Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: Jon Broyles on Building a Foundation for Safety

Jon Broyles began his career as a firefighter, peace officer, and emergency medical technician (EMT). He moved on to become a hazardous materials specialist, and then a safety consultant and first aid instructor. He currently works as a corporate safety officer at AMG & Associates, one of Southern California’s fastest growing construction companies specializing in preconstruction services, construction management, lease-leaseback, design-build, design-bid-build, general contracting, and providing general engineering services to the private and public works markets.

In our latest Faces of EHS profile, we sat down with Jon to discuss learning from those with more experience, building a strong foundation for safety culture, and the future of digital safety technology in EHS.

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

I spent 14 years as a career firefighter, peace officer, and emergency medical technician (EMT), working both on an engine as a driver and operator, as well as an ambulance. I later earned a certification as a Hazardous Materials Specialist working alongside Cal OES/EMA at their state training facility, eventually retiring and becoming a Safety Consultant and CPR/First Aid Instructor. I have worked in the construction industry now for five years at AMG Associates, initially as a SSHO, and now as the Corporate Safety Officer. I have certifications in Confined Space, Trench Rescue, Rope Rescue, as well as the federal ICS System.

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

The seasoned veterans in the field. This is an industry that is growing by huge leaps and bounds, and I feel I’ve come in at a time that is seeing some of the biggest movements toward safety culture. There are individuals within our company that have almost 30 years of experience that I humbly come to in order to help get a bigger picture, or to get a feel of where this industry has come from, in order to know how to shape where it’s going. Not only for AMG, but for the men and women in the field.

Q: What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

My best mistake is not having the experience in the construction industry. I’m well aware that I’m not a 20- or 30-year veteran, but my ability to take my experiences in EMS and help reshape a train that’s been moving down a track long before I jumped on board is invaluable. To have the opportunity to help mold the future by applying real world issues, concerns and pre-plans to this industry has helped create a way that our company values.

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

My favorite part is the idea of building on something to help shape a foundation and educate people on the reasons why we do things. It’s not because we have to but because it will help ensure that everybody makes it home to their loved ones. My least favorite part might be the difficulty in steering people in a way that helps them see the purpose in a safety culture. As we know, there are always some that will struggle with putting procedures in place or policies and that can be a blessing and a curse.

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

The verbalization of “how to” is simple: create a narrative that models this from the top down. It’s not a stagnant checking of the boxes because it’s required, but an opportunity to right an old ship and hopefully inspire the motives behind why we do things. Safety culture has to be a belief system, not just document control.

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

Five years from now I see more of a standard that follows the Army Corp of Engineers of placing a safety officer on every job no matter how big or small. Safety requires a full-time person to actively manage and enforce and right now I just don’t see companies (GCs) model that by investing the money. All too often they are putting the general burden on the field teams, which dilutes the standard and models an unhealthy focus.

I am seeing subtle trends more and more that are pushing in the direction of standardizing programs and people.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic complicated or exacerbated problems with safety culture?

At first, COVID-19 made safety officers take a closer look at current processes and protocols that were often overlooked or not prioritized. For example, on construction sites, it was common for workers to sign in using a sign-in sheet. During the height of the pandemic, health screenings were done in person and recorded on more paper. This made contact tracing and compliance record keeping difficult at best. Then digital technology tools like Safe Site Check In came along to streamline the process, keep workers information private, and make it easier to show proof of compliance as well as meeting the need of “hands free” signing in.

Once those digital tools were in place, it made our work environments safer, allow individuals to sign in, answer safety questions and verify manpower while respecting social distancing. Now we continue to use these technologies to always know who is on site, their location, project they’re working on, and supervisor. Ultimately syncing the system with our manpower and visitor logs. We can easily reach them and have private, digital records that are useful for other departments including safety (meeting OSHA standards), payroll, project management, and even the CEO.

Q: How will safety culture look in the future?

The use of more digital technology to manage workers, streamline and update processes, and stay ahead of any potential safety issues. The construction industry (generally) is behind and we’re working hard within our company to not only streamline our processes but also limit our environmental impact the best we can.

Q: What are you most proud of?

That I’m making an impact and helping to build systems that will create a more successful safety culture not only with our company but within the field. In working with subcontractors, I always try to use situations or document control to help educate them on why we do certain things to help them see the greater good of their actions.

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

Take time to observe the field, individuals and colleagues. Ask questions. Understand their processes. It doesn’t mean you have to agree but it’s very important to be understanding in order to build a more successful safety culture that is willing to adapt and evolve. So often we’re quick to jump on this high-speed train not realizing that we control the narrative of how the work will be managed. It truly starts with safety, but knowing that requires a humility to building something good. It takes a village.