It didn’t take very long into the first morning of the construction industry safety conference for me to start second-guessing myself.
While the prominent event presented a unique opportunity for me to network with contractors and safety directors who work directly in the field, and it allowed me direct access to the people who manage safety policies and procedures within an industry where Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) members’ equipment is used, I couldn’t help but wonder if the other attendees had different viewpoints about safety than I did.
The vast majority of time in the office is spent working with the association’s OEM members and its internal Tech and Safety managers discussing the standards and regulations affecting safe design for the use of big equipment. And I’ve only been working in the safety field for a little over four years, so I’m still learning a lot about the different challenges, policies and concerns that affect the construction industry.
My fellow conference attendees, on the other hand, didn’t come from the manufacturing side. They worked in an enormous industry and managed far more complex safety issues than I’m used to addressing. So would they see me as an adversary or an ally? Would I be a part of their problem or a possible solution to some of their challenges? I wondered if I would hear statements like, "You need to tell the OEMs to make the equipment safer for our employees, include more technology, fail safes, etc.”
I began to feel like a fish out of water.
But after working up the nerve to make introductions, I was pleasantly surprised that most of their views were aligned with my own: Safety is a priority, and it's everyone's responsibility.
As one safety director told me: "It's not just about rules and regulations, the dos and don'ts. Safety is a value we live by, we take personally and truly own."
Over the past four years, I've been continually impressed with the level of dedication, commitment and passion that safety professionals exhibit when talking about their missions of making sure operators work safely on the job so that they can go home to their families. And regardless of the industry, safety is the common foundation in which we all stand united.
In viewing many comments on social media, I consistently see safety messages being shared from my numerous professional connections. The trend is moving away from punishment and toward open communication and ownership of safety processes. Emphasis is placed on a mutually supportive safety culture for businesses and employees. Safety is becoming more “human.”
At AEM, I'm privileged to work with many of our member companies who, though they compete to sell their products in the marketplace, speak with one voice when addressing issues of safety. Our numerous committees work together to ensure all members are aware of any upcoming standards or regulations that could potentially affect the safe operation of their products.
I was equally impressed with many of the industry professionals I met during the conference. Their passion and dedication was evident in voicing their concerns, their ideas and their positions on issues of safety. Even though our industries differ, when addressing the subject of safety, we all speak with one voice.
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