that out.

As I mentioned before, I think technology and looking at it from a safety perspective is one of the keys to really cracking that nut. We have really gotten a lot of insights and some data available to us about the safety and technology, both from our leaders and our practitioners, and we recently got a grant to double down on this and to really focus on understanding how technology might be able to help here. We’re partnering with the McElhattan Foundation, as I mentioned before, on a grant, and we’re going to be piloting and evaluating various kinds of technologies and training programs around technology to really address this issue of fatalities in the workplace.

There’s lots, and I mentioned some of the technologies before, but there’s just tons of technologies available for us to consider additive manufacturing. I’m not sure I mentioned that one last time. Robots, themselves, not only for manufacturing but to really look at the human interface with the robots and understanding how that can help us with the safety dynamic as well. And not just applying technology to apply it, but really think about it, do the research of understanding which ones are going to have the highest payoffs and what kind of environments so we can save lives.

The coalition that we put together is a group of practitioners to really look at this issue from academia, researchers, folks that are from the industry side. We are starting to put together our first sort of point paper on that, and that’ll be coming out here shortly. Then, we’re also going to have a summit in February, I think it is, in Florida somewhere to really look at how to start to characterize and categorize technology for the safety environment. We’ll start to then share that with the community at large. So really exciting.

We’re kicking off an advisory council out at Congress, the event that I talked about in San Diego, for our Work to Zero initiative. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this, perhaps, will be something that will be a needle mover, as I talked about before, something that really can have impact and start to turn that fatality number in the direction that we need it to go. I mean, our whole goal is to enable everyone to live their fullest life. If you’re injured or actually happen to lose your life, clearly we have not met our objectives. Technology, I think, is one thing. It’s not the only thing, but it’s one thing that I think has a big promise. So I’m really excited about being able to partner, especially given my STEM background and the exposure that I had to many of these technologies on the production side. It’s going to be really fun to ask, “How can they help in the safety world as well?”

Justin Scace: Sounds great. I’m sure many in our audience are looking forward to NSC’s Congress and Expo next week as well, and we’re looking forward to what the Council has in store for the future of safety. So thank you so much again, Lorraine, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us on EHS on Tap.

Lorraine Martin: Thank you, Justin, and I hope we can stay in touch.

Justin Scace: Absolutely. Hope to talk to you again soon. So, thanks also to our listeners for tuning in. Be sure to keep an eye out for new episodes of our podcast and keep reading the EHS Daily Advisor to stay on top of your safety and environmental compliance obligations, get the latest in best practices, and keep your finger on the pulse of all things related to the EHS industry. Until next time, this is Justin Scace for EHS on Tap.

Lorraine M. MartinLorraine M. Martin is passionate about her commitment to helping people live their fullest lives. She has more than 30 years of experience leading and developing global and international businesses, including as a Fortune 500 senior executive, with a successful track record in both civic and corporate roles.

Over her career she has led global aircraft and complex system development and manufacturing, always with a focus on safety for the employees and for those who used the products, often in high consequence environments. Lorraine is also the co-founder and president of the Pegasus Springs Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for educators, students and community members to collaborate on learning models. She is an enthusiastic advocate for school, community and national resource engagement.

As a proud champion for advancing women and girls in STEM, Lorraine recently was named among STEMConnector’s 100 Corporate Women Leaders and frequently lectures on core issues related to the cause. She has worked with numerous organizations in support of this mission, including Girls Inc., Girls Who Code and Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, where she also served on the board of directors. In addition, she has served on the boards of INROADS and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Orlando.

Lorraine is honored to have served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where she held various leadership positions for software-intensive technology and development programs. She has earned a master’s degree in computer science from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in computational mathematics from DePauw University.


EHS on Tap is an environmental, health, and safety podcast by BLR’s EHS Daily Advisor. On each episode of EHS on Tap, our host will discuss emerging legal, regulatory, and policy issues with industry experts and the impacts to everyday safety and environmental professionals. EHS on Tap topics run the gamut of contemporary issues facing EHS managers and professionals today.

Download the podcasts on iTunes here, and also be sure to visit our SoundCloud page for a full listing of all of our episodes!

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