Resilience has been a prevalent word this past 18 months. People around the world have adapted to unexpected circumstances to reimagine how they work, interact with family, friends and neighbors, and go about their daily lives.
Resilience is also a characteristic we share as OSH professionals. Throughout our careers, we constantly try new ideas, implement new approaches and explore new ways to influence management about the value of investing in safety, often while overcoming long-held misperceptions and battling for scarce resources.
When COVID-19 emerged in 2020, many of us took on new roles and responsibilities. We continued to perform our daily work of identifying hazards and reducing risks to protect workers, while also helping our organizations implement measures to protect our workers during an unprecedented public health crisis. These efforts kept the doors open for many businesses and benefited the economy.
Stories from our profession demonstrate the value we provide to help our organizations protect workers, address well-being and improve performance overall. Clinton Wolfley, CSP, CHST, is a great example.
Wolfley, vice president of safety systems and services at UCOR in Oak Ridge, TN, believes demonstrating the connection between operations and safety is critical, whether you are operating in normal circumstances or in an emergency. He believes the level of trust this approach built over time within his organization was a key factor in its ability to implement a strategic approach to the pandemic.
“Our company was able to quickly form an integrated team of representatives from safety, communications, finance, emergency management and human resources to launch a plan,” he explains. He says the company could then adapt its decisions as more information became available, particularly as the situation evolved. “We were communicating as quickly as we could with the workforce, not just what the changes were but what those changes meant to us day in and day out,” he says.
The results speak for themselves. Following a 6-week pause in work, the company brought back its team of 1,200 field operators, implemented a strict quarantine process and to date has experienced no workplace transmissions of the virus.
Ashley Kunz, M.S., M.B.A., CSP, director of EHS at Micron Technology in Boise, ID, says the pandemic created new pathways for building relationships across the organization. “We have been able to overhaul some of our other safety training that in the past would have taken a lot of prep work, meetings and explanations,” she says. “We have a new level of credibility and trust thanks to our work related to COVID-19.”
For Micron, that trust extends into the Boise community as well. “We were cognizant of not wanting to have an impact on the community because we are the largest employer in the state,” Kunz says. “We wanted to be sure people felt safe coming to work, sometimes even more so than they felt being other places. For us, that was very meaningful.”
Like our members, ASSP has demonstrated great resilience during the pandemic. In early 2020, ASSP staff transitioned to remote work, not missing a beat in providing excellent service. The Society also pivoted to a fully virtual annual conference in just a few months while also converting many courses to live virtual sessions to support our members’ continuing education needs. We have continued that future focus by scheduling our Safety 2021 conference and exposition for September in Austin, TX, and combining it with a virtual program to offer our members the most flexibility.
Across the Society, our member communities have also found new ways to engage members while not being able to hold in-person meetings and events. We have heard about virtual technical meetings, networking and social events, book clubs, podcasts and a range of other approaches that have kept our members informed, connected and constantly learning from one another, even in the digital world.
The pandemic is not yet over, but the days ahead continue to look brighter, both for the public health crisis and for ASSP. Thank you for your efforts and I look forward to talking with and serving you this year.