Environmental, Health and Safety programs tend to stall once the general implementation has been completed. Written, onboarding and recordkeeping programs are all a great start to an excellent EH&S program for your workplace, however I learned during my 30 year career in EH&S, Material distribution/supply chain mgmt. that 90% of company workplace EH&S programs end at this point, they literally stall. This is where the “CULTURE” piece comes into play. What really makes an employee, temporary, contractor or visitor embrace your program? In my mind and that of many excellent safety professionals including the EH&S professional I interview in this article. Its three steps, these may seem very simple however, many companies throw in the towel when it comes to this phase of implementation.
- Ownership and Management buy-in!
- Employee Engagement!
- Environment of Continuous Improvement!
Layla Baldwin has worked in the EH&S field for 18 years, she is currently the EH&S manager for The McCalla Alabama SalonCentric Distribution facility which is a subsidiary of L’Oréal USA located just south of Birmingham Alabama. I encourage you to conduct searches on L’Oréal EH&S programs, they are world class in most business arenas including their commitment their EH&S programs.
Layla would you mind giving our readers a brief description of your background?
I have a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, because it was the closest degree to an environmental field I could achieve in the university I attended. I started working at a petrochemical company in Puerto Rico, right after school. Then decided to move to the US and explore the world beyond PR. I went to work for an environmental consulting firm for 5 years in Atlanta, where I got to experience a broad range of EHS-related projects across the US and abroad. For the last 2 years there, I spent the time leading EHS compliance, OSHA Voluntary Protection (VPP) readiness and Global Star readiness audits; I realized then that I was mainly involved in identifying problems and giving recommendations, however I was never involved in resolving and improving the gaps that I would identify. I decided then to move my career to the “other side”. I immediately went to work for an ambulance manufacturer with 2 facilities 500 employees, which I was their sole EHS professional, YIKES!! After them, I went to work for a US Air Force contractor, which performed heavy industrial operations across multiple states and countries, with 1100 employees. And the last 7 years, I have spent them at SalonCentric, a L’Oréal subsidiary.
What advice would you give an organization that is positioned to take the next steps in creating an excellent EH&S culture?
In my experience, the bullet points below may help an organization to move towards an “I am my brother’s keeper” type culture:
- EHS has to be considered a CORE VALUE to the organization, and should NEVER be compromised. Priorities change every day, however if one of your core values is to ensure that every employee leaves as healthy as they walked in the door that day, you are less likely to put them at risk by asking or expecting them to put themselves in positions that may harm them or others.
- Weave any, most, or (preferably) all EHS related activities into the daily operations of every single employee; from the cleaning crew all the way to the top ranking official on-site. Stop treating safety initiatives, requirements or, activities as “other-duties-as-assign” responsibilities; it is part of the job, no excuses. When it is part of the job, people don’t dread it or think of it as unfair or unproductive efforts. They’ll have a vested interest in getting it done right.
- Treat any EHS non-compliance or non-conformance to set expectations as if production had a failure, because when they are not treated like that, they tend to be easily expendable. One of the best bosses I’ve ever had, treated all support functions of the business with the same focus and passion that he showed for production activities… and guess what… everyone else fell right in line behind him.
- Set EHS-related SMART goals [specific, measurable, action-oriented, and time-based] for every single person, and make it part of their individual and collective performance evaluation. Make everyone have “skin in the game”.
- Investigate every injury or serious near miss with complete objectivity. In work environments where everyone is rushed a lot of people may fall into a common bias trap of applying sole responsibility of the incident to the injured or involved employee… this type of inherent bias in an organization, will cause them to repeatedly miss opportunities to correct the actual root causes of the incidents and possibly end up repeating them over and over and over again.
- If possible, have a transparent and comprehensive evaluation of your EHS culture and then identify any/all opportunities to improve and diligently work on those.
- Empower your employees to get involved, provide feedback, take over EHS initiatives, projects, lead the safety committee, etc… they should make it their own!
- CELEBRATE the successes and small achievements!! Back in 2003, I used to have a budget of $1.25 per employee for quarterly celebrations of meeting or exceeding our site-wide EHS goals…that is not a lot of money… so it made us get very creative. If we had four consecutive quarters meeting or exceeding our goals, the organization would do an all hands luncheon celebration! Our employees loved it!
- Most of all, the organization must show their employees that they CARE about them. Organizations need employees to care not only about themselves, but also about their peers, their leadership and about the community in which they work; so the organization must set the example to foster that behavior.
Links to L’Oréal EH&S published articles:
Written by Russell Walz
Staffing Integrations Specialist & Supply Chain Consultant
Special thanks to Layla Baldwin, EH&S Manager for SalonCentric!