IMPACTful Dialogues: Empowering Associates to Speak Up for Safety

In this episode of Ecolab's podcast, "IMPACTful Dialogues," host Dexter Davis talks with Jeff Burt, senior vice president for Ecolab's Safety, Health & Environment group.

At Ecolab, our commitment to safety excellence is at the core of the work we do every day. On April 28 we recognize World Safety Day — a time to celebrate our accomplishments in safety as an organization and reflect on how we can improve. 

In the third episode of our IMPACTful Dialogues series, Dexter Davis, vice president, Human Resources, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, sat down with Jeff Burt, senior vice president, Safety, Health & Environment, to discuss World Safety Day and how fostering an inclusive workplace plays a key role in bolstering safety at Ecolab.

Here are some highlights.

Dexter: You know there's been a lot of discussion and a lot of talk about psychological safety. It was actually a term coined in 1999 by Amy Edmondson, who is a Harvard researcher and it’s gotten a lot of play given a lot of the disruption we've seen over the last two to three years. As a leader of Safety, Health and Environment at Ecolab, how would you define psychological safety and why do you think it's important?

Jeff: It can be defined from different perspectives, but when it comes to associate safety — which is our focus on preventing injury and harm — it means our associates feel empowered to speak up and stop work in an unsafe situation. By empowered, we mean that we've created a psychologically safe environment where people feel comfortable and confident enough to speak up when things are not right and when they do speak up, they're going to be supported by their managers, their peers, and our customers.

So as you can imagine, Dexter, this ability to speak up and exercise psychological safety in a personal, safety sensitive environment has a huge impact on our company, the results we deliver to our customers and importantly to our families when we return home each and every day.

Dexter: Really, psychological safety is kind of that foundation to really have that inclusive culture where people truly can come to work and feel safe and be their best and really perform. I think it's important that we're looking at safety in a broad sense that includes all of that, and I appreciate your efforts and your team's efforts to really continue to do that. What are some other ways you're looking to promote that over the next year or so, Jeff?

Jeff: Well, we've got World Safety Day coming up, Dexter, as you know, it’s the big one on April 28th. It's a big promotion for us, and I'm really proud of our strong safety culture in the fact that we've been participating in these World Safety Days for years. Each of them builds upon the last and psychological safety is really an important element in all of them.

Dexter: What can we learn from our journey to that safety culture, that we can really leverage when we come to an inclusive culture?

Jeff: It's an interesting question. We’ve tried to do some research into this and get into the data and we do find people with higher engagement scores — people who feel they are more included — tend to be safer workers as well. So it all goes hand in hand and I will add, we also tend to find that the business results are better too. 

It's something that is embedded in how you act, how you work with people, how you work with our customers.

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About the Author

Dexter Davis headshot

Dexter Davis

Vice president, Human Resources, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 

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