Environmental, Health and Safety (EH&S) affects us in a lot of ways. The most obvious way EH&S affects us may be in the form of losing a valued employee to a workplace accident or fatality; or maybe through suffering a personal work-related injury and quickly figuring out that you can now only make a fraction of your normal income due to certain restrictions on your ability to do your normal job. But there are subtle ways EH&S affects us that we may not realize. Think of sustainability and the impact of our operations on the environment. Regardless of what aisle of the political divide you are on, you only need take a look at the speed with which safety and environmental laws have been introduced within the last decade in emerging economies like China and Brazil to see that citizens in these countries too are starting to demand a safe environment and better quality of life.
Since joining Mittera last year in November from Bombardier Aerospace, I have led the introduction of many proactive EH&S programs. The most common of this is the Behavior Based Safety program – a safety observation program which attempts to predict safety incidents or injuries we are likely to have based on at-risk behaviors observed in the participating facility. Very much like in the printing world, the EH&S professionals rely very heavily on analytical data such as near misses to ensure future accidents are spotted early and processes are put in place to prevent them. Currently, only supervisors and managers are involved with the Behavior Based Safety program at this time. However, the next big step up will be involving all employees in the participation of the program.
In all of my 10 years of working as an Environmental, Health and Safety professional, the one question that I get asked the most is, “What exactly does an EH&S professional do?” It comes as no surprise this is the most asked question since most people already have a positive safety attitude ingrained in their daily activities. For example, you wear your seatbelt whenever you drive in your car; you don’t leave your car running in the garage with the garage door closed; etc. The point here, however, is most people have different perspectives on safety — and life in general. So, what might be considered safe to one person may be unsafe to another person. This is perhaps where the EH&S professional is most valuable to an organization. He/She sets the standard for safety and environmental performance based on many factors (hazard analysis, risks — and most importantly, federal, state and local regulations), and then makes sure this standard is implemented. Other duties of the EH&S professional include coordinating with insurance companies to reduce risks associated with our operations, managing the impact of our operations on the environment, and keeping abreast of federal and state environmental, health and safety regulations.
So, we now have a fairly good idea of what an EH&S professional does and we even know some of the programs that have been implemented recently. But, what can we do to help in our own little ways to help? Easy — first we have to make sure we are setting the right example in our day-to-day lives. The easiest and simplest safety rule we have in place at many of the Mittera facilities is the requirement to wear hearing protection. If we are not complying with this simple rule, then we are most likely going to struggle with other more stringent safety rules, which would dramatically increase our chance of having a serious injury or fatality. Another easy step, – keep an eye out for hazards and report to your supervisor when you see one. One injury at any Mittera location affects the bottom line of the company, so it is imperative that we do our best to prevent injuries by identifying hazards. The third easy step, provide feedback when you observe an at-risk behavior. Many of us may think it is not within our place to provide feedback to an employee if we don’t work in that employee’s department, or if there are other people nearby that may be in a position to provide feedback. This is not unusual and there is actually a social psychological term used to describe this behavior, called the bystander effect. It is known to be the one stumbling block that prevents companies from achieving the safety culture they desire. If you see something, speak up. Your comments may be difference between preventing an injury or reporting one.
We are all on the EH&S team, and helping to hold our company to the highest safety and sustainability standards should be a part of every person’s daily duties.
-Kay Fajingbesi, Environmental Health and Safety Manager | MITTERA