October 25 2021
By: Shawn M. Galloway
After joining ProAct Safety in 2005, one of the first projects I worked on with our founder, Terry Mathis, was with a 40,000-employee company headquartered in California. The EVP of Operations was a lovely gentleman named Henry. Wisely, he knew his role and team of leaders were responsible for the creation of a culture of safety excellence across the global enterprise, not the safety professionals. He hired our firm to help him make a culture transformation.
I learned a valuable lesson working with him over the next couple of weeks. It is not enough to care tremendously about safety. You must know what to do to be safe and repeatedly do it everywhere. For many reasons, Henry was wildly passionate about this endeavor. He wanted to make a sustainable difference. This was to be a legacy he wished to leave the company. One he left indeed.
Through his wife, we learned what happened at their home a few weeks into our engagement. Henry woke in the middle of the night to use the toilet. He must not have seen the magazine on their carpeted floor next to the bed. As he slipped on the magazine, he hit his head on the nightstand. He proceeded to use the toilet, then returned to bed, not realizing he was internally hemorrhaging. He passed away in his sleep, leaving behind his wife and three children.
We all have slips, trips, and fall-related exposures in our work environments, but we also have them at home. In most of the developed world, you are significantly more likely to experience fatality off the job than on. Safety must be portable. It is not enough to create a safe working environment. We must also teach people how to be safe so they can teach their families and community members as well. Off-the-job safety must be an on-the-job topic.
Henry's company went about a successful transformation. His sad and unfortunate story is often told during onboarding discussions with new employees to explain why they are so passionately dedicated to safety at work and at home. What are the defining moments that shape your reasons for the pursuit of safety excellence? When you leave your company, most people will not remember the date you started and the date you left. They will remember everything that happened in-between. What will your legacy be?
"It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best." - Dr. W. Edwards Deming
"Legacy is not what I did for myself. It's what I'm doing for the next generation." - Vitor Belfort
Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.