Workplace Safety and Your WHY

Contributor: 5th Element Inspection Services LLC

Establishing safety as a priority in the workplace is imperative to the well-being of all employees. Not only does it improve general morale, performance, and efficiency, it goes well beyond the job site and affects every aspect of your life. If your personal safety is in question, it is inevitable that what follows is an additional, unnecessary layer of stress, distraction, and anxiety. In turn, this ultimately puts your worksite’s employees, including you, at higher risk of accident and injury, especially when there are already hazards and risks present. It is your legal and personal right to be able to arrive at work and trust both your employer and fellow coworkers to maintain a safe work environment and culture. The ultimate reward is for you and your coworkers to return home as healthy as you all came.

A workplace culture that prioritizes safety and wellbeing doesn’t just happen by accident. Of course, your employer is responsible for providing the necessary tools, training, and equipment for physical safety. However, beyond this, you as the employee play an important role as well. It is essential that everyone stays informed on safety protocol and is motivated every day to carry it out. There is one main thing that fuels your motivation to create and sustain this safety culture and that is your personal “why”. A greater purpose in life that goes beyond your job description. If you don’t know what your why is, you can start by asking yourself some questions like these:

  • Who do you return home to every day?
  • Who do you need to be healthy for?
  • Why do you value your income?
  • Why are you in this line of work?
  • What are you working toward?
  • What is your goal in life, and how is this job playing a part in getting you there?

Perhaps it is to be the best version of yourself for your spouse or your children or your friends and family. Your why for getting out of bed every day could be to work toward building a legacy you are proud of. It could be as necessary as providing a stable living for you and your family or paying off debt and gaining financial freedom. Maybe it is to contribute to the welfare of others through your line of work, or simply to be of service to your community. You may want to use your skills, knowledge, and abilities to serve others or be a force for good in this unpredictable, messy world. Maybe you have big dreams for your career and would like to be a respected leader in your field. Only you know the answer and it is worth your effort to find it. Ask yourself those questions and you’ll be well on your way to finding this bigger mission for your life.

Your greatest gain from knowing your why is a more positive outlook on both life and work. But even beyond the personal benefit of realizing this purpose, it makes a massive impact on your ability to be an intentional safety advocate in your workplace. You may be wondering how your life’s greater purpose and safety in the workplace go together. The truth is, they go hand-in-hand. Your why will give you an added incentive to help keep your worksite as safe as possible. It goes far deeper than the day-to-day tasks of your specific occupation. This bigger purpose can fuel your desire to be more familiar with your company’s safety protocol, to be a better employee overall, and even beyond that to teach and inspire others to do the same. In addition, it will heighten your awareness of yourself and your surroundings and help you see the bigger picture. Your reason for coming to work every day gives you a glimpse into why safety is so crucial for you and your coworkers. When work is a safe place, you can go home safe and focus on pursuing your greater mission in life.

There are many safety protocols in place, but it’s important to realize that written regulations and policies can only go so far. Everybody needs to be aware and onboard to put safety into action. As you go about your workday with this in mind, you will quickly realize that you can’t do it alone. Each employee, no matter their position, is integral to the overall safety and security of your workplace. As an individual, you do play an important role and can make a difference in the existence and success of safety culture at work. With a safety mindset, you can inspire and encourage your fellow coworkers to make safety a priority right alongside you. When you are equipped with your greater purpose and intentionality toward creating a safe work environment you can make a big difference. Consider it a privilege to be able to help others realize the importance of making workplace safety a high priority and putting safety protocol into action.

When you can arrive at work and trust that it’s a safe place for you and your coworkers, you can be an even better employee and avoid the stress and anxiety that added risk brings. You can go back home a healthier, happier version of yourself and give your best self to your greater purpose. With safety as a mindset and priority, you and your team can focus on the task at hand without distraction. You can be a positive influence to lower risk and therefore increase productivity and quality, boost overall morale and wellbeing, and lower the possibility of injury for yourself and your coworkers. These are tremendous, priceless benefits of placing safety first. Your why will give you the endurance you need to keep safety a number one priority on your job site and encourage your team members to follow suit. With a safety advocate mindset, you have the opportunity and privilege to contribute to reaching that goal for yourself and your colleagues: to return home safe so you can invest your time and health in your greater purpose in life.

About 5th Element

5th Element is a safety solutions provider based in Houston, Texas. Our focus is on creating awareness about the hazards, risks, and threats of dropped objects, slips, trips, and falls; and mitigation strategies through training and implementation of practical safety products to keep your workplace safer. For more information, please contact or 713-202-2243.

Safety poster courtesy of WeeklySafety

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.