When we started “Faces of EHS” back in January 2020, we envisioned it as a profile series in which we could chat with professionals who are on the front lines of environment, health, and safety (EHS) work. It was our goal to get many perspectives on the breadth and scope of what EHS professionals are doing and learn more about their respective work and how they are making an impact in EHS.
Now, after catching up with more than 35 exceptional EHS pros, we at the EHS Daily Advisor would be remiss if we did not share some of the insights we have gleaned about current trends and where our EHS pros believe the industry is headed. Now, more than ever, it’s a critical time to revisit your company strategy around building a thriving, diverse, and inclusive culture that is, most important, safe. We were fortunate enough to chat with myriad EHS industry leaders, and as you read on, you will find some of our favorite insights as to how EHS leaders can ensure safety is a value within their organizations.
For Monique Parker, Vice-President, Environmental, Health and Safety at Piedmont Lithium, company leaders can make safety a value in their actions.
“Talking about safety is never enough,” Parker recently told us. “It is when you see leaders fully engaged in the work environment and highlights their commitment to EHS, who are open to have the difficult conversations and who are willing to not put operations above all else. Making safety personal allows employees to know that they themselves are valued and cared for by leaders and the company.”
Megan Kirby, Regional Environment Health Safety Manager at Mom’s Meals, agrees with Parker, adding that company leaders can make safety a value in their organization by first making it one of their own priorities. “Get involved in safety inspections,” Kirby shared. “Start your meetings with safety and look for ways to communicate the company’s safety goals and the progress being made towards those goals. When your people see that this is one of your priorities, they will start making it their priority as well.”
Tanya Jenke, General Manager for Cority APAC, recently published a study that highlighted key causes of occupational fatalities in the mining and resource sector from a combined assessment of 2000 questionnaire responses on workers’ perception of safety and 20 years of mining fatalities in Western Australia to identify common risk factors. According to Jenke, the risk factors were based on a questionnaire developed by Dr. Cattani as well as Professor Michael Quinlan’s 2014 book ‘Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster.’ The study identified four common pathways and are suggested to be prioritized by company leaders; these are:
- Pathway 1: Design, engineering, technical and maintenance flaws
- Pathway 4: Failures in safety management systems
- Pathway 5: Failures in Auditing
- Pathway 9: Poor management – worker communication and trust
“The Ten Pathways can be used as an internal company assessment tool to benchmark themselves,” Jenke explained. “Additionally, it can assist safety professionals in having more meaningful dialog on safety matters in their organization. One of the findings from the study found that generally survey respondents that were in leadership roles had a higher perception of their organization’s safety effectiveness compared to front line employees. This suggests that that there are gaps between employee expectation of safety leaders and what is practiced on the shop floor.”
Jenke added that in the industrialized world, generally there appears to be a slowing of safety performance improvement or a plateauing of performance improvement.
“Contributing to this is the subject of my research, and many other researchers,” she noted. “Over the next five years I hope that we see an improvement in safety performance, by developing practical solutions for organizations – wherever they are. Additionally, with the introduction of new safety legislation across Western Australia, I think there is potential for performance improvement, but I am not sure if the new harsher penalties associated with it will be the deterrent the government expects. Implementation of harsher penalties have been implemented in other states in Australia as well as in the UK, however the research on its effectiveness is not yet confirmed.”