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How Safety Supports Quality

June is National Safety month, and in observance of this important topic we will post a new article each week in June that focuses on safety to promote a safe and healthy workplace. Check back next week for the next post in this safety series.

Almost three decades ago, I began my environmental consulting career armed with an abundance of youthful enthusiasm, and very little training. I worked for a small hazardous materials management firm, and I was in the field almost immediately conducting assessments and overseeing cleanups of some very nasty chemicals. The company that I worked for wasn’t bad, but it definitely did not have much in the way of a safety culture. When I think back on those days now, I realize just how lucky I was that nothing catastrophic ever happened on one of my project sites. My experiences during that time, however, definitely taught me the importance of prioritizing safety, and why it matters in so many ways.

I’m not going to focus on the most important and most often-discussed reason that safety matters; the fact that we want all of our team members, project partners and everyone who visits our project sites to go home safely each night. That’s a given. Instead, I’d like to talk about how safety goes hand-in-hand with quality, and how we can’t deliver technical excellence to our clients without having a strong safety culture to support the work that we do each day.

So, how does safety support technical excellence? I can explain it with three words: reliability; integrity; and efficiency. Let’s start with the last of those three, first. Efficiency. Simply put, when we incorporate effective safety management practices into our daily behaviors and project scopes, we operate more efficiently. Anticipating safety concerns and proactively preparing for them allows us to implement appropriate safe work practices when site conditions warrant them, and reduces or eliminates the need for work stoppages, which saves our clients both time and money.

Safety also helps to enhance the integrity of our data collection activities and to maintain the integrity of our project sites. When we pay attention to basic safety procedures such as setting up exclusion and contaminant reduction zones, establishing and implementing proper equipment decontamination procedures, and properly calibrating and checking the performance of site screening equipment, we are increasing the likelihood that our site observations and collected samples are representative of actual site conditions at specific locations. In addition, safety procedures, such as establishing equipment decontamination stations and managing personal protective equipment properly, help to maintain the integrity of our project sites by reducing the potential for contaminant transport across sites.

Finally, we come to reliability. A strong safety culture supports the consistent, professional execution of our work scope, which is why our clients and teaming partners return to work with us time and time again. When they see us paying attention to the details of our safety plans, going above and beyond, not cutting corners, it gives them added confidence to rely on us for all of the technical services that we are providing, and to include us on their most important projects.