Health, safety and the environment: a priority for Safran in the Americas
April 28, 2021
The United Nations World Day for Safety and Health at Work – observed annually on April 28 – promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally.
This awareness-raising campaign focuses international attention to the magnitude of these problems, and on how promoting and creating a safety and health culture can help reduce the number of work-related injuries and deaths.
Cesar Gonzalez, Safran's health, safety and environment (HSE) focal for the Americas, has broad experience in corporate environmental, industrial hygiene, health and safety activities. A graduate in chemical engineering and management, he worked in the automotive sector before joining Safran via the former Zodiac Aerospace (who activities are now part of Safran Aerosystems, Safran Cabin and Safran Seats).
In the following interview, Gonzalez explains the role, structure, and importance of the HSE function at Safran, including how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of health safety and environment in corporations and businesses:
How would you describe your role?
I am the point of contact for the Safran Group's HSE Department in the Americas (covering Canada, USA, Mexico and Brazil). One of the department's main activities is to facilitate the HSE network and help sites with implementing the Group HSE Management System (manuals, standards, work with the Safran University's North America team to coordinate HSE training. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in the process of developing local training capabilities as well as online alternatives.
Another important part of my role – which I currently miss due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions – is visiting sites to verify their HSE standards implementation in preparation for certification audits. In the Americas zone, I also work with HSE coordinators at Tier One companies to ensure we support their objectives and goals for the year.
What are the challenges of working in the HSE sectors, and how do you respond to them?
Our operations are very dynamic. When we have new processes and programs, there are associated risks and requirements that need to be addressed. Of course, we also have changing conditions as a result of emerging regulatory requirements and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The beauty is that we have a system that helps us overcome these challenges: we have processes to identify new requirements, change management, risk assessments, training, communication, etc. We just need to believe in our system and work through it.
How do you keep up-to-date on the requirements for each geographical zone?
This is when networking really comes in handy; we have great team members that share this information. Additionally, it has become easier because most of the agencies (federal, state and local) are publishing the new requirements on their websites, and there are external suppliers that offer this service as well.
How do you underscore the importance of employees taking a positive approach to health, safety and the environment at work?
I would like to have every employee become an "HSE ambassador" – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because we truly want to take care of the wellbeing of our coworkers, ourselves and our communities. When we reach this point, we will have a strong HSE culture.
How has COVID-19 impacted the HSE function?
In my view, COVID-19 has placed the HSE function at the heart of operations, making it an even more relevant function. The pandemic has demanded adaptation and resilience of our team members to cope with the rapidly-changing environment. Collectively at Safran, we have done a great job dealing with the pandemic and maintaining our management system.
Innovation plays a key role at Safran. Are you able to apply this in your position?
Absolutely, we need to continue to look at new ways to improve our services and support the operations by taking advantage of new technologies. We have adapted the way we provide training, perform system audits, and stay connected within the network.
What are some of the ways in which you raise awareness of the importance of workplace health and safety?
Our sites are very creative in developing new activities that raise awareness about HSE. These activities are part of Safety Day, HSE Day and HSE Week events, including practical training on various subjects, contests (recycling, proactive identification of safety hazards, knowledge of HSE standards, rallies, physical activities, etc.).
Certain of our sites work with the suppliers of safety devices and personal protective equipment (PPE) to conduct awareness sessions. Local fire departments also participate with fire prevention briefings and the demonstration how to use fire extinguishers.
Promotion of health and wellness is sometimes done with participation of local hospitals and clinics through orientation, awareness of common health conditions (hypertension, diabetes, overweight, etc.) and how to improve health through good habits. Some locations even work with external organizations to have a positive influence in their communities.