My Story: George S. Flores
My story is probably a little cliché, but here goes. I was a fire chief for an industrial fire department and we were on the scene of a worksite fatality. After hours of working the scene, it was time to notify the family. It was about 4 a.m., and I was spent. All I could think about was getting home to my new, small family and getting some rest (I know, very selfish). Then the reality came into the room.
The parents of the young man entered, along with his wife and two children. Did I mention she was expecting their third? I believe they already knew the outcome, but they were still holding onto hope. It left when the company representative made his announcement. The worker’s mother took the news hardest. The wife could only console her mother-in-law. The children were asleep. Our hearts all broke for the family.
When someone physically sees the effects of what a workplace fatality does to a family, it just changes your outlook. I asked myself, how could this happen? How can someone go to work and not go home? There is risk in everything we do. However, we know the risk is higher for certain jobs – at least, that’s what I had thought. In that instant, I changed course and went on to my safety mission.
I completely changed my approach to not only how we trained but how we responded to incidents. I took any course I could find and learned about everything possible that was related to my field. I used previous experience and new knowledge to create an environment that is still new to the fire service. We talk a good game, but not many of us really grasp the safety aspect like you would think. Industry has been around longer than the fire service, so it is still trying to catch up. We focused on effective training, tactics that made us more efficient and situational awareness.
Since then, I have left the fire service and joined with Bottom Line Services. The safety director at the time mentioned that he was working on changing the culture for the company and needed people with that same vision. We worked hard and, through constant monitoring, coaching and development, I’ve been able to carry on his vision. We focus on our people and let the jobs run with safety at the front. When I was offered this position, my only stipulation was that I report directly to our president. Nothing against our operations team, but our focus at the time was not on the same target. Since then, we have all seen the benefit of working together toward the same goal, instead of having an “us vs. them” mentality. No one person is more important than the other and everyone has a say in the decision-making (most days).
I’m proud to know that our team is strong because we didn’t give up when things got hard. We pushed through, and when the tough times come again, we will push through those as well.
George S. Flores, CSSM
Director of Safety and Health
George West, TX