“Protecting workers from hazards and exposures is required from a regulatory perspective, but I believe is most important for ethical reasons. Prior to assessing behavioral issues, feasible measures should be taken to eliminate/mitigate occupational risks via sound engineered systems,” says George Pavlovich, Principal, Safety & Environmental Management for Life Cycle Safety, LLC.
George recommends a holistic, integrated approach to do just that—and that approach and dedication to safety is just part of what makes him our latest Safety Hero.
Keep reading to see the surprising leader who has helped him learn about safety and the habit he consistently sees in companies with effective safety leadership.
How did your career start?
After starting out as a chemical engineer at oil refineries, I developed an interest in environmental engineering and worked in chemical plants on remediation projects, pollution prevention, air emissions compliance etc., and then developed and implemented global EHS management systems.
Then I started focusing more on employee safety and found that area the most personally rewarding, as you can have an immediate impact on preventing injuries and saving lives. What could be more satisfying?
Is there anyone who has helped you learn about safety?
Although I gained safety process/regulatory knowledge while conducting management systems and compliance audits and risk assessments, I never had any formal safety education. So late in my career I obtained a Graduate Certificate in Safety Engineering from the Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh.
This program is headed by Professor Joel Haight, who teaches courses in Safety Engineering essentials, Process Safety, Work Design for safety etc. This program provided me with useful knowledge and skills that I could apply almost immediately in my consulting work.
For example, when I had a project that involved installation of sprinkler systems, the calculations and designs done in class projects helped me better manage companies that perform such work. I would encourage anyone interested in strengthening their safety skills to contact Professor Haight, who encouraged me to complete this practical part-time/online program in 16 months.
Is there a company that you admire in terms of their approach towards safety?
One company I admire for their commitment to EHS management systems is ExxonMobil, as the company developed and implemented a highly effective and practical system called OIMS (Operations Integrity Management System) globally. While many companies implement EHS management systems, these programs sometimes wither away and die on the vine after an initial flurry of management interest.
But OIMS has been a permanent part of ExxonMobil’s safety culture for almost 30 years, laying out safety responsibilities and expectations that are regularly assessed for performance and accountability. I would encourage anyone doing benchmarking on safety management systems to check out OIMS, as it’s clearly among the best of the best.
What do you wish others knew about safety and/or supporting safety and/or risk management?
I would encourage others to focus efforts on preventing serious injuries and fatalities in all their ongoing safety routines, such as safety observations, job safety analysis, safety inspections etc. Of course it’s critical to recognize situations that could lead to a serious injury/fatality, for example, someone working in a permit-required confined space where the permit procedure is not correctly followed, but a weak link in my experience is corrective action follow-up.
In events where unmitigated risks could lead to serious injuries, corrective action should follow the hierarchy of controls. Recognizing events that could cause serious injuries/fatalities requires continual training of all employees exposed to hazards, but corrective action done per the hierarchy of controls often requires company resources which can be a greater challenge.
The companies that continually devote significant resources to eliminating hazards and exposures, for example by modifying work space layout, providing automation for hazardous tasks, substituting chemicals with less hazardous formulations etc., are the more credible organizations with effective safety leadership.
Know a Safety Hero?
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