Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: For Samson Largo, When You Have the Right Passion, You’ll End Up in the Right Place

Growing up in Kaduna City, Nigeria, Samson Largo watched his mother, Azumi Largo, now a retired nurse, take care of people and help them in his or her time of need. Largo recalls that while she didn’t work in the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) field, it was her passion that influenced and compelled him to help people as well.

“I have all these memories of some of the things that she did in the past as a nurse,” Largo recently shared with EHS Daily Advisor. “She took care of people without a second thought. Even if it was cleaning up their vomit. She didn’t care what the task was, she’d put on her gloves and clean it up. Time and time again I watched her do things like that. She never looked irritated or anything. She always gave her absolute best. So, when I started my career, and even now, whenever I remember those days, they give me a boost of energy and motivation. I get a lot of pleasure and joy helping people and making them safe and healthier in the workplace.”

In our latest “Faces of EHS” profile, meet Samson Largo. Largo is an Industrial Hygienist at Houston-based Freeport LNG, one of the largest U.S. exporters of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Read on to find out strategies he uses to make employees feel safe in the workplace, what he enjoys most about the industry, and more.

How did you get your start in the field?

I came to the United States to attend medical school. However, things didn’t work out. I attended Utah State University and after expressing to one of my professors that I am a people person, he gave me a few recommendations for a career path. As you know, public health is very broad. He recommended public health education, industrial hygiene, and environmental science. When I looked at all three of them, I quickly had a strong connection with industrial hygiene because it’s heavy on people. Ultimately, that is what led me towards industrial hygiene and how all of this came about. I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Public Health with an emphasis in Industrial Hygiene. And then I received my master’s degree from Indiana State University in Occupational Safety Management.

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 when employees are safer in the workplace. When management, employees, and safety professionals are able to come together to bring about a safer work environment is a great feeling. The challenging thing about working in the oil and gas industry, for me, is the hesitation of some employees, management, and companies to accept change that is determined to be of great help to everyone. As you know a lot of people like to stick with what they know or what they’re used to. And that, at times, can be frustrating because people may not be ready to accept some of the groundbreaking discoveries that have been made to keep people safe in the workplace.

That’s amazing. In your role, how do you help people feel comfortable and safe to accept these “groundbreaking discoveries” in the workplace?

So, there are a few strategies that could be utilized, and I personally deploy the strategies in bringing about a change, a necessary change within the workplace. One of the strategies is to build strong interpersonal relationship with employees. When you have interpersonal relationships, employees tend to be more trusting of ideas. They tend to not put up so much guard as to what type of change is to be made.

Coaching helps as well. Sometimes people just don’t have the proper information that they want or need. Additionally, sometimes information is not shared the right way. So, coaching the employees, getting them involved and getting them to see the need for the change does help. Moreover, training is very important. You need to have regularly scheduled trainings for employees. This helps them because it’s additional sharing of information.

It sounds like through your experience, you truly care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which of course that’s important in the industry.

Yes, absolutely. That’s basically what I’m in the industry for – I care about people and making sure that they’re safer in the workplace and explaining processes and procedures to them. A lot of times people are just there to do what they want to do or what they are asked to do. For example, you have an operator that is there and all he cares about is production. You have somebody in engineering, for example, all they care about is the moving parts, moving equipment and all of that. My job is to explain to them that there are probably safer ways that we can get the product out the door. There are safer ways that we can get the equipment running. Helping people gives me a lot of pleasure, and makes me very happy.

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

In my industry, the oil and gas industry, as you already know there’s a lot of pressure on the industry because it is considered unsafe to people as well as the environment. As a result, governments are cracking down on the oil and gas industry and want to get to move to cleaner, renewable energy. But the simple truth is that the oil and gas industry is not going away for a very long time. Now, I recognize that we do have a lot of work to do as far as product stewardship and ensuring that we are taking care of our employees and the environment. But the oil and gas industry is definitely here to stay for at least the foreseeable future.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of bringing about safer work environments for employees, especially employees that have been working around very high hazardous materials for decades. For example, I’ve had employees who work with silica containing material for over 30 years. I came and made the change regarding how they would handle such types of products. When I look and think about that, it makes me really proud. Just keeping people safer and healthier in the workplace makes me proud.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Yes. As always, anybody who is coming into the EHS profession must have a lot of passion, a lot of dedication, and a lot of drive. To be honest, everything else is secondary. I understand that it’s important for us to make money and to take care of our families because those things are important. But having passion will take you very, very far. When you have the right passion, you end up in the right place, and everything else will fall into place.