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Sandy Says: Who Owns Safety at Your Company?

July 11, 2017
EHS Today Contributing Editor Terry Mathis posed an intriguing question to readers a few months ago: Who owns safety?

We take care of what we own. When every employee and every department owns a piece of safety, the culture changes for the better.

As a case in point, Terry Mathis, in his Safety and Performance Excellence column in the December 2016 issue, pointed out that most of us will spend hours washing and detailing our own cars, but refuse to run a rental car through a free car wash. "Ownership," says Mathis, "is the reason why some safety efforts are stellar and others are lackluster. It is human nature to take better care of that which we own.

So, should we create ownership in our safety efforts? Who should own what, and how do we accomplish this?"

In my opinion, the answer is yes, we should take ownership of safety efforts. And by "we," I mean the collective "we."

The 2017 Safety Leadership Conference will guide you in your efforts to understand and own your piece of safety, communicate to others about their role in the safety process and improve the culture at your company. Notice I didn't say "safety culture" at your company. That's because we believe that the corporate culture must change in order for safety efforts to be sustainable.

In fact, the theme of the 2017 Safety Leadership Conference is "Who Leads Safety?" I hope you can join us in Atlanta, Sept. 11-13, for educational sessions, keynotes, workshops, tours and networking opportunities that will help you recognize and build a world-class safety culture and become a leader for safety at your company and in your industry.

Terry will be giving our lead-off keynote address on Tuesday, Sept. 12. In his presentation, he will pose the questions: "Should we create ownership in our safety efforts?  Who should own what? And how do we accomplish this?"

Striving for a safe working environment for employees is important, and true cultural change occurs when we realize who should lead safety at our company. For a company to achieve true safety leadership, every employee and department must take ownership of safety.

The ability to create a world-class safety culture exists for every business, in every industry: manufacturing, oil and gas, transportation, chemical, construction, retail, food service, agriculture and recycling, to name a few. In these industries, humans interact closely with heavy machinery and hazardous substances, making safety of paramount importance to the wellbeing of employees and the health of the business. 

That's why the theme of the 2017 Safety Leadership Conference in Atlanta is "Who Leads Safety?" Is it the C-Suite? Employees? The safety department? Operations? Management? In reality, all of these groups are stakeholders in safety and all should take ownership.

The expert panelists we've lined up for the four tracks of the 2017 Safety Leadership Conference – Safety and Risk Management, Construction, Compliance and Safety Technology – will examine concepts like going beyond compliance to transform the safety culture, using leading indicators and the Industrial Internet of Things to improve worker safety, strategically integrating EHS into the business model, creating ownership in safety, maintaining continuous improvement and achieving true cultural change.

I can't wait for the 2017 Safety Leadership Conference and I hope to see you in Atlanta, Sept. 11-13.

For more information about the 2017 Safety Leadership Conference, please visit

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