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Safety and its Impact on your State of Mind with Lorraine Martin, President and CEO of the National Safety Council in the United States.

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Lorraine Martin

 

The National Safety Council is a non-profit advocacy organisation with a century-long legacy of eliminating injuries and deaths from the workplace. “As a leader at NSC, I am passionate about helping people live their fullest lives”. “My role is to spearhead national conversations and actions on eliminating workplace fatalities through technology, addressing impairment and safety leadership”. Lorraine also chairs the Road to Zero Coalition made up of more than 2000 organisations. “The coalition is focused on eliminating roadway fatalities. We are doing this by doubling down on proven measures, advancing technology, and building safe systems”. 

Reflecting on Professor Amy Edmondson’s coining of the term “psychological safety” twenty-four years ago and her participation in the Beyond the Buzzword: Psychological Safety in the Modern Workplace symposium, Lorraine Martin describes where she believes the OSH profession is on the journey to creating psychologically safe workplaces. “In many ways, I believe we are at the outset of this journey”, Lorraine explains. “We’ve seen a lot of progress, with many organisations today placing a great emphasis on creating psychologically safe environments”.  

“However, there are still workplaces that are grappling with how to define, understand, and quantify psychological risks”. It’s clear to Lorraine that there is more work to do, particularly in identifying barriers to psychological safety. 

“Put simply”, Lorraine explains, “one of the biggest barriers is simply understanding the issue. Psychological safety is more than just a person being willing to report an unsafe condition or workplace. It’s about their ability to bring their full selves to work every day. Understanding the unique risk factors that make up each individual worker – such as gender, age, ethnicity, religion etc. – and what they need to feel safe is essential to creating a culture of psychological safety in the workplace”. 

At the World Congress, Lorraine will be speaking to why organisations need to move away from processes to a sense of belonging. “Any organisation can put processes in place, and they only go so far. It is those real, daily interactions in which the process of policy is given life”. Creating a psychologically safe workplaces requires honesty says Lorraine. “A trusting, honest conversation or action is what truly creates a psychologically safe workplace. With each of these, we foster that sense of belonging, and over time, create a culture in which psychological safety is emphasised and lived out”. 

The symposium will also offer multiple perspectives from a range of industries and business size. “The principles of psychological safety are relatively similar for many businesses. However, the challenges and solutions may be different for each”. “For example, explains Lorraine, “in a small business, creating a culture of safety, including psychological safety can happen much more quickly than in a larger organisation.”  

“There are a couple of philosophies and strategies that businesses are using to overcome challenges and support physical and psychological safety of their workforces, including serious injury, illness, and fatality prevention (SIIF) or human and organisational performance (HOP). For more on those topics, I encourage people to explore some of the cutting-edge research by the National Safety Council and the Campbell Institute”. 

Influencing OSH leaders and professionals that psychological safety is just as important as physical safety at work, is a key remit of Lorraine’s role at the NSC. “We follow the data, and the data tells us that our physical safety is tied inextricably to our psychological safety”. She highlights a recent NSC survey which included questions about physical and psychological safety. “It was conducted earlier this year and found that workers who feel their employer discourages reporting are 2.4 times more likely to have experienced a work injury. And we have examples of people whose safety has been impacted by their state of mind”. There’s a phrase we say constantly at NSC, to as many stakeholders as we can: in order to be safe you have to feel safe. 

Lorraine also encourages OSH leaders and professionals to utilise NSC resources and networking opportunities. “Take advantage of the many resources the NSC has to offer, including several articles on psychological safety and how DEI plays an important role in workplace safety”. Building networks is also important. “Establish and grow relationships with related partners in your organisation, including human resources and employee health leaders”. 

Lorraine describes her commitment to eliminating all preventable fatalities and keeping people safe wherever they are as she reflects on her thirty-five-year career in the aerospace business. "When I retired from Lockheed Martin, I knew I wanted to give back and help people live their lives to the fullest”.  

Safety had always been a priority for Lorraine. “And whilst I had never heard of the National Safety Council (even though Lockheed Martin was a member at the time), I immediately recognised the significance of the work NSC was doing to protect people at work and on the road. Now I get to embody this commitment and help businesses across the country keep their employees safe”. 

Lorraine is ready to move beyond the theoretical as a speaker at the Beyond the Buzzword: Psychological Safety in the Modern Workplace symposium. “All of the speakers are so varied in their experience and expertise. I’m excited to delve into the stories, tips and ideas that will really bring psychological safety to life and offer our delegates help in building safer workplaces”. 

Lorraine Martin is unambiguous about her contribution to the symposium. "I want the attendees to come away with the certainty that psychological safety is not a trend or a concept, but a very real, very important aspect of everyday life". And she’d like each delegate to leave the symposium thinking “how can make my employees more psychologically safe as soon as I get home?”. 

As the interview comes to an end, we ask Lorraine what she is most looking forward to during the World Congress. "Safety does not have borders. It's important for the international OSH community to come together to share ideas and learn from one another around our common goal of saving lives". 

"That's why I decided to participate, and what I'm most excited about - the new ideas I'll bring home and share with others. We are stronger when we collaborate and share with one another." 

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