Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: Zach Granzow on Mutual Trust and Commitment to Safety

Zach Granzow began his career as a safety professional five years ago. He is a certified Associate Safety Professional (ASP) and he plans to complete his Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification in 2022. He also plans to become an authorized OSHA Outreach Trainer for general industry. Zach has experience with chemical safety, hoist and rigging safety, and hazardous energy control.

Zach has recently started a new position as a safety manager at Mobile Track Solutions, a manufacturing company based in Iowa that produces earth moving equipment, such as scrapers, for earth moving companies.

For our latest Faces of EHS profile, we sat down with Zach to discuss his journey into the world of EHS, a redefining of safety culture, and how leaders should be prioritizing safe operations.

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

My desire was to become a dentist because I wanted to give people a reason to smile. I had never even heard of a safety professional as a career option. If I had been made aware of this, I likely would have either changed my major or double majored. It wasn’t until my first professional job, as an animal pharmaceutical quality chemist, that I met my first safety manager. Being curious, I asked them tons of questions about their role. Thankfully, they were gracious in explaining it to me. My thought was, “You get paid to do this?” For fun, yes, I said fun, I started reading the 29CFR1910 to learn how these standards applied to me.

I changed jobs to work for a water testing chemical manufacturer as a chemical technician. While there, I assisted the safety manager with improving our processes and learned how to conduct Job Safety/Hazard Analyses, (JSA/JHA). I found it fun and interesting to look at the actions within each step of the production process and identify ways to not only improve the safety of the job, but also the efficiency.

As life changed, I became a plant manager for an agriculture chemical company where I ended up managing four plants with 50-75 employees on my team. My team and I put our focus on improving our safety and product quality. By putting our focus here, our productivity skyrocketed. We went from being an average plant to one of the highest productive plants.

Because I enjoyed working with the various safety managers and improving the safety of operations at each place I’ve worked, I decided I would make the career change to become a safety professional. Now, I get to give people a reason to smile, because I get to help them be successful at improving the quality of their work and home lives.

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

The person who has had the biggest influence on my career was my public speaking professor and competitive public speaking coach, Mr. Chislom. Even though I had done public speaking before, I really didn’t like it. One particular class period, he asked me to stay after class. I thought for sure I was going to be in trouble for completely winging my presentation that day. He informed me of the competitive public speaking team and wanted me to join. I decided to take the risk and compete in public speaking.

I attribute the success I have had in making safety training entertaining and engaging to the public speaking and storytelling skills he instilled in me. Thank you, Mr. Chislom, for pushing me.

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

Training and educating individuals and teams to be successful within their departments. They are the experts of the operations and I get to help them make educated decisions to make the operations safer, simpler, and easier to perform. I find this rewarding as I get to learn and experience their struggles and then discover solutions to these challenges.

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

Company leaders need to let the rhetoric of “Safety First” go. Most employees don’t believe it anyway and if they might, it doesn’t take long for them to see that this is not the case. Leaders need to change their mindset of safety being a priority to safe operations being a core value.

Priorities change, and saying safety is a priority sends the message that safety will take the back seat or be kicked off the bus when there is pressure to meet a quota. It takes a substantial amount of effort, from outside influences, to change a core value, and even then, the core value likely won’t change.

Safe operations involve recognizing the process’ hazards, difficult points of operation, and the risks involved, then working to build the process as safe as we can with the available resources. Safety is built in as part of the process for making a quality product.

Company leaders need to demonstrate their value of safety by literally putting their money where their mouth is and providing the necessary funding and resources to improve the safety of their operations, which has a great ROI with the overall productivity.

Q: How will safety culture look in the future?

First, I don’t believe a safety culture exists. With that statement, I’ve probably gotten someone’s hackles up, but stay with me. I believe each company can have a culture that is intentionally striving to create safe operations. Every day, right now, we’re creating a culture. The culture you’re creating is with our beliefs, mindset, behaviors, and habits. On a daily basis, we need to ask, “What am I doing, right now, to create our culture; to make it strong and great?”

The culture that resonates with me is Ubuntu, which comes from a South African term meaning, “I live because of you. You live because of me.” It is a mutual caring for one another—togetherness. Ubuntu can also be said as, “I am able to work safe because you work safe.” It asks, “What do we have in common and how can we best work together?” It’s culture of commitment to each other, from the C-suite to the frontline employee and back to the top.

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

Having certifications are great, and with the industry, they are helpful to get you in the door. As you’re in your role, build relationships with the workers. Get to know them by name, what their interests are, etc. Be able to answer these three universal questions for each individual:

  1. Can I trust you? Have and maintain a character of integrity.
  2. Are you committed? Always give your best 100%.
  3. Do you care about me? Show them love through respect and service to them.

When the workers can trust you, they know you care about them, and are committed to them 100%, they will walk through walls for you.