Willie Sease got his start in the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) field as an intern with The Heritage Group while completing his undergraduate studies at Indiana University Bloomington. The nearly year-long internship not only allowed him to apply the classroom knowledge he was learning in the field, but it also ignited his passion for EHS.
“The internship afforded me the opportunity to travel to multiple sites to provide environmental, health and safety support such as identifying safety deficiencies and recommending corrective actions,” Sease recalls. “This experience solidified my decision to practice EHS in the general industry. I knew that the safety profession can be a very rewarding career, but you must be passionate about protecting people, property, and the environment.”
Throughout his career, Sease has worked as an EHS Professional in higher education, food manufacturing, and chemical manufacturing. Currently, he is a Corporate Industrial Hygienist within the Corporate Occupation Health Group for the Sherwin-Williams Company.
In our latest “Faces of EHS” profile, meet Willie Sease.
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?
My biggest influences in the industry would have to be my three mentors — Christopher Hicks, Anthony Ross, and Dr. Kevin Slates — who all have a wide range of safety experience. Combined, they have over 80 years of safety experience in industries like higher education, chemical manufacturing, food manufacturing, and consulting. Their mentoring has played an integral role in my personal and professional growth from optimizing a career track to navigating complex EHS issues.
How can company leaders make safety a value within their organization?
I think that company leaders can make safety a value within their organizations by listening to the concerns of the frontline workers and working to address the low hanging fruit for small wins. Addressing the low hanging fruit for small wins can build credibility with the frontline workers. This is the credibility needed to have employee engagement in a safety program.
It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry.
I chose this profession to be able to educate others on how to work safely while maintaining a high quality of life. The end goal is for the worker to make it home the same way that they came into work. Educating workers on the importance of why they should work safely is vital to creating a positive safety culture.
Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or seeing any current trends?
In the next five years, I see the industry being widely impacted by the advancement in technology. The current trends are leaning towards more technology being introduced into the workforce to eliminate workplace injuries.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the impact that I have made on the people that I have worked with by educating them on the importance of safety. Seeing a worker educate another worker with the information that I provided to them through training and coaching is very rewarding.
Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?
The advice that I would have for anyone entering the profession is, find a mentor, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and network as much as possible. Having a mentor is one of the best ways for new safety professionals to develop their craft. Being able to ask for help is important in our profession because it aids you identifying solutions more efficiently while developing your knowledge base to become a stronger safety professional. Lastly, I feel that networking is vital because it enables you to reach out to other safety professionals in different industries to brainstorm and compare ideas with. I believe that if a new safety professional does all three, they will have a very rewarding career.