I recently participated in an event with the Capitals Coalition and Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). This event brought together OSH professionals from around the world to discuss how worker safety and health contribute to an organization’s
sustainability. During the event, I was part of a panel discussion on the future of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We discussed the need to bring others on the journey with us and to focus on underrepresented groups.
Within ASSP, our goal is to create safe and welcoming environments where differences related to factors such as race, ethnicity, class, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ability and education are not only accepted but
celebrated. We want all stakeholders to be treated with respect and to know their voices are heard, particularly those who are often marginalized or silenced in other areas of their lives.
In our nearly 112-year history, we know there have been times and situations within our Society and across our profession in which we did not meet these aspirations. Acknowledging that we must be diligent in our efforts, the Board of Directors is committed
to being more consistent and purposeful in our DEI actions, and we expect the same of all of our volunteer leaders. To demonstrate this, we have revised our nominations and elections process and our Society Operating Guidelines, and we have modified
processes such as our course instructor and conference presenter selection. We will continue to challenge assumptions and strive to recognize and combat unconscious bias in our decisions and actions for the Society.
In addition to our work to improve ASSP, as safety professionals, we protect a diverse workforce and we must understand how DEI concerns affect their performance and their safety. Recently, Bill Geddings, SMS, CESCP, OHST, CHST, Christopher Hicks, M.S.,
CSE, and Kimberly Gamble, CHST, ASP, three members of the task force that developed our virtual DEI Summit (slated for Jan. 26), shared their insights on this topic. I would like to highlight two key themes from their comments.
Building Trust Improves Safety
Trust is vital to workplace safety. “Workers often feel they can trust OSH professionals to listen, offer support and advocate for them,” Gamble notes. “With this trust, we can create teams that work collaboratively to not only improve
physical safety but also psychological safety.” For Geddings, the formula is straightforward: “If our employees don’t feel safe at work, then we can’t expect them to be safe at work.” Hicks believes
DEI is pivotal to OSH, primarily because it fosters improved teamwork. “It contributes to safety culture and performance, compliance and return on investment . . . while also reducing complacency,” he says.
When asked how OSH professionals can support and influence DEI initiatives, all three stress the importance of taking action. “[We should] be ambassadors for DEI through ongoing learning and engagement,” says Hicks. “We should all be
change agents seeking to build cultures of humility and respect.” Geddings says our actions speak volumes. “Through our actions of being inclusive—whether in our writings, emails, training programs or similar communications—we
can make a difference.”
DEI work also creates an opportunity to work more closely with other departments within an organization, Gamble explains. “We should expand our interdepartmental conversations to learn more about how safety can support employees,” she says.
Please take a few minutes to read the full interview at https://assp.us/DEI_QA.
DEI initiatives are not a one-time fix. We have much more work to do in this journey, both in our profession and in this organization. As safety professionals, we should do something each day to move the needle on DEI to improve our companies, our communities
and ASSP. Working together, we will not only create a safer, stronger future, we will also nurture a culture in which we all embrace opportunities to learn and grow so everyone can excel.