Safety performance is driven by the leadership of any organization. Before any safety plan can be put into place, the leadership must first define the standards for safe behavior. They set the desired goals, define the plan parameters and determine how to enforce accountability. But, creating a plan does not necessarily create a safe working environment. A safe working environment can only be established by those working it in.
Harold Edwards, our Safety Officer for more than 10 years, brought 20 years of experience to the Lehman-Roberts Co./Memphis Stone & Gravel Co. team after earning a degree in occupational health & safety at Murray State University. He first learned about the field while in college and decided to pursue it, noting his interest in people, as well as the field. Over the course of his tenure with our companies, he says there has been a great deal of change in the company regarding safety. “The culture of safety among our employees is totally different today than when I started. The attitude has gone from ‘there’s no way’ to ‘there’s nothing to it’. Safety is just part of doing our business now.”
Harold is quick to attribute that evolution to leadership. While leadership can mean management, it more simply means anyone who exerts influence over another person to achieve the desired goal. “Safety leadership is not passive. It is recognizing something needs to be done and setting the course to insure it happens. It is showing initiative to make decisions and act so we can keep the job going without incident,” says Harold. “Every one of us has to be prepared and think not only of our own safety, but our co-workers’ safety, too. We don’t take shortcuts. Shortcuts can cost equipment damage or worse, employee injuries.”
While much of Harold’s day revolves around safety audits, jobsite and plant inspections, insurance claims, employee onboarding and training, he gives credit to our field leadership for the success of our safety program. Every member of every crew on every site can be a leader.
To quote Charlie Mitchell, tack truck driver on Duke Watt’s paving crew,
“Safety first. Safety first.”