My Safety Story

Squirrels Damaging Property - It's a Safety Concern

“What do you do?” “What exactly does it mean to work in ‘safety’?” Have you ever been asked that before?

Whenever I tell someone I am a Safety Professional they often don’t know what that means or have any idea what I do. Some people think safety does everything. My old boss told me one time there was an employee who came to his office to let him know squirrels were causing damage to part of the building – it’s a safety concern. Really, if you think about it anything can be considered a safety concern and some individuals like to use that to try and get things ‘done around here’. Or people may think the safety person just walks around all day, talks to random people and stares at different parts of the building. Which may be true…but come on it’s conducting an inspection, building relationships with employees to build engagement and assessing hazards!

Believe It or Not, My Academic Advisor Guided Me To Where I Am!

It’s not very common for me to naturally meet individuals within the safety field, unless I attend a networking event. That makes sense considering when I was growing up I never thought anything about this profession. I used to think I would be a Dentist or a Forensic Analyst – the forensics probably stemmed from loving to watch NCIS. Either way, when I entered college I majored in Biology. After I finished my general education courses, I couldn’t figure out what I would want to do with the degree exactly. 

I set up a meeting with my academic advisor and I had told him what I was feeling about the degree program. He had asked me what my potential career outlook goals may be and I had told him “I’m thinking something along the lines of pollution prevention – something where I feel like I can make an impact towards the environment.” I am a major outdoors person and anyone who knows me would know I love camping, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, really anything to do with being outside.

I didn’t have any expectations of thinking I would find my ‘dream major’ and have ‘that feeling’. When my academic advisor introduced the emphasis on the degree he proposed to me, he said courses involved hazardous materials, air pollution and waste water management. ‘That feeling’ caught on to me right away and I was interested in hearing more about the program from the start.

Bachelor of Science: Occupational Safety

The major was Occupational Safety with an Environmental Management emphasis – and I graduated with this degree August of 2018. Throughout my involvement in activities, I became interested in the entire program. I volunteered and attended conferences for Wisconsin Safety Council, WSC Young Professionals, American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council and Future Safety Leaders. My senior year I took on a service position as the ASSP Student Safety Organization Chapter President – which was an amazing experience. I was able to further network and engage with safety professionals, work with board members to organize facility tours, and be a resource to other students to share the benefits of becoming a safety professional.

Fast Forwarding To Today

This profession sure has its learning curves. It is one thing to learn about a topic in school, but ensuring a facility is in compliance with applicable laws, regulations and statutes is completely more in depth. I came to learn implementing laws and regulations are always the baseline on what needs to be done at a facility. After compliance is achieved, safety culture and continuous improvement are then targeted.
Until I formally began internships and full-time work, I did not know the variance of safety cultures across companies. Compliance-wise, it takes a lot of time and commitment to research, write, review, implement, train, and ensure employees and management understand the importance of a program. Culture-wise, gaining management commitment and employee engagement is the challenge. It may take time to gain full management commitment depending upon current company culture. It also takes time to “market” safety to employees if they are not adept to change.

Marketing Safety: “I’ve Always Done It That Way”

Culture improvement is really where the hard work comes in. Due to this challenge, I would say my “niche” within safety is management systems and improving safety culture. Second runner up is industrial hygiene because I enjoy how diverse it is in identifying health hazards, testing and determining proper controls.
I love this profession because of the impact I can make on an employee. When an employee tells me they appreciate the work I do and the time I take to listen to their problems and address their concerns, I am able to work through difficult projects, shifting priorities and individuals who “have done it that way for over 20 years”.

Right Here, Right Now

I wanted to take some time to go through a part of my story and share with you why I wanted to start blogging. You may be wondering why does she want to spend her time doing this and what makes her so passionate for safety..? Safety is so much more than ensuring individuals are wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). Why am I so passionate about safety? Because safety fosters connection, empathy, humility and excellence. Once these ideals are achieved, individuals have increased morale and pride in working for a company which cares to spend that time integrating safety. This will in turn foster an environment of communication, teamwork, positive caring, improved production and quality. Safety inspires and motivates others when culture is reached at a certain level.

I can attest to this being the truth! It takes awhile to get to this point but, I have seen the culture! I was fortunate enough to work for a company which definitely had an amazing safety culture. Most employees were friends, participated in company events, cared about each other, stopped to talk about safety incidents, truly looked out for one another, AND they had wonderful production and quality. I know it’s possible and it just takes the dedication, commitment and for each employee to know they own safety – what they do, what they see and let happen is how the culture is portrayed.

Please feel free to contact me any time.

Take care,

Krystal Sibert GSP Blog Signature