Have you thanked your SSO lately? (Do you know who your SSO is?)

Nancy Grossman

Nancy Grossman, head of the Environmental Safety, Health and Quality Services Section, wrote this column.

Senior safety officers (SSOs) are an ESH&Q director’s eyes and ears in the field. They are the key to enabling you to do your work with a minimal amount of safety overhead. They are constantly on the lookout for how to improve programs so we can do more science by reducing the number of unwanted safety-related incidents at the laboratory and by implementing more streamlined processes. So how does that work? Believe me, it is not easy with such a diverse culture and workforce.

Talk to the SSO if you have an issue or suggestion on how to improve something. SSOs bring your ideas to our monthly meetings, and together we figure out a path forward that will work for the lab. Our discussions can get quite heated at times, but that is just because a smart, passionate group of people is trying to do what is best for the lab.

This group reviews all injuries and near misses, applying Human Performance Improvement, better known as HPI. During these incident reviews we try to figure out what went wrong and how we might change lab processes to mitigate the consequences, or, better yet, to prevent it from it occurring again. Near misses are great opportunities that we need to take advantage of. Typically when we hear about a near miss, we make program improvements that address many areas at the lab. If you experience a near miss or see one, share it with your SSO so he or she can make sure that next time, someone won’t get hurt.

Examples of the laboratorywide improvements that came from our SSOs are the Take 5 program, the human performance improvement initiative and, more recently, a labwide hazard analysis database.

Please share your environment, safety and health issues and ideas for improvement with your SSO and supervisor so we can work to improve our ability to do science safely and effectively. And if you don’t know who your SSO is, ask your supervisor!