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Guiding the journey

February 1, 2012

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The “Worth Repeating” section of the Etc. page for this issue (p. 74) highlights one of my favorite quotes from this year’s CEOs Who “Get It”:

“It’s easy to have principles, but you don’t know if you really have them until they cost you something.”

The comment is from Rick Frost, CEO of Louisiana-Pacific Corp. in Nashville, TN. It was made in reference to his difficult decision to fire a well-regarded mill manager who violated lockout/tagout procedures in an effort to help the people who reported to him. As Frost said, “Was it harsh? Yes. Was it the right decision? Absolutely. Did it get everyone’s attention that we were serious about safety? You bet.”

It’s the kind of story we at Safety+Health were hoping to hear. This year – our 10th year of giving recognition to CEOs whose actions demonstrate their commitment to worker safety and health – we asked each leader to “describe your journey to becoming a CEO who ‘gets it.’” We did so after realizing that past Q&As always provided great insights but didn’t necessarily give the CEOs a clear opportunity to talk about personal beliefs and experiences.

As part of his experiences, Jim Bell, president and CEO of Veolia ES Technical Solutions LLC, notes that his company has had “some serious issues, as well as near misses,” and credits the company’s ability to move forward and improve on safety to being “surrounded by key people who get it.” My wish for you is that if your organization’s structure doesn’t allow someone on the safety staff to be one of those “key people” who act as a guide, then you have a supporter with a direct line to senior leadership – someone who recognizes the value of your work and can help your organization’s leaders maintain their principles and continue on their journey to “getting it.”  


The opinions expressed in “Editor’s Note” do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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