Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: Kristy Wilson Talks Putting Integrity and Safety First

Kristy Wilson got her start in the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) field by accident. While working as an office assistant for a small steel erection construction company, she was asked to take over the company’s safety program.

“As they tried to bid high dollar subcontracts with the bigger construction companies, they were finding themselves ineligible to bid because their safety program was inadequate and safety experience modification rating (EMR) too high,” Wilson recalls.

Kristy Wilson

Despite having no training or guidance, Wilson jumped into her new role. To educate herself on the EHS field, Wilson took OSHA classes, reading and studying standards on construction. With the necessary tools she armed herself with, Wilson learned by trial and error. As she improved the company’s safety program, they began to be invited to invited to bid with companies and contracts that allowed the company to grow and expand. After some time, she sought another opportunity that would allow her to grow and utilize the skills she had learned. Now, Wilson has found her home at Case/New Holland Construction as a Safety Trainer.

In our latest “Faces of EHS” profile, meet Kristy Wilson. Read on to find out who her biggest influences are, what she enjoys most about the EHS industry, what’s she’s most proud of, and more.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

My favorite part is helping others learn the importance of working safely and the value of a good safety program. My least favorite part is convincing others of the importance of working safely and the value of a good safety program before an accident or OSHA violation occurs. I’m not sure what the best way to change it would be, but to just continue to study, research, learn and share that knowledge.

How can company leaders make safety a value within their organization?

I think the most important thing a leader can do is get out there with the employees that are having to put these safety rules into practice. Get the employee input on safety and what works best. Observe how the worker does their job and exactly how safety effects their duties. Spending time in the field, or on the manufacturing plant floor, gives a better perspective of how and what improvements need to be made – and to see what is working. Call out a worker that you observe following company safety rules and let them know that you recognize the effort they are making to be a part of the positive safety culture.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

I see safety becoming viewed as friend instead of foe; sometimes safety is viewed as an inconvenience that creates more work and slows production. The opposite is in fact the case. In the future, safety will have a seat at the same table the CEO, Project Managers and other company leaders are at when making important decisions not only effecting safety but effecting the bottom line.

Who is your biggest influence in the industry?

A gentleman by the name of Cloys Bayless, he was the safety trainer/manager for the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Kansas City. He was always available to help me with questions and even helped me write the company safety program. My other influence is Brittany Buckley. As an accomplished safety professional, as well as a successful and respected woman in the safety industry, she is someone I look up to.

What are you most proud of?

When I resigned from the construction company I had been working with, I had been their five years and in that time the company received an award for safety from the AGC of KS and their EMR rating decreased to the lowest it had been in five years.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Find a mentor, I was blessed by two great mentors (Cloys Bayless; and Brittany Buckley) that have been in the safety industry for years. Also, do a lot of study and research not only on your field but other industries. It’s important to get a feel and idea of trends and topics or new regulations. Finally, don’t be intimated by bosses or companies that want to put safety last. Stick to your guns and put your integrity first along with the safety of the employees.