As a safety team of one, Holly Burgess recommends that anyone in her position have a good ear, thick skin and a loud voice – among many other traits.
“I’m kind of loud, and I’m kind of out there,” said the safety and health manager at Phoenix Paper, a Kentucky-based paper producer. “If you don’t have somebody to walk you around a plant and introduce you, you have to introduce yourself, which I do all the time.”
Burgess considers any time spent building relationships with workers a win for safety. But being a one-person team has plenty of challenges, including isolation and a never-ending schedule of meetings, tasks, trainings and, in some cases, travel.
For Burgess, who has had multiple solo roles during her safety career, including managing workers at more than a dozen sites across the country, time can be the biggest challenge for someone managing safety on their own across numerous locations. “You’re never able to be proactive and never able to get ahead. You’re just fighting fires the whole time.”
Along with Burgess, Safety+Health spoke with four other safety pros who have experience working as a team of one to discuss how they manage their time, find positives, earn trust and remain present for the people they serve.
The challenge of time
In her role, Burgess said she developed an elaborate schedule to make sure she visited workers at every location and showed her teams she was serious.
“They knew I was going to be there the third week of every month, or I’d be in Michigan every other month,” she said. “Yes, it’s a lot of travel, but every location I went to – especially at the beginning – I got in front of people, and not just from a training standpoint. I got in the trucks with them. I tried to build that relationship. I made them realize that I was a 24/7 service to them.”