Today’s feature centers on Safety Hero, Joe Arway. Graduated from Niagra University, he was a member of the US Army, receiving a Bronze Star for his service. Joe has 30 years of experience in all aspects of safety, especially surrounding construction issues.
Currently, he acts as a Corporate Safety Director at Holland Roofing Company .
Why did you choose your profession?
I have worked in Safety for over 25 years. I have always liked the idea of having different challenges to overcome every day. I gravitated towards Construction safety, because every job is different, and there are always new challenges. You’d be amazed at the new and creative ways people can find to hurt themselves or worse on a construction site. There are no dull days!
What is the most important thing to do to be more effective in your role?
Obviously, the goal is to keep people from getting hurt or worse. Teaching, training, and explaining safety are the keys to keeping people safe. Proper communication of safety practices and ideas is the centerpiece of my role.
Have you ever had an incident that changed you and how did you approach it with your role?
I have been involved in many incidents during my career, including a couple of fatalities. Every one of those incidents changed me and had a profound impact on how I viewed and performed my job. Every new situation presents new challenges. Safety is ever-changing, and as a result of my combined experiences, I have developed two characteristics that help me do my job better.
First, I try to be proactive and mindful of every situation and what can possibly go wrong. Anticipating problems is a large part of preventing accidents.
Second, I try to positively interact with every employee. I have gone from being “standard oriented” to concentrating on preventing injuries. It has been my experience that those who concentrate on standards still have accidents, while those who concentrate on preventing accidents are almost always in compliance with the standards.
Safety standards and compliance training may seem boring to some people, but by being involved and knowing your employees, you can help them understand that safety practices are not just about them and the company, but also about the impact they can bring to their families and people they love.
What do you want everyone to know?
People have different opinions on what a safety person does. As a safety person, my main goal is to prevent injuries and save people’s lives by keeping a safe work environment. However, there are instances where, despite my best efforts, an employee may choose to do things their own way.
In one recent instance, our company was cited for standard violations. In that case, I proved that the individual had been trained and retrained; that we had conducted safety audits and reinforced safety policies, and provided all the safety equipment necessary for that employee to safely perform their job. Despite all that, the employee still violated all safety practices. Good record keeping does not only keep your workers safe, but it keeps companies safe and provides them with an affirmative defense.
What is your superpower?
If I have a superpower, I would say it is knowledge and empathy. It is important to treat people with respect. I try to not come down hard on people and get to know them, their problems and concerns. I try my best to put myself in their shoes.
In our business – roofing – most workers are not highly compensated. The work is hard and it’s not unusual for them to feel that management doesn’t care. But if they see me there on the site with them, sharing in the dirt, heat or cold, it is easier for them to relate to what I am doing.
Workers want to be appreciated, so I try treat them like family. I firmly believe I must show empathy by expressing gratitude for their work and our mutually shared interest in their safety. I can truthfully say it has been a very rewarding career.