To be a professional in the Environmental, Occupational Health, Safety and Security Career field is not something to be taken lightly. Professionals in this career field have to have a caring mentality about them. I personally am very lucky to love what I do for a career and take it very personally. I truly believe that it is possible for a culture to exist where people do not get injured by simply going into their profession. This environment is a culture where organizations see beyond the numbers and allow their EHS Professionals to humanize the most important asset that any organization can have: their people.
There are thousands of global organizations in the world and not all organizations simply just get it. When I say “simply just get it,” I mean value what EHS is to their business model; understand that we are an important business partner to the success/failure of the organization. Yes, I said VALUE, not priority. Priorities change, values do not. There are many principal elements to creating a robust safety culture and there are thousands of books that can give beneficial insight in how to accomplish creating a safety culture. While many of these books and knowledge resources are ones that I’ve had the opportunity to read/listen to over the years, the most important aspect to culture is engagement and employee driven enrichment. When people and their families are engaged and feel valued throughout the layers of the organizations, anything is possible. It’s a natural instinct to want to feel part of something and to know that the organization(s) want you to be part of their culture at the business level. While it is important to have policies, practices and procedures in place to ensure clarity, these are not the most critical. There are many sound management systems that can be used as tools in creating the culture piece such as ISO 45001, OHSAS and OSHA VPP. There are also many buzz words in the EHS Career field like BBS (behavior-based safety). I’m not personally a fan of “BBS.” It’s not semantics, but I prefer OBS (observation-based safety). OBS engages the employees at every level of the organization. It also looks at the full spectrum of the organizational risk portfolio to include equipment interactions with the employees. This step is critical to continuing to drive proactive safety to the organization’s day to day business. Risk can come in many forms. Planning and preparing for it helps mitigate the impact.
We, as leaders in the EHS profession, must continue to evolve. Organizations too often get stuck in a path that can foster teams that are not willing to take risks within the decision-making process, due to the chance of failure. If there is a chance of failure, there is a chance of success. As professionals, we must embrace the failures, as that is where learning occurs at the highest rates. I have a saying: “I strive to be better today than I was yesterday and plan to be better tomorrow than I was today.” That thought process includes making decisions for the organization and profession that continue to evolve. Learn from failures and learn how to grow from them personally and professionally. I promise, this is a rewarding feeling as you proactively find ways to see the glass as half full. In this profession of Environmental, Health and Occupational Safety, leaders must be willing to lead by example, thus you will get the level you demonstrate. This is one way to start the change impact on your career and career goals.
I’ll finish with this note:
It is possible to have a workplace with zero injuries. I truly believe that. The culture piece is one that creates a family atmosphere because the organizations that make it from good to great are the ones that are able to create/sustain the culture to levels that are Safe Enough for Our Families. Safety should not be difficult. It should not be difficult to not hurt our families. In our society today there are a great many things that are complicated; safety should not be one of them. This is not a one size fits all mentality and it is not easy. It is a journey. Understanding that the journey takes time is critical to the success of all cultures.