No Accident

Barton McMillin | How to Know When Safety is Catching

Episode Summary

In this episode of the No Accident podcast, presented by TRUCE, we hear from Barton McMillin, who’s worked in the industry for more than 25 years and currently serves as the Vice President of Environmental, Health, & Safety at Ericsson. He discusses why engagement with a safety culture is a great measurement of a company’s success, why it’s important to think of safety in the proactive sense rather than simply compliance, and why safer employees are more lucrative for the business. “I am the safety guy, but I'm also here to help the business,” he says. “And helping the business is to make sure that the business understands what risks we're taking and how it's affecting our people.” He also explains why a good safety professional is someone who genuinely cares about their employees’ safety inside and outside of work rather than simply being focused on productivity and how much money an injury could cost the company.

Episode Notes

All it took was a single industrial safety class for Barton McMillin to realize a career in safety was right for him — particularly because it didn’t require sitting behind a desk 24 hours a day. 

“Things that I was learning in the safety class, I could apply during my normal day of work,” Barton, who maintained a job throughout college, says. “So it was like, hey, this stuff's making sense and it's interesting. And I couldn't say that about a lot of the other classes that I was taking.”

In this episode of the No Accident podcast, presented by TRUCE, we hear from Barton, who’s worked in the industry for more than 25 years and currently serves as the Vice President of Environmental, Health, & Safety at Swedish multinational telecommunications company Ericsson. 

He discusses why engagement with a safety culture is a great measurement of a company’s success, why it’s important to think of safety in the proactive sense rather than simply compliance, and why safer employees are more lucrative for the business.

“I am the safety guy, but I'm also here to help the business,” he says. “And helping the business is to make sure that the business understands what risks we're taking and how it's affecting our people.”

He also explains why a good safety professional is someone who genuinely cares about their employees’ safety inside and outside of work rather than simply being focused on productivity and how much money an injury could cost the company. 

Barton believes in expanding our definition of safety to include other elements of an employee's wellbeing, such as mental health. Especially in the past year and a half, he’s noticed that the pandemic brought everyone to a new level of stress that inevitably affected safety. But it’s important to overcome the stigma around mental health in order to address these stressors in the workplace. 

“One of the things I think that gets overlooked in the safety world is the wellbeing of people,” he says. “Fatigue and mental wellbeing is probably an associated cause with 90% of all injuries and incidents.”

 

Featured Guest

👉 Name: Barton McMillin

👉 What he does: As the Vice President of Environmental, Health, & Safety at Ericsson, the Swedish multinational networking and telecommunications company, Barton uses his more than 25 years of experience in the safety field to ensure his employees are buying in to his proactive, engagement-focused safety approach.

👉 Company: Ericsson

👉 Key quote: “Business is important, but people are as well. And they can't go without each other.”

👉 Where to find him: LinkedIn

 

Safe Takes

⚠️ Safety isn’t just the recording of incident rates. It’s important to follow OSHA and report injuries, but Barton notes that there’s a whole other proactive element to safety that every company should emphasize in its safety culture. What can you do now to prevent injuries from happening in the future?

⚠️ Engagement is a great measure of the success of your safety culture. An engaged employee, especially an employee whose boss is asking them about their concern regarding safety for themselves and their coworkers is an employee who’s much more likely to buy into the safety culture and think proactively when it comes to being safe. 

⚠️ You need safe, healthy employees to have a lucrative company. Good safety leaders, Barton believes, ensure they’re not only worried about productivity metrics, they’re looking at the larger picture of who safety protocols affect. “Without the people, you don't get the numbers. You don't get the productivity,” he notes. And keeping people safe includes checking in on mental health, especially in the COVID-19 era.

 

Resources

⛑️  Incident rates –– Although Barton notes that they’re not the only thing to focus on as a safety professional, it’s important to know how to compute a firm's incidence rate. 

⛑️ Mental health during the pandemic — This Kaiser Family Foundation brief explains the implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. Barton believes all safety professionals need to connect these dots in order to check in on their employees/make sure increased stress isn’t making them less safe.

 

Top quotes from the episode:

“That's a common thread, they (his past employers) really care about their employees and they want to do the right thing, not just on a safety level, but just generally speaking. And I think that's an attribute for companies with a strong safety culture.”

“Compliance is the foundation. If that's all you're ever talking about, then you're just not getting it. The stuff that they really need to be talking about is the prevention side of it. What are the things that we can do to prevent injuries, incidents from happening?”

“If you can measure the amount of engagement between your leadership team and your employees and not just the CEO or the COO leadership engagement, very high-level engagement usually helps to kind of set in place the right type of culture.”

“Starting an engagement process around safety, not only does it help safety, but it also helps promote all the rest of the pieces of the puzzle, because getting employees to talk to each other and getting leadership and employees to talk to each other, that communication is so important.”

“If I can't get people to see the big picture about why safety is important for people, for the person, then I don't think that I'm doing a good job as a safety leader.”

“Safety is 24 hours. It's our responsibility as a business to keep people safe when you're here working for us. But at the end of the day, I want you to be safe all the time because I care.”