Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: Best of 2022, Pt. 1

As we near the end of the year, we’re taking a look back at some of our highlights from 2022. For our latest Faces of EHS feature, we are sharing some insights from some of our favorite guests this year. Here are their answers to the question, “How can company leaders make safety a value within their organization?”

Dr. Judy Agnew

Judy is the Senior Vice President of Safety Solutions at Aubrey Daniels International.

Making safety a value is a great objective because it is a unifying value—everyone agrees that safety is important. Of course, stating safety is a value doesn’t automatically translate into improvement. Behaving in ways consistent with our values requires deliberate effort. Most of us would say being healthy is a personal value, however our behavior is often not aligned with that value. For example, we may eat too much processed food and not exercise enough.

For leaders, behaving in ways consistent with the value of safety is complex. It requires being able to predict how your behavior as a leader will influence the behavior of those you lead, and then checking that impact against your values. All leaders have good intentions when it comes to safety, but that doesn’t always translate into good safety leadership. For example, when a serious incident occurs, a leader may choose to discipline the employee thinking that will send the message that safety is important and lead to improved safety. Regrettably, this is often not the outcome.

We have worked with so many leaders who are shocked to find out that workers are not reporting incidents and frustrated that they are not fully engaged in safety. It is hard for leaders to see their role in both those problems. They have good intentions; they would likely say they have safety as a value, but their behavior is actually undermining safety. We talk about this issue in our new book Safe by Design. It is a challenging but important issue to tackle.

Click here to read Judy’s full interview.

Brandy Bossle

Brandy is the Corporate Environmental and Safety Manager at Kyocera AVX Components Corporation (KAVX).

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.

Click here to read Brandy’s full interview.

Dr. Angela Lebbon

Angela is a Behavioral Leadership Specialist at Eastman.

Leaders can make safety a value by developing extensive management systems for safety performance and rewarding leaders for using management systems to drive business outcomes. It is one of the most well-known problems around leading indicators versus lagging indicators. It takes a lot of work to develop leading indicators; you have to develop measurement systems, create meeting cadences to review progress and stagnation, provide avenues for employees to communicate their barriers in doing things the right way. There needs to be heavier focus on rewarding leaders that develop strong training systems and strong management systems that will ultimately create strong operational and maintenance discipline.

There is an interconnectedness of training, performance management, incidents, efficiency, and reliability that isn’t always clear because there are so many moving parts across so many people. But by using leading indicators, we create an avenue for detecting deviations and errors before incidents, we create higher quality (and fairer) coaching and accountability systems before incidents can occur, and we create more opportunity to recognize all the ways employees are being diligent, doing the right things, working hard, making sacrifices, and navigating the complexities of working in an organization. We can all get better at recognizing progress instead of expecting perfection.

Click here to read Angela’s full interview.

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