My Story: Mark W. Mullenioux
My dad would be laughing right now knowing that his son became a safety officer in the U.S. government. My father was a retired Army officer, an avid hunter and a “safety nut.” In fact, when my brother and I were teens, he would require us to wear steel-toed shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts, as well as gloves, ear protection and safety glasses, while mowing the lawn. We looked like robots in plain sight of our neighbors, family and friends. Of course, our friends laughed at our expense, but his method worked because we still retain our extremities and eyesight.
A few years ago, I was asked if I wanted to take over the safety program in our office. Our office consists of around 2,000 federal and contract employees in three facilities located in two states. I informed those making the offer that I had no experience running a safety program (other than some common sense and the experience dealt by my father). I was told, “Doesn’t matter, no problem. We’ll get you some training.” I was working in the security field and never walked away from a challenge, so I volunteered. While I was walking out of the meeting, my supervisor said, “Oh, by the way, next week is our annual safety inspection by headquarters.”
That annual inspection was brutal. The inspector found numerous noncompliance issues, from recordkeeping to electrical safety to egress. My first reaction was, “Oh my, what have I done?”
Well, I picked myself up by my bootstraps, started fixing those “low-hanging fruit” issues, then began researching how to abate the more serious findings. It’s taken a couple of years, but thanks to a total commitment from our management team, we’ve become the model safety program in our agency. I attribute this success, in great part, to our supervisors who support the program while truly caring about the safety and well-being of their employees.
However, for me – the lonely “Safety Czar,” as I call myself, the man who is on an island, the bearer of bad news and the man no one wants to see coming – it’s been an educational and, dare I say, fun experience. I’m now regarded as the safety subject matter expert by the workforce. Little do they know, I’m still a safety rookie!
Mark W. Mullenioux Collateral Duty Safety Officer Lee’s Summit, MO