Steven Guillory said he believes safety is one of those things human beings take for granted. “When we do something repetitively, it is human nature to become complacent. That is why it is important to continually promote safety; to remind others to be mindful of it,” he said.
His constant desire and determination to remind fellow City of Houston employees about the value safety has in life is one the many reasons the World Safety Organization awarded him the 2020 Environmental &Occupational Safety & Health Safety Person of the Year Certificate.
Also known as the “International Safety Person of the Year” certificate, the award recognizes an individual who has given above-average support and dedication to the protection of people, property, resources, and the environment on an international basis.
The World Safety Organization was founded in 1975 as a result of an international conference, organized by the Safety Organization of the Philippines. They encourage the effective exchange of information and experiences between members while advancing its overall theme of “Making Safety a Way of Life . . . Worldwide.”
He said he considers the certificate to be a significant honor and is excited knowing that his efforts in the safety profession are being recognized and appreciated by his peers.
“I have received local, regional, and national recognitions as a safety professional. That said, I have never been recognized on a global scale. Being recognized by my peers both nationally and internationally is a big deal and a first for me,” he said.
Guillory, who is the safety program manager for the Human Resources Department, has been with the City of Houston for 14 years. The Baldwin, La., native was hired by the Houston Airport System as a safety representative after he graduated from East Carolina University with a Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety in 2006.
He was promoted to Safety Supervisor in 2011 before becoming Safety Division Manager from 2015 to 2020.
Guillory also said the primary way to make safety a way of life whether at work or at home is by practicing safe work habits daily. One way that can be done for the City of Houston is to ensure all employees practice safe work habits day in and day out is by incorporating safety into essential functions of the organization.
“For example, making it mandatory for all COH employees to have a safety goal on their HEAR plan instantly gives employees the responsibility to engage in continual safe work practices while at work. It also requires that employees in managerial roles be accountable for providing safe work environment for all to work,” he said.
Making safety a priority is particularly challenging in today’s COVID-19 environment, something Guillory said he is acutely aware of.
“COVID-19 has redefined how we view assigned work locations in the City of Houston. In addition to keeping employees safe in the office, vehicle, and the field, we now must consider working safely at home. I believe the biggest challenges from this pandemic for me are yet to come,” he said.
He said safety program managers must take all of the data and lessons learned from our experiences with COVID-19 and revisit safety policies, procedures, and emergency action plans in order to be better prepared if we are faced with another pandemic or other health-related emergency event.
The city has recently re-branded and enhanced its Zero is Possible (ZIP) safety program, which promotes its motto "Zero Incidents, Zero Injuries, Zero Compromises."
“My long-term goal is consistent with the ZIP safety program motto. While it may seem impossible for some, I believe zero injuries is possible in the city of Houston.”
“If organizations similar (or larger) in size and complexity with similar (or more) hazards innate to their operations can go days, months, and even years without experiencing a recordable injury, why not us?” Guillory said.
That mindset also aligns with a personal saying of his: "If you have zero injuries, you have zero medical costs to pay.”
“The money saved by preventing or reducing incidents and medical claims due to injury can go towards potential salary increases, additional personnel, and new equipment (just to name a few) to support the overall operation of the city. Everyone wins,” he said.
Guillory also said academic research shows that increased safety awareness and a positive safety culture improves efficiency and productivity, therefore improving operations. “Conversely, if we are unsafe at work or provided unsafe environments in which to work, the City’s productivity will ultimately suffer, and we all lose,” he said.
“Whether it is at home or at work, being mindful of safety improves everything around us,” he said.
Guillory said although he was named Safety Person of the Year, the award belongs with his colleagues in the HR Department.
“They believe in me, what I stand for, and what I am trying to achieve for the City of Houston,” he said. “True to the World Safety Organization theme, they truly strive to make safety a way of life in the City of Houston.”