Safety Services Company
August 7th 2021
When you’re just starting out in the safety field, it’s important to embrace the idea that you don’t know it all. Fresh out of college, you might think that you’ve got all the information you need — but you’ll soon realize that the most important lessons are yet to come.
Julia Wilson, Assistant Regional Operations Manager and Senior Geologist at EarthCon Consultants, Inc., shares some hard-earned lessons for new safety professionals.
Safety certifications are important. So is understanding the potential risks ahead of time for any work that you are doing. However, while learning standards, it’s also important to consider what is feasible, since the practicality of implementing standards in the field isn’t always considered in the creation of those standards.
That’s where field experience comes in handy. The more time you spend out in the field, the better you’ll understand what can and can’t actually be done — and the more you’ll be able to empathize with the challenges of frontline workers.
“Know which industry you’re interested in doing safety for and then try to get a little bit of practical experience in the field.” — JULIA WILSON
“Know which industry you’re interested in doing safety for and then try to get a little bit of practical experience in the field.”
You can’t prevent all accidents, but you can minimize the likelihood that they will happen.
“Know your procedures, know what you’re doing ahead of time to the best that you can, but still be cognizant that there are things outside of your control,” says Julia.
“For new folks in the industry,” Julia says, “you need to really pay attention and be willing to learn.”
Fight against the impulse that you know everything you need to know and be open to the advice and best practices of those who have been in the industry longer than you.
Julia also has advice for those people as well.
“You have to be willing to teach that new person the best practices and be willing to take information from them to learn from them too.” — JULIA WILSON
“You have to be willing to teach that new person the best practices and be willing to take information from them to learn from them too.”
It’s important to impart wisdom learned from experience to those new to the profession. However, it’s also important to be open to new ways of thinking. A person who comes in with fresh eyes may see a better way of doing things that you’ve never considered.
“I really wish that people would, from the outset of their career, really feel empowered to use stop work authority,” Julia says.
Understandably, those new to the industry might feel nervous about using that authority. However, whether you’ve worked on a job site for 25 years or 25 minutes, it’s your responsibility to stop work if you see something potentially dangerous or incorrect.
“Everyone has a utilization requirement, everyone has a budget to deal with — safety is more important than that stuff.”— JULIA WILSON
“Everyone has a utilization requirement, everyone has a budget to deal with — safety is more important than that stuff.”
It doesn’t matter if stopping work affects the budget or if there are time constraints — not if there’s the risk of injury, property damage, or environmental damage.
In addition to sharing her advice for new safety professionals, Julia also advocated for the switch from traditional paperwork to electronic forms.
In the field, a digital device reduces the risk of paperwork blowing away in the wind and makes life easier for those on the go.
It’s also easier for those who collect the information and make decisions off of that data. You can simplify reporting and analysis when data is digital since it can be converted into spreadsheets and graphs easily.
Lastly, it clears the way for continuous process improvement. With data to back up your decisions, you can present the evidence needed to change processes and demonstrate that those changes are not arbitrary.
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