October is here along with our new safety roundtable featuring safety and health experts across various industries and locations. 

Q - What do you think will be the most important safety issues this year? What are the biggest challenges facing EHS leaders today?

KV - To answer both with one word I would say: distraction. With all that is going on in our country and culture right now during a pandemic, there is a huge potential for distraction for our workers and ourselves. There are many things to focus on, but we have to be mindful and keep our employees mindful. When they come to work, we have to focus on the basics of body placement, proper guarding, JSA/JHA and doing a risk assessment before completing a task. That saw that you work with every day will cut you just the same today regardless of who has coronavirus or which political party is in control.  We must be focused on the task at hand and completing it Safely.

TB - I feel that creating an effective safety culture is the biggest challenge. There can be a fine line between too many and too few safety bells & whistles. If we have too many, it turns the employees away, to the point that it can hinder any safety program. Trying to develop a successful safety culture around an established and solid safety program is a continual challenge.

Q - What initiative(s) does your company/facility/department have this year for EHS?

TB - Hazard Recognition is our focus for 2020. The purpose is to assist with developing and calibrating the employee view of hazards, while proactively identifying hazards and eliminating them. We are teaching our employees to recognize hazards and not to take risks. We use employee engagement activities as a training and coaching opportunity for all levels. We rolled it out September 1st as a trial run, with plans of making it permanent in October.

KV - We continue to be focused on the reduction of hand injuries. A large majority of incidents in our industry involve the hands and where they are placed.

SG - We are still implementing a system I developed a while back at another organization called the SH&E Calendar. It is a simple spreadsheet program where each facility plans out each month the activities, inspections and training programs that are needed to be completed, who is responsible for completing them and when they are due and when they were completed. I believe it is a great tool for each Plant Manager to be able to track their required activities, as well as to plan out the entire year. Each Plant Manager is required to complete the calendar monthly and submit it for tracking purposes. We are also trying to complete the necessary training for ALL front line Supervisors for Basic First-Aid, CPR and AED use. I always believe that since these folks are on the direct production floor they need the skills to respond to any emergency that may occur. Plus, this gives us coverage on all shifts in the event of an incident.

Q - What have you learned from your hearing conservation and/or respiratory protection compliance programs?

SG - We recently had our annual Hearing Testing completed and we came through without a Recordable Shift or Threshold Shift. This was great news in that it is telling us our program is currently working and what we have in place is good. We also conducted annual Hearing Conservation training with all employees and relayed this information to them. Most importantly, we thanked them for their continued support of the program and for wearing the necessary PPE within the facility, as that is what makes the programs successful.

KV - I agree with Steve on the importance of your people, and its important to connect on an individual level too. I have learned that there is no replacement for basic thorough training. Sometimes it has to be one-on-one to connect your people and the purpose of the program. It may have to be eye-to-eye explanations. It has to be made personal for it to become a personal choice daily to comply.

TB - For me, even more impactful than what I have learned directly from the hearing conservation program are the effects I have seen that noise damage from personal lifestyle outside of work has had on individuals. It really hits home when you learn the regrets they have for not wearing or properly wearing noise protection.  

Q - What advice do you have for a new safety pro just entering the EHS field?

TB - First and foremost, listen to the employees. Be respectful of them and ask for their input. Explain the “why’s” and the “how’s” before initiating any change - remember changes directly affect the front line employee.

SG - Keep your eyes open for professional development opportunities wherever they may be. I believe I have expanded my professional background through the expansion of my professional development. I have been a Safety Professional, a Director of Production Operations, a Safety Product Market Manager and had the opportunity to become a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. All of which open your eyes to new and different angles of the safety profession. Do not pigeon hole yourself - open your eyes for additional experiences. I had a manager one time who told me “Get out of your comfort zone or you will not grow personally or professionally”.

KV - It’s not necessarily fun or easy, but it is hard to replace the foundation of a deep understanding of the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) as it pertains to your site or industry. Certainly, you have to learn your company’s policy and protocol, but it is good to know the basis for the development of those policies.

Q - Any tips or tricks for increasing employee participation or employee engagement with health and safety? How do you create a safety culture?  

SG - We have mentioned developing those one-to-one relationships. I have found that true face-to-face interaction with the actual folks on the floor is a great way to show your concern for their wellbeing, as well as to get the straight scoop of what is happening there. If you are not connected with the folks on the floor, I believe you will be missing out on a great deal of important information. The front office is one place, but not where all the action is happening. With my interactions with the front-line team, I feel I am better prepared to convey to the “upper office” what is happening and what needs to be done to change things around. Once you have gained the confidence of the floor, it is much easier to institute changes when they need to be implemented. 

KV - I think for both of these questions we can gain by thinking of doing “Marketing for Safety”. So develop a brand, get a consistent message out by any and all means possible, address WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) to make it personal and connect, then show and celebrate the accomplishment. Then repeat, repeat, REPEAT!  

TB - Know when things aren’t working and be honest with yourself. I mentioned our new Hazard Recognition program. Our previous program was becoming ineffective - it had become more of a “check the box” and the activities were not moving the needle. We reviewed incidents from the past three years and determined the biggest concerns were that employees were either not recognizing the risk, or choosing to take the risk. That led to changes and a more effective program. 

Q - What are your favorite resources to stay on top of safety trends? How do you continue to grow as a safety pro?

SG - I visit the national and local chapters of the ASSP website on a regular basis in order to stay current on new items and topics. I also like to attend as many Chapter Meetings as I can and get to the meetings early in order to interact with other safety professionals on topics that we have in common in our different organizations. I also try and attend the National ASSP Conference each year in order to get a broader perspective of topics current to the profession. I am hoping the conference does not get changed again this year to a virtual format like it was this year. Not as much interaction virtually!


This is business-to-business information intended for EHS (environmental health and safety) professionals and not intended for the final consumer. Companies should check the local regulatory status of any claim according to their individual needs, requirements and intended use.