My Safety Story

For the past 21 years, I have called the scrap recycling industry my home. In all those years, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a day where I have wanted to walk away from the safety field or the scrap recycling industry. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business, and every day I strive to pass along what I have learned to others who can multiply the impact of those lessons by carrying them back to their workplaces.

Learning and Teaching

In the late 1990s, I had the opportunity to become a corporate safety trainer at a large scrap recycling company. The company had created the position to support the safety managers at its many facilities across the Midwest. For me, this was an opportunity to put together solid education and training programs in an environment that was ready and willing to have them. For the company, it was a great way to bring its diverse locations together with a common message of safe operations.

Over the years I spent with the thousands of men and women in the company’s operations, maintenance, transportation, and environment, health, and safety arenas, I saw continuous improvement in its safety culture. The company continued to move toward a better understanding of what safe operations means, as well as toward creating and maintaining a safety culture that strives to improve every day. This culture started at the top of the company and worked its way across the business. It was a wonderful thing to see, and it continues across that company today.

Spreading the Safety Message

I’d like to see all recyclers operate with the goal of continuous safety improvement. I’d also love to see all recyclers come together and share with their peers how they are working toward making the industry safer. We have groups at ISRI where this is happening: The Circle of Safety Excellence™ gives company leaders the opportunity to network and share thoughts and ideas on EHS improvements, while the ISRI Safety and Environmental Council gives EHS, transportation, operations, and maintenance professionals the opportunity to network, share successful practices, and expand their knowledge of health and safety matters.

In January, ISRI’s safety team will begin sharing an EHS/transportation safety calendar and toolkit that will give you more education and training materials to choose from for your safety meetings. These materials will go into greater depth on safety subjects than we have done in recent years. The best way to learn something is to teach it, and the best way to teach a topic well is to study it, learn it, and know it. If you are the EHS or transportation safety educator in your business, we want you to have the best tools available to learn and share safety information with your co-workers.

I believe that long-term success in building a safety culture comes from cultivating safety relationships, in part by delivering safety messaging in a way that resonates or has emotional relevance to the listener. Believing in the words you are speaking to your students, trainees, or your co-workers—and leading by example—will show those around you how important the message you deliver is to you and to the company you represent.

Safety starts at the top and works its way down and across an organization. The top leadership must set and uphold the safety expectations to set the example for all who choose to be part of the team at your organization. I hope that you, the recycling industry’s leaders, will continue to set an example of continuous improvement within your EHS programs well into the future, which will lead to a stronger and safer scrap recycling industry in the coming years.

Striving for continuous improvement is an important part of your personal and business life. ISRI’s safety staff is here to help guide ISRI members toward continuous improvement of your operations’ health and safety culture. Participation in programs like our Circle of Safety Excellence, the ISRI Safety and Environmental Council, ISRI’s Safety Stand-Down Day, and our safety outreach can help you achieve it.