My Story: Christy Caputo
In 2008, while working for Progress Energy, my operations manager encouraged office personnel to get out in the field and learn what services we provided for our customers. With this initiative, I was able to assist line crew as well as perform safety inspections and jobsite observations.
During this time, I remember thinking that I could see myself in a safety role full time. From Progress Energy, I headed to a small electric cooperative – where management took a chance offering me a safety role, which provided the opportunity to learn and prove I could help grow a safer working environment for the co-op workforce – and thus started my official career as a safety professional.
I am grateful to have worked with amazing line crew who taught me early in my career that respect is earned and not given freely. Over the past 12-plus years I have applied this thought while experiencing safety from different disciplines, views and requirements, including commercial transportation, utility construction, warehousing, food manufacturing and engineering.
Two very important lessons that fellow safety professionals shared with me along the way are: “People don’t know what they don’t know” and “Don’t determine safety expectations from a desk.” I have followed this guidance throughout my career, and it has greatly benefited me to be a better safety resource and keep me grounded in what my role as a safety professional truly means.
First, I provide a vital service to the workforce. At any company I have worked for, I see the workforce as my clients and have a responsibility to ensure their needs are being met. Whether it’s ordering PPE, addressing a safety concern with management or retooling a procedure to mitigate work task hazards, it’s all for the employees.
Second, any policies or procedures I help to create must be real world, achievable and vetted by the workforce. I am open to, and depend on, members of the workforce telling me, “Yes, Christy, that will work,” or “No, that may work in a book, but it won’t in the field.” Respecting workers’ needs and asking for their help is huge in this career. Safety is won or lost on the ground floor, and safety expectations that cannot be met are not realistic and could make employees feel like they are not being respected or their safety representative doesn’t understand their needs.
As time ticks by, I can say without reservation that I do not see myself in any other line of work; safety is part of my DNA. And even when I get to the point of thinking about retiring, I will remember: “Safety professionals don’t retire, they become a consultant.”
Senior Safety Specialist
CONSOR Engineers LLC