Safety is the Right Medicine at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.

Nov. 1, 2008
You'd expect a pharmaceuticals company to be concerned with health, but this company takes employee safety and wellness to new levels

Greagory Smith, executive director of Health, Safety, Environment & Business Continuity (HSE&BC) at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. jokingly refers to himself as “a nag” for the company's 10,000-plus employees at two sites in East Hanover, N.J., and Suffern, N.Y., and in sales offices throughout the United States.

Novartis, says Smith, has important safety-related values, and the company's upper management and EHS staff promote them at every opportunity. “I'm a nag without people knowing it,” Smith adds. “I'm a pleasant but persistent nag.”

He admits he doesn't have to nag too hard: “It's easy to sell safety when you have great messages to sell,” he observes. “Safety is great for the business, great for employees and great for sustainability.”

The salesmanship of Smith and others is paying off: The company's 2007 DART is 82 percent below the 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics DART for the company's NAICS code.


From a previous position in managing business continuity, Smith brings a unique outlook to his role in safety, one that emphasizes risk reduction and elimination and business continuity planning. In fact, when recommending Novartis for Star status in VPP, OSHA acknowledged the company's risk portfolio methodology and business continuity planning to be Areas of Excellence.

Risk portfolios are based on a bottom-up approach, in which Novartis sites have annual local risk portfolios that are consolidated from the business unit/division level to the group level and finally into the corporate HSE and BC risk portfolios. At that time, they are presented annually to the Group Executive Committee.

“HSE supports the entire business,” says Smith. “There is an understanding that these are business elements, not just safety elements or environmental management elements or business continuity elements. By combining EHS and business continuity, everyone can see the big picture.”

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About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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