Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: Brandy Bossle on Strong Leadership and the Value of Volunteering

Brandy Bossle started her career as an industrial hygienist and then transitioned to an EHS specialist. She is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), Associate Safety Professional (ASP), and Certified Safety Director (CSD). She has been volunteering with the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) since 2018, where she is the current president of the Piedmont Chapter. She also volunteers with the Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA) on the South Atlantic States Section as a board director since 2020.

Currently, Brandy works as a Corporate Environmental and Safety Manager at Kyocera AVX Components Corporation (KAVX), which is a leading global manufacturer of advanced electronic components with 15,000 employees worldwide.

For our latest Faces of EHS profile, we connected with Brandy to discuss her biggest influences, the importance of good management, and the value of volunteering. For Women in Safety Week, she also provided insight into an issue that women face in the workplace in regard to PPE.

Q: How did you get your start in the field?

My first job out of college was working as an Inorganic Nonmetal Analyst at an environmental testing laboratory. We would analyze influent and effluent water samples from different facilities for analytes such as Cyanide, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Total Suspended Solids (TSS), Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), and more. When I worked in the lab, I helped the safety manager test fume hoods, check fire extinguishers, and I was on the emergency response team (this was my first time wearing a respirator!). During my time here, I talked to another employee who had recently found a job as an industrial hygienist. She explained her new responsibilities as an Industrial Hygienist—and I was immediately intrigued! I started looking for an industrial hygienist position soon after our conversation and landed one within a few months. I was an industrial hygienist for a year and a half when I transitioned to an Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Specialist for a manufacturing facility of 700 employees, Kyocera AVX Components Corporation (KAVX). After four years, I was promoted to Corporate Environmental and Safety Manager at KAVX. I am currently in this role and have been for the last year and a half.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence in the industry?

My most significant influence in the safety industry is Abby Ferri. She is not only a knowledgeable safety professional but a kind person. She volunteers her time to advance the safety profession by engaging in professional EHS organizations. I am already involved in volunteering in professional organizations, but she inspires me to get even more involved! She often speaks in webinars and conferences, which influences me to step out of my comfort zone and do the same thing. She has much influence in the safety industry, and I look up to her as a role model.

Q: What’s your favorite and least favorite part about working in the industry? Would you change anything?

My favorite part about the safety profession is building connections with other employees. I love getting to know the operators on the manufacturing floor. I enjoy sparking conversation with them about their lives, and then in the same day, be able to discuss hazards that they encounter on the job and how we can control them. I love building trust with employees, so they understand that my goal is to protect them from harm because I care about their wellbeing. It’s not to annoy them or tell them what to do but to work together to make their job safer.

My least favorite part is the administrative side of the industry. We should be out on the floor interacting with employees and watching how they work to identify, evaluate, and control hazards. But the safety profession has many recordkeeping responsibilities, which means that we are often at our desks performing administrative duties. Training records must be documented, and safety specifications are up to date, but as safety professionals, we make a more significant impact when we are on the floor working together with employees. EHS managers should have an administrative assistant to help manage the recordkeeping tasks to ensure that EHS managers can spend most of their time in the field instead of at a computer.

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

Management plays a huge role in a company’s safety program. Every company can have a safety program, but management actions are crucial to an effective safety program. Management must provide support and resources to ensure the safety program succeeds. First, they must make it clear that worker safety is one of their company’s core values. This could be a safety commitment letter sent out from the CEO to all employees to read and understand. They should show their support for the safety program by providing resources to eliminate hazards. This could be approving the cost and design to add safety-rated interlocks to a machine with inadequate guarding.

Management should be safety leaders and good role models by following all safety rules. This could be wearing safety glasses or other personal protective equipment in an area where it is required. Supervisors on the floor should manage safety in their area by coaching and correcting unsafe behaviors and reinforcing safe behaviors. Leaders should show commitment by attending safety days, safety stand downs, Safe and Sound Week, or other activities that the EHS department creates to emphasize the safety program. Last, management should ensure that safety is an integral part of business. An example of this is to ensure that safety, health, and environmental elements have been addressed before purchasing new machinery.

Q: What is an issue that women face in EHS workspaces?

An issue women face in the workplace is poorly fitting PPE. It’s every worker’s right to have PPE that fits properly. Women get left behind in this category. They are told to “size down” in men’s clothing (like arc flash clothing), and sometimes they are told to wear the size medium gloves when they really need x-small. The extra fabric on the men’s clothing or using larger gloves can be a safety hazard for women in the workplace. Companies must do better to ensure that women’s PPE is provided. Ensuring that all sizes of gloves are available, and making sure that if you do have a woman on your maintenance team, they get the proper sized and women-cut garment they need to perform their job safely.

Q: What are you most proud of?

I have two things I am proud of. First, I am proud of earning my Certified Safety Professional (CSP) credential. I do not have a degree in safety (I have my Bachelor of Science in Biology) but learned while on the job, engaging in safety classes at my local community college and attending professional development conferences. I was told by others when I started this career that I didn’t know anything about safety, but I worked hard to learn and become the experienced and knowledgeable safety professional that I am today, which has led to me earning my CSP! Second, I am proud of winning first place in the JJ Keller Safety Professional of The Year (SPOTY) Award in 2020. Many EHS professionals entered, and there was second and third place, and I won first place! It is still unreal to me but helped boost my confidence as a safety professional!

Q: Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

It is essential to get involved by volunteering in a professional EHS organization. Volunteering has helped me become a better leader. Volunteering has also increased networking opportunities with other safety professionals in my local community, the United States, and overseas! I have met so many other fantastic safety professionals that have helped me in my safety career. Safety professionals are willing to share advice and best practices on topics you may not be familiar with. In addition, I have had safety professionals share their specific safety programs at their company with me for benchmarking purposes. There are many benefits to volunteering, and I highly recommend it! You are helping to advance the safety profession and helping yourself.