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Sandy Says: Are You a Safety Advocate?

Feb. 5, 2016
The appointment of a “safety advocate” at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles caught my eye. What, I thought, does a formal “safety advocate” do?

On Jan. 15, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US) announced that Kristen Kreibich was named to the newly established position of safety advocate for the company. Kreibich brings more than 20 years of manufacturing, regulatory and safety experience to her new position, and is tasked with enriching the safety culture at FCA US.

“Everyone is a safety advocate at FCA US, because safety considerations are baked in to every component of every product we make,” says Mike Dahl, head of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance (VSRC). “But Kristen’s appointment is the embodiment of this mindset. She is our new safety ambassador.”

The position of safety advocate is a new one for VSRC, an organization that was restructured in 2014 to streamline critical decision-making. In slightly more than one year, the number of vehicle-safety personnel in the organization has more than doubled. Just as significant, Dahl reports directly to CEO Sergio Marchionne.

In her new position, Kreibich will be responsible for promoting greater awareness of vehicle and occupant safety – both internally with FCA US employees – and externally with regulators, industry observers and trade associations. In addition to highlighting the company’s safety engineering achievements, she will share her insights about proposed legislation and the evolution of the safety landscape.

“Because of my background, I am passionate about vehicle safety,” said Kreibich, who previously served FCA US as manager of vehicle safety planning. “It’s a topic of vital importance and my mission will be to ensure it remains top of mind, universally. Because we are all stakeholders – my colleagues here at FCA US, my regulatory counterparts, third-party ratings groups, dealers and especially our customers.”

Although Kreibich’s focus will be on vehicle and occupant safety, it made me contemplate the idea of formal “safety advocates” for worker safety and health efforts.

Given that FCA US created a position of “safety advocate” for vehicles and customers, I wanted to know more about employee safety at the company. What I discovered is that FCA provides measurements of employee safety as part of its sustainability efforts and includes workplace safety and health in the “Our Culture” section of its annual sustainability report, two things that “safety excellence” companies are doing.

As discussed in EHS News this month, a new report by the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability claims that integrated reports on performance tell a business’ stakeholders of its ability to create value in a sustainable way and feature data on a range of non-financial matters. This means that “human capital” issues such as the mental and physical health of the workforce and employee engagement are considered material to a company’s performance, just like balance sheets and statements of cash flow.

In every country and area of activity, FCA gives paramount importance to achieving the highest standards of workplace health and safety, which it considers essential to the success of the organization."

— FCA US Sustainability Report

When Dahl talked about safety being “baked in” to every component of every product FCA makes, he meant it.

“In every country and area of activity, FCA gives paramount importance to achieving the highest standards of workplace health and safety, which it considers essential to the success of the organization,” states the most recent sustainability report from the company.

According to the report, the principal pillars of FCA’s commitment to health and safety are:

•  The continuous reduction in accidents, in terms of both severity and frequency.

•  An alignment of all FCA plants and facilities, new and existing, to the highest international standards (OHSAS18001).

•  The promotion of a culture of health and well-being for all employees.

“FCA considers a safe and healthy working environment a basic right for all employees,” FCA notes in the sustainability report. “Operating according to the highest international standards requires an integrated approach to the management of health and safety in our plants and offices. The commitment in this area not only covers employees, but also suppliers, service providers and local communities.”

During 2014, employees submitted more than 2 million suggestions, of which 260,000 were ideas on how to improve health and safety conditions. The year-over-year increase of 74.5 percent in the total number of employee suggestions “demonstrates the significant level of participation and commitment to health and safety throughout the organization,” says FCA, adding: “This level of involvement has helped to develop a culture of proactiveness and prevention.”

As the sustainability report notes, at FCA, “health is not simply considered as a lack of illness or risk factors, but is considered more broadly in terms of the workers’ well-being.”

I’d say that’s safety advocacy at its best.

EHS Today is an IndustryWeek companion site within Penton's Manufacturing & Supply Chain Group.

About the Author

Sandy Smith | Editor-in-Chief

Sandy Smith is editor-in-chief of EHS Today, a Penton publication. She has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. She has been interviewed about occupational safety and health for documentaries and television programs, has served as a panelist on roundtables, has provided the keynote address for occupational safety and health conferences and has won national and international awards for her articles.

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