Since the early 1980s, safety has played a prominent role in how we as a company do business. We find that, when they come to work in a connected, protected environment, our associates are able to focus on their roles and thrive in their professional careers. Safety is of foundational importance in achieving this ideal and is a tenant we carefully cultivate on an ongoing basis.
It is days like World Day for Safety and Health at Work — celebrated April 28 internationally — that help to reaffirm our belief that an emphasis on safety helps create a meaningful work environment. We invited Charlie Young, Milliken’s Corporate Safety Director, to help give us a snapshot of what our emphasis on safety looks like in actual practice.
Describe your role at Milliken.
My role as Corporate Safety Director is to provide direction and support to enable our facilities to continually improve their safety processes, with the goal of achieving zero injuries in the workplace. I do this by establishing protocol and benchmarking data to support the proactive behavior we hope to cultivate in our associates. In addition, I work to ensure our locations understand and comply with all applicable laws and regulations related to occupational safety and health.
Why is safety of foundational importance to Milliken?
By engaging our associates in the safety process and showing them that their safety is a key core value, we foster mutual trust between our company leadership and our associates. This engagement leads to higher levels of performance and job satisfaction for our associates, because they are invested in Milliken.
What is the most important part of building a culture of safety in an organization?
The most important part of building a culture of safety is to engage associates in the safety process. We as a company understand our role in developing an environment where all associates feel their voices are heard and ideas valued. In this setting, associates are then empowered to own the process. Take, for example, our production associates. They are true subject matter experts when it comes to safety and plant operations, so by cultivating relationships intentionally, we are able to draw on their knowledge to develop new ways of improving our processes.
How has the safety and health landscape evolved during your time at Milliken?
Safety and health are becoming more “tech savvy” — developments in wearables, for example, are moving the industry forward by enabling real-time risk reduction. In addition, the use of mobile technology has streamlined the process of identifying hazards and tracking mitigation protocols to completion.
What does promoting a safe work environment mean to you?
Promoting a safe work environment means that everyone on the team has a responsibility to be dialed in on prioritizing safety of the workforce over over demands. Every leader should embody this sentiment, and through that leadership by example, it permeates to all associates in the facility. Having associates who look out for one another is a key part of a safe work environment — humans are imperfect, so while reducing risk will always be important, there is no substitute for the “brother’s keeper” concept in regard to safety.