Executive Commentary
Workplace Safety Requires More Than Behavior-Based Practices
Brigette Philpot
Brigette Philpot
Vice President, Environment, Health & Safety, North Am Ops, Sodexo

When was the last time you drove from point A to point B and had no memory of how you actually arrived at your destination?

We can use our turn signals, occasionally check our mirrors and obey the speed limit—but how often do we go through those steps mindlessly? We do it all the time, don’t we? I can drive from the airport back to my home and have no real recollection of how I got there. I obviously got home in one piece, but did I put myself or others at risk by not driving mindfully with intention?

Every day, at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes. As we begin April—designated Distracted Driving Month by the National Safety Council–I  reflect on how driving distracted or mindlessly can relate to how employees perform tasks every day in the workplace.

Behavior-based safety measures are important, but they are not the complete answer to protecting employees in the workplace. We expect our employees to following policies and procedures; however, we will never achieve zero-harm workplaces if we don’t offer more than edicts aimed at changing behavior. We need our employees to execute tasks throughout the day safely and with minimum hazards. We need employees to consciously and intentionally look for and be knowledgeable about hazards or opportunities to limit exposure to potential risks following the Hierarchy of Controls.

As a leader in the Environmental Health & Safety field, it’s my responsibility to consider how our employees might approach their work and workspaces more mindfully and with minimum exposure to hazards—all in tandem with policies and procedures established to drive a zero-harm culture.

At Sodexo, we have a global campaign called “3 Checks for Safety” to promote mindfulness in everyday workplace tasks. By asking three simple questions, we empower employees to stop and think through the following:

  • Do you know how to do the job?
  • Do you have the right equipment?
  • Is your environment safe?

If at any point the employee cannot answer one of these questions, they must stop the task and inform their supervisor immediately. Supervisors are then required to take steps to reduce the exposure to hazards in their workplaces.

Helping our employees stay mindful in the workplace is not an insurmountable task. Let’s find more innovative ways to link mindful behavior and exposure reduction to create zero-harm cultures.

Have any ideas? Leave me a comment below.


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