As Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National, Maryann Hoff, CSP, ARM, MEHS, is deeply familiar with both the technical and the human aspects of safety. Her wide variety of personal and professional experiences, ranging from a childhood amid civil war to leveraging data to understand the connections underpinning today’s organizations, have given Hoff an elevated appreciation for and pride in workplace safety. Read on to learn more about her safety journey and why she says environment, health, and safety (EHS) is more than a job—it’s one of the best careers out there.
Being an engineering student, I found that I had a focused interest on the people within designed processes and how to reduce process failures and the potential for loss and/or harm because of those processes. At a deeper level, I believe that my experiences as a child who went through a civil war in Liberia created an inherent passion for the concept of safety. EHS provided me an opportunity to explore and have a direct impact in those areas.
You have a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. How has your engineering background shaped your approach to health and safety?
It has helped me view and better understand each client’s organization as a unique system, and my learned critical thinking and analytical skills contribute to how I process their needs and business flow. Additionally, these skills help me analyze different kinds of information and data around how elements of a system work together for the best outcome, including—and with emphasis on—health and safety. My chemE background shaped my appreciation for the varied and unique operations I have come across working in EHS on the insurance side and the beauty of industry here in the United States.
In your experience helping organizations go beyond compliance when it comes to EHS initiatives, what are the most critical factors in building a strong safety culture?
Empowered employees and communication, including follow-up actions, are the most critical factors, in my experience. A company’s messaging and actions regarding safety should be consistent if it wants to build a strong safety culture—messaging can have positive or negative effects depending on how it is delivered. Empowering employees to be a part of the process by communicating with peers and leaders regarding safety needs, and corresponding follow-up actions by the organization that acknowledge, support, and address those needs, builds trust and encourages participation in the culture. Trust is critical to sustaining a cohesive culture focused on accomplishing organizational goals.
How can EHS managers better position themselves to be thought leaders within their organizations and gain better buy-in for health and safety?
EHS managers who understand their organization’s business, co-elevate with other leaders within their companies, and stay connected to peers and EHS trade organizations can better position themselves and gain buy-in. EHS managers have the unique opportunity to be a bridge within their organizations. We have the ability to be innovative and creative in how we message safety to create engagement, which can make you not just a thought leader but also invaluable to your organization.
What do you see as the main emerging trends affecting the future of the EHS industry?
Going beyond compliance, leveraging technology and data, and taking a perspective that encompasses employees’ total health are emerging trends that, in my opinion, will shape the future of EHS. There are many resources available in all these areas to enable organizations to engage and develop environments where risk management is a part of all business processes and where employees can thrive.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed perceptions of health and safety, and do you think these changed perceptions will remain after some semblance of normal returns?
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that safety is a significant part of our everyday lives both at work and at home. It also has broadened the scope and depth of the perception of safety and health in our society, with clear depictions of the need for personal, psychological, and social safety. Businesses understand that if safety is not a part of how they function, it could impact their ability to operate at all. I am so proud of the safety and health professionals who have showed how intrinsic our work is to how we all live! I believe these perceptions will remain because “normal” now includes an understanding of the importance of safety in a way that cannot and should not be forgotten.
What’s your favorite job-related story that you like to tell others?
Learning about the citrus industry and how an orange goes from the tree to your grocery store or your glass of OJ is my favorite job-related story. The process was so fascinating to me when I worked with different organizations and employees in the industry—growers, pickers, packers, juicers, etc. Such hard work goes into getting you that orange, and I love sharing those stories because it changed the way I looked at how our world works.
What advice do you have for people who are either considering a career in EHS or just getting their start in the profession?
Ask questions, seek interesting and new problems to solve, use your unique talents and skills in your work, and create meaningful connections with others. Respect the work and the pride that people take in doing their jobs well. Remember to contribute your voice and engage the next generation so that our field continues to flourish with new perspectives. This is not just a job; it’s one of the best careers one can have!
|Maryann Hoff, CSP, ARM, MEHS, is Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National, where she is responsible for managing risk control services for a portfolio of policyholders. She also serves as the Risk Services Healthcare Industry Practice Lead for the East Coast. Before joining Safety National in 2018, she held various risk control consulting positions for national and regional insurance carriers.
Hoff serves as a board member of the Insurance Society of Philadelphia–NextGen and is actively involved with the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and Women in Safety Excellence (WISE). She holds Associate Risk Management (ARM) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designations, and she obtained her Master of Environmental Health and Safety degree and Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.
Would you like to be profiled in a future Faces of EHS and share your experiences, challenges, etc.? Or, do you know anyone else in EHS you think has an interesting story to tell? Write us at ehsposts@SimplifyCompliance.com and include your name and contact information; be sure to put “Faces of EHS” in the subject line.