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SLC 2020 Q&A: Employee Engagement is Key to a Successful Safety Program

Nov. 2, 2020
For everyone to be safe, everyone must take an active role in creating an incident-free workplace.

Safety is often spoken about in the objective. Until an accident strikes, and it becomes personal.

Christopher Yerikian, safety director for Sysco San Diego, says it doesn’t have to be that way. Employee engagement is what can transform a safety program into a culture of work safety.

During his session at the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, which takes place Nov. 10-12 virtually, Yerikian will discuss why, and how, to get buy-in and engagement from employees.

Yerikian previews his session, “Employee Engagement is the Key to a Successful Safety Program,” in a Q&A with EHS Today.

EHS Today: Can you offer us a short description of your presentation and describe how it relates to safety leadership?

Yerikian: My presentation is on risk management and how workplace safety has an important emotional element to it. By leveraging this, we can tap into what the motivations for behaviors are and use that to help change behavior.

Why is the topic of your presentation of interest to you and why is it important to SLC attendees?

We in EHS are continually innovating to curate the safest and healthiest work environment possible. We know behavior is a crucial piece to that, and this emotional/motivation component I believe is the next frontier, especially with EHS professionals taking on more and more leadership roles within organizations.  

What are the takeaways you hope to leave with attendees?

 My hope is that EHS professionals see that there is more to it than policies, controls and regulations. At the center of any safety program is people. Tapping into what motivates each individual to want to be safe and participate in the safe program is key to having a successful one.

Please share an example of a personal or professional experience you’ve had related to safety leadership or the topic of your presentation.

As shared in my presentation, I once had an employee injure [his] back. [It was] not serious, but significant enough to where he could not pick up and hold his newborn baby because of the pain. That to me stood out as a powerful motivator to proactively not get hurt. I wondered how effective it would be to have that realization beforehand, which leads to the topic of my presentation.

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on safety leadership at your organization?

Pandemics were always something that was possible but never thought of as likely. Plans existed and protocols existed but not front of mind. EHS teams were instrumental in their implementation. As the pandemic continues and new information and protocols are being put into place, some permanent, EHS professionals continue to ensure they’re executed to maintain a healthy and safe work environment.  

Editor’s Note: For more information on the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, including registration, click here.

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