Treading Gingerly: Riding into Safety

Treading Gingerly: Riding into Safety

Hello, EHS world. Let's be friends.

I have worked for EHS Today's sister magazine, IndustryWeek, for the past two years, covering transportation -- an industry rife with safety concerns. Now, I am the new associate editor at EHS Today. 

In my previous position, I toured a number of manufacturing plants across the country. 

I visited small operations like Rosenbauer America – which manufactures fire fighting vehicles just outside of Sioux Falls, where the president also is the area's local fire chief – and Toshiba Industrial Products Division's highly-automated HEV motor plant, which in 2011 was relocated to Houston from Japan because of a demand for American-made products. 

I took in massive facilities like Ford's Dearborn, Mich. truck plant at the Ford Rouge Center – the historic campus Henry Ford established in 1917 – that is producing the company's new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup.

I saw firsthand the struggles of transitioning to automation, of retraining and cross training workers, of becoming lean in a safe way. But those stories of safety were in my periphery, a subhead in my tales of space travel and of the aviation and automotive worlds. 

I didn't write about safety, not really. 

And then, I attended EHS Today's 2014 Safety Leadership Conference in October as an extra hand, staffing sessions and writing stories on the speakers, leading a group of attendees on a tour of the Subaru of Indiana Automotive plant in Lafayette, Ind.

During that tour, I was told that the plant had taken a direct hit by an EF-3 tornado, yet only lost one day of production and had only one recordable injury – a hand laceration sustained while an employee was pumping water out of the plant.

As someone uninitiated to the safety world, this seemed impressive. But I didn't know if any injury was one too many, if I could write a story praising their accomplishment. 

So, during the hour bus ride back to Indianapolis, I asked the EHS professional sharing a seat with me. To have 60 percent of the roof of the plant ripped off, to lose 30-foot interior walls, yet still be back in production the following day with only a minor injury on the books. Was this a success story? 

His simple answer: Yes. 

That story – writing about safety at an automotive plant – was the first blurring of my old job to my new one here at EHS Today, a position I officially assumed Jan. 5.

An Introduction

I regularly go to the gym, but I've been known to sporadically eat a candy bar on my way there or to stop for a chocolate milkshake on my way home. I definitely don't keep my heart rate in the target zone when I ride my bike – a favorite hobby. And I've been known to spin haphazardly in my office chair when I have writer's block. 

That is to say: I am not going to pretend to be an expert on safety, on wellness. 

But I hope to become one with your help. 

Just as I did in Indiana, I look to you, our readers, as I research and report on the safety world, as I learn its intricacies and develop an understanding of its complexities. 

And, don't fear, I do have one thing working in my favor: I am an expert worrier. 

When there are reports of tornadic activity, I digitally track storms minute-by-minute and have even been known to herd my cats into the bathtub with me and cover all of us with pillows until the storm passes. Try that, just once. 

I am that person who makes her friends text when they arrive home safely after a long drive or flight. Even if they have company. Even if they're not nervous travelers.   

I shield my face at baseball games when a foul ball nears, instead of trying to make a Jumbotron-worthy catch of a ball hit by one of my favorite players. 

I think that penchant for the dramatic will give me the right eye for analyzing the safety world, for identifying potential hazards and understanding their fixes. 

And, while I may not have a history in safety, I'm no stranger to embracing new subjects. In my nearly eight years as a journalist, I've covered finance, real estate and manufacturing. Learning is my passion. And I hope to learn from you. 

In return, I'll find original and interesting ways to tell your stories. I'll look for the untold tales. I'll even wear an orange safety vest (not out of necessity but because it's my favorite color). 

So, please, tell me your stories. Share your insight. Let's make the story of safety your story.  

Send an e-mail with your thoughts to [email protected].

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