Colleen Davlin, MS, CSP is the Environment, Safety and Health Regional Manager for Sodexo.

She’s responsible for the Midwest region—that is, 11 states within the US for hospitals. That includes the overall safety for cleaning, food service, facility maintenance and other services that are performed within all the hospitals there.

Keep reading to see what she says you need to do to be effective in safety, and why she says it is important to remember to ask workers what they need to do their job effectively and safely.

What do you think is effective to be in your role?

The ability and freedom to challenge all levels of the organization to participate in continuous improvement. Often times, when executive management becomes aware of safety, the assumptions they make are not fully accurate. They fail to see the importance of the analyzing technical aspects and would rather simplify things by believing accidents are the result of employee behavior. 

Yes, there are statistics that attribute a majority of accidents to a behavior rather than a condition, however, it not that simple. 

Take personal protective equipment as an example; rather than analyzing the environment and selecting the correct type of glove – orders are issued to “wear proper PPE”. The truth is, most employees do not know what “proper” is, let alone how to obtain and take care of it. 

Executive management must commit to identifying the gaps within the program and setting the expectation for all layers of the organization to participate with safety decision making. 

The sad state of affairs is that executives truly believe employee behaviors cause accidents; while most employees truly believe their behavior is acceptable. This is the huge gap that the safety professional can bridge, but they must have the ears and respect of the executive level.    

How do you see safety changing in the future? 

My hope is for greater participation from all levels of the organization. Performance objectives must be written for leading-edge metrics first and then trailing as a second priority. When we move away from management relegating safety to one person, but rather place clear expectations for safety at all levels, we will have arrived. 

What do you wish others knew about safety? 

The answers to safety challenges are in your own backyard, shop, office, kitchen, etc.

All you have to do is ask your employees doing the job what they need. It is then that an organization can mature the safety process to new levels by actually expending resources to implement those recommendations. 

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