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Safety culture | Leadership

Best practices

A Q&A with outgoing National Safety Council President and CEO Janet Froetscher

December 1, 2013

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National Safety Council President and CEO Janet Froetscher announced her resignation in October. As she prepared to leave NSC to take on new challenges as CEO of Special Olympics, Froetscher reflected on her five years at NSC, including what she learned and how she will continue her personal Journey to Safety Excellence.

Safety+Health: Describe your journey to becoming a CEO who understands the importance of worker safety.

Froetscher: At the most basic level, it starts with wanting people not to get hurt. For many business leaders just starting out on their Journey, they may not know the best practices of workplace safety, but they do know that they want their employees to be safe. As I have progressed on my Journey, my understanding of workplace safety has evolved from the absence of injury to one of employee engagement in which everyone takes responsibility for keeping each other safe. At the end of the day, it’s about building a culture of safety in which everyone feels safe, valued and responsible. That is when safety excellence can be realized.

S+H: What is your proudest accomplishment during your tenure at the National Safety Council?

Froetscher: When I came on board as president, I knew we were making a difference in people’s lives just by seeing all the great advocacy work, services and training that the council was providing. However, we didn’t know how big of a difference we were making.

In 2009, we created a strategic plan with a goal of preventing 10,000 deaths and 1 million injuries by helping people live safer lives. We created strategies around workplace safety, distracted and teen driving, and community safety – and we put in place metrics to measure progress.

I’m extremely proud that with help from our members, volunteers and partners, we have already achieved our injury prevention goals and are well on track to reach our goal to save 10,000 lives. We should all take pride in this. Each of us working in the safety profession contributed to this success.

S+H: What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your tenure at NSC, and what do you hope your legacy will be?

Froetscher: At the council, we developed and embraced a workplace safety strategy we call the Journey to Safety Excellence. At its core, the Journey is an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement. Because even when safety excellence is achieved, the drive for improvement continues in an effort to get closer to zero.

My greatest learning has been that the Journey can be applied to almost anything we do in our personal and professional lives. It’s figuring out where we are and where we want to be. It’s reducing risks, putting processes in place and measuring how well we are doing. The Journey is a quest to do better and a safeguard against falling into the trap of complacency. The Journey has been both my greatest learning and, for the small role I played in cultivating it, my greatest legacy.

S+H: How do you plan to apply what you have learned as president of NSC to your new position with Special Olympics?

Froetscher: Having worked with the some of the world’s leading safety organizations through NSC membership and the Campbell Institute, I bring with me vast knowledge of the best practices of how to keep people safe in a measurable and effective way. It really comes down to applying this knowledge base and experience to a new Journey. First, we’ll determine where we are at, strategize on how to move forward and then measure our progress. It’s exciting to think about propelling another organization far along on their Journey to Safety Excellence.

S+H: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Froetscher: I am so honored to have had the opportunity to work with such a dedicated and passionate group of people committed to making the world a safer, better place. I’ve never worked with a group of people who were so willing to share, improve and collaborate for the greater good. Thank you for all you do. I look forward to continuing this Journey together.

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