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EHS OutLoud Blog

Focusing on the Positives in Safety

A couple weeks ago, I posted a slideshow highlighting some of the most common worker complaints about safety, culled from the responses to our 2014 National Safety Survey.

Based on the analytics, the slideshow must have struck a chord with many readers, as it already ranks among the most popular Web items of 2014. (Yes, like safety, we’re in a metrics-driven business too.) But it didn’t come without a touch of guilt.

Over the years, the mainstream media has received plenty of flak for being too sensationalistic and focusing on the negative, and those of us in the trade press aren’t immune to such criticism. It’s probably well-deserved.

We try to balance the news about factory explosions, lawsuits and OSHA fines with a healthy dose of best practices – that’s what our America’s Safest Companies competition is all about. But in a metrics-driven business, it’s easy to lose sight of all the positive things happening in facilities and organizations throughout the country. (After all, “sex sells,” right?)

I was reminded of this when I received an email from Ron Cross of Rust Contractors – a member of the America’s Safest Companies class of 2006 – after I posted the slideshow on worker complaints. I’m hoping he doesn’t mind that I’m sharing his comments, but they really struck a chord with me.

According to Cross, this is what you’re most likely to hear on a Rust jobsite: 

  • “Safety is leadership’s responsibility” – Mike Hubbard, president of Rust Contractors
  • “They’re here to save my life” – Ironworkers about the purpose of safety professionals
  • “Safety is good for everyone” – Electrician
  • “There is no downside to a safe project” – Pipefitter

Regarding the slideshow, Cross pointed out:

“Not all companies or craftsmen have negative opinions regarding safety and safety personnel. I have been with Rust since 1989 and have been the ES&H director since 1998.  It is a great place to work.”

While I think there’s value in acknowledging the challenges that EHS professionals face in their efforts to win the hearts and minds of workers, Cross’s email reminded me that we need to stay focused on the positives too. With that in mind, it bears mentioning that several dozen survey respondents indicated that they haven’t heard any complaints about safety in their organizations.

There is no downside to a safe project.

— Electrician on a typical Rust Contractors job site

And for those of you who struggle with the complaints highlighted in our 2014 National Safety Survey, we’ll continue to feature and write about organizations that have overcome such pushback – whether they’ve done it by implementing behavior-based safety strategies, conducting safety-perception surveys or tying safety performance to bonuses and compensation.

At Honda of South Carolina – a member of the America's Safest Companies class of 2013 – the EHS staff emphasizes that what happens on the job always hits close to home.

“We come to work for one reason: to provide for our family,” says EHS manager Wendell Hughes. “And if you get hurt, you’re not going to be able to provide for your family. By making it personal, [associates are] buy into it and believe it more, and they apply that to their day-to-day routine.”

Best Practices from the 2013 America's Safest Companies

I’d like to thank Ron Cross for reaching out to us, and I'd like extend an invitation to all of our readers: Let us know about the good things that are happening in your organizations (and the challenges too), and we’ll continue to discuss them as we work toward the goal of a safe workplace for all employees. 

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