Faces of EHS, Safety Culture

Faces of EHS: Safety Culture in 2023

For our latest Faces of EHS profile, we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite guests so far in 2023. We have a new set of questions for our safety professionals this year, and today we are looking at our guests’ insights about safety culture and how company leaders can make safety a value in their organizations.

Rod Courtney

HSE Director, Ampirical 

Company leaders that want to be compliant will never get there unless they have a paradigm shift and understand that being compliant is the absolute bare minimum you need to do. If you want to be excellent then it takes enthusiastic commitment from all levels of leadership. They, with a just safety culture, safety can become a never yielding value. 

The next evolution is to make safety just part of your company’s DNA. It’s not a priority or a value. It’s not on any list of “important” things. For example, when creating your personal or company priorities/values you never put “breathing” on the list. But if you don’t breathe you will not survive. Safety is like breathing. It needs to be just part of who you are.

Read Rod’s full interview here.

Michael Batts

Senior HSE Manager, CHEP Pallets

I like the way my friends at workplacelarningsystems.com articulate culture: “A safety culture definition sounds simple—the attitudes, beliefs, and values that employees and managers have in common about their physical and emotional safety while in the workplace. Most businesses and organizations want their employees to work safely. A thriving safety culture reduces risks and costs associated with injuries, employee turnover, poor product quality, lack of efficiency, low production, and bad customer service.

Unfortunately, most organizations do not know how to create a positive workplace safety culture. Safety culture change does not have to begin with the top executive management. It can begin in a single plant facility, or even a single department within a facility. However, at some point decisions required to improve safety will affect production, quality, and finances in the short term, even though the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term costs. Injury prevention improves morale, teamwork, and processes, which will turn improve production and quality while reducing risk management and workers compensation costs.”

Read Michael’s full interview here.

Amanda Engstrom

EHS Program Manager, Advance Auto Parts

The biggest impact to a solid safety culture that I have witnessed is a top-down approach. We tend to focus on the heavy hitters. We pour in the highest amounts of time, training, and resources to those areas which have the highest risk. This absolutely makes sense from an operational perspective. From a value standpoint though it puts a heavy burden on those being trained to spread awareness while also staying on top of risk reduction. If awareness is driven from upper management, it allows the rest of the organization to focus on performing job duties with safety baked in. Having EHS be part of the discussion in the conference room absolutely translates down to the assembly or store floor. You create an atmosphere where safety is the standard, not the exception.

Honest communication is extremely important in this effort. There are several different motivators for working safely. Family, personal health, and job security all play a factor at differing levels of importance. It would be easy to miss opportunities for improvement by assuming that everyone has the same outlook. The only way to gather critical feedback and improve the safety culture is to keep that dialogue flowing. Something like a near miss can be turned into a conversation starter or learning opportunity. Starting a safety conversation rather than a safety speech can help extend an EHS message beyond the workplace.

Read Amanda’s full interview here.

Mandi Kime

Director of Safety, AGC of Washington

I think we have to get back to connecting with humans. We cannot treat our teams like robots or numbers and expect them to foster a top-notch safety culture. It starts with recognizing and valuing people’s talents and experience, then leveraging their strengths for the best good. We also have to respect our teams enough to empower them to make good decisions, and be ready with accountability if that goes awry. Company leaders cannot look to safety as a “cost center” but rather a “sound investment.” Company leaders also bear a large responsibility for setting the right tone with their teams. 

Read Mandi’s full interview here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.