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SLC 2019 Q&A: Transforming Safety Through Mindfulness

It is important to know how employees think about and translate insight within the context of their current environment.

It is important to know how employees think about and translate insight, says Nathaniel Miller, Schindler Elevator Corp. senior regional EHS manager.

His session at the 2019 Safety Leadership Conference, which takes place Nov. 5-7 in Dallas, will offer solutions about how to bridge the situational gap between what is routine and dynamic environmental factors.

Miller previews his Safety and Risk Management session, titled "Transforming Safety Through Mindfulness: A Three-step Model for Building, Improving, and Maintaining a Safe Environment," 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?

Miller: Safety professionals are constantly seeking new ways of thinking or new safety concepts to improve upon current processes. For EHS leaders, that goal is Incident Elimination. This presentation will offer insight on the importance of tapping into the minds of those who may be affected, realizing an ideal safety culture, risk mitigated and zero incident workplace is only as feasible as the way employees think about them. 

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

Miller: Safety has psychological, behavioral and situational components. Many believe that when a worker begins to employ safety procedures as “second nature,” that’s an indication of high competency, routine proficiency and an organizational culture of safety. However, the environment and the situation is forever evolving. As such, it is important to me that I also foster an culture of mindfulness around situational awareness. 

What are the takeaways you hope to leave with attendees?

Miller: My intention is that all attendees leave with a new perspective for safety and process-thinking. They will understand the role that mindfulness plays in overcoming worker complacency, and how to critically challenge established habits, routines and mindlessness in the workplace.


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

Miller: I have 26 years of experience in EHS in diverse industries including but not limited to cryptology technician in US Navy, Emergency Medical Technician, Firefighter, safety industry, etc.  with environments for wood-products, high-speed manufacturing, nuclear, chemical and distributed services. I have conducted Serious Injury Fatality Incident Analysis. I consistently use two simple rules for assessing: (1) understand what was going through the person’s mind? (2) What situational factors drove the decision?

As part of a mindfulness exercise, I would also guide them through thought process of determining if I were present prior to the incident and had the forethought that disaster was at hand, what might they have though? How should they have behaved?

What do you think are some of the most pressing EHS and risk management issues facing corporate leaders and safety professionals in 2019 and beyond?

Miller: Work life balance, effective Communication, on-going technical training, and differentiated interpretation of shared values at different levels within the workplace. 

Please provide any additional insight or comments about your topic of discussion.

Miller: It is important to know how employees think about and translate insight from a heightened sense of awareness and mindfulness of task completion within the context of their current environment. This session will offer solutions on how to bridge the situational gap between what is routine and dynamic environmental factors.


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