The topic of health and safety is the core of just about everything you do. With every project/task that you are involved with, the engagement of health & safety (H&S) is pertinent to keeping not just yourself safe, but also your colleagues, clients and everyone else around you.
Roxann West, a Water Engineer supporting various industrial clients for the Water for Industry group, connected with her Tampa office H&S Coordinator and Geologist, Eric Brooks, to interview Tony Tremblay, the H&S director for Arcadis North America (NA). Tony provided some valuable insights on his background, what the H&S program means for Arcadis and what the future holds for the program.
Tell us a bit about your background, did you come from a H&S field?
‘I started my career as an industrial hygienist and joined LFR in 1992 as an Industrial Hygienist/Project Manager. My work included evaluating occupational exposures, hazardous material assessments, litigation support and assessments for asbestos and lead-based paint. In addition, I also performed indoor air quality evaluations, H&S audits as a client-facing Project Manager and eventually transitioned to an internally focused H&S role. LFR was acquired by Arcadis in 2008 and I supported the EN Business Line for a short time and then took on the role as the Corporate H&S Technical Director. I then took on the H&S role to support the Infrastructure Business Line and this gave me the opportunity to learn about safety from the perspective of our Infrastructure work and to work with our Infrastructure team. This was a great opportunity because it gave me great perspective to see how diverse our work is, and that one size does not fit all when it comes to anything associated with safety. To this day, my role as Safety Director is a continuous learning process. Safety is not just about compliance, but also understanding how our safety culture impacts our people.’
What was one of the biggest challenges you had in your career and how did you overcome it?
‘Using the current day situation as an example, we currently have an older H&S database to keep track of our H&S metrics that is not exactly mobile friendly. The issue with this is people are using a lot of time and effort inputting data into the system and in some cases may choose not to input data because of the time and effort require. In addition, because of the system structure, so little of this information can be extracted and shared. I see this is a lost opportunity to provide real-time trending information to our staff and a missed opportunity to perform more detailed data analytics and eventually at some point, predictive data analytics. From the end-user viewpoint, our goal is to make the process of H&S data input much easier, something that’s immediate and digital. We want everyone to own safety and make that capture as simple as possible: where it can be done anywhere, at any time. We would like to have usable data that we can provide analytics back to employees so that it is not a one-way push of information.
By partnering with the GEC, we are in the process of finalizing and introducing our first digital application to document Health & Safety Stewardship and observations along with a Stewardship Dashboard to track H&S engagement points. Having said that, this platform is simply just a tool for hazard recognition that allows employees to facilitate proactive H&S engagement. At the end of the day, the basis of H&S comes down to having a good organizational H&S culture in the office and in the field. Saying that we are going to have a great culture is different from actually having a great H&S culture. We need to have our people understand and live our 6 fundamental H&S principles (H&S Planning; H&S Stewardship; TRACK; If Not Me, Then Who; Stop Work; Reporting Near Misses and Incidents). If there is a question about what our folks might be doing in the field and whether it is safe or not, we want them to stop work, ask about the hazards/risks and implement appropriate controls before proceeding with that activity.
The entire H&S program is focused on people and I want our people to be actively engaged with stewarding H&S and to fully understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. I have heard many times “make safety a habit”, but what I want is for our people to make safety an active and conscious choice when it comes to working safely. The drive to push active engagement is a continuous challenge but hopefully with the introduction of this new H&S engagement app, it will alleviate some of the current inefficiencies we have been facing and make it super easy for our people to document and share their proactive H&S engagement activities.’
Do you have any advice for young professionals that want to get engaged/involved in H&S in the workplace and on the field?
‘It doesn’t matter what business line you are in, there is always a way to learn more about health and safety. If you are doing any type of work for Arcadis, in some way, shape or form H&S will play a role in what you do. One of the best ways, taking Eric as an example, if you are looking to learn more about safety and our program, the H&S coordinator role is a great way to do that. Whether you are trying to take on that role or be mentored into eventually taking that role. We would love to have the H&S coordinator role rotate so that we have others taking on a HS leadership role within the organization. The idea is for someone to take on that role, do great things with it, mentor somebody else and help them step up and eventually take over that H&S Coordinator role.
If H&S is a career choice, we have a whole team of folks that do client facing safety work that can range from industrial hygiene to auditing that can help mentor those interested in safety career. Arcadis North America also offers a wide range of H&S training available through the Training Team. For all our employee’s, my ask is that employee’s think before they do and ask questions. It really comes down to understanding and living the six Arcadis fundamental H&S principles. For example, beyond understanding the concept of TRACK (Think through the task, Recognize the hazards, Assess the risks, Control the risks, Keep health and safety first in all things), the expectation is that each and every one of us is actively using and implementing TRACK continuously at work and at home. The expectation is that we are all stewards of health and safety and we are all part of the H&S team is the way I look at it.’
Do you collaborate and leverage information with other H&S leaders globally?
‘There is a global Arcadis H&S safety team. Each operating region has a person that sits on the global team participating in monthly calls and annual meetings to discuss where we stand regarding the Arcadis Health & Safety program from a global perspective. The standards across North America and other regions can differ but we must all meet at least the requirements outlined within the global H&S standards. The H&S journey in North America might have different paths from our South America or Asia counterparts, for example, but the fundamental H&S principles are unified across the globe and there are baseline global H&S standard requirements that we must all meet. With the upcoming rollout of the new H&S digital application, we will be the first region to use a H&S digital platform that ties into Arcadis Way (human capital management and project management system). I am looking forward to sharing our digital H&S application with the global team during our meeting in September and the hope is that other regions will build off our platform to further standardize how we approach proactive H&S engagement across the globe.’
How is Arcadis’s H&S program in comparison with other companies in similar industries?
‘Arcadis’s focus on proactive H&S engagement is typically in line with the industry from a global perspective, with some variations associated with the maturity of the health and safety culture in specific countries and regions. This has resulted in our lagging H&S metrics (Total Recordable Case Frequency and Lost Time Case Frequency) that are generally as good or better than the industry average, although that can be difficult to assess in all countries due to differences in, or lack of, local reporting regimes. Globally, one of the areas where we have the most opportunity is in line with an Arcadis focus area, and that is digital – with H&S beginning its journey in going digital.’
Contact Eric Brooks for more information on how you can become your office’s H&S coordinator
Responsibilities of a H&S coordinator include – monthly office inspections; developing and maintaining a Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) Plan and Emergency Action Plan (EAP); periodic vehicle inspections; and sharing H&S communications from corporate calls and newsletters. Learn more about our business principles around Health and Safety here.
By Roxann West