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Building a safer environment with Partners in Performance

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Federico Schepens shirtFederico joined our team in Latin America in August 2019 after spending six years working as a Continuous Improvement Coordinator at Mercedes-Benz Argentina. For the last year, Federico has held the role of Global Safety Manager, working alongside Director and Global Safety Lead, Fred, in ensuring that we uphold our value of ‘No Harm’ to its highest quality and integrity.

 

He has since returned to consulting work, but to commemorate World Safety Day on the 28th April, we asked Federico to share his insights and learnings around safety since joining Partners in Performance.


 

How has your perception of Safety changed since joining the firm?

Safety at Partners in Performance is different to what I have seen in many firms. While in some workplaces ‘safety’ is seen as a department where people simply file and report incidents occurring at work (no doubt, it is a lot of paperwork), I find ‘safety’ is engrained as part of the culture here and is ‘hard wired’ into everyone’s behaviour. The commitment to safety flows naturally throughout the firm – it is not something we do because it is part of a procedure, but because it is the way we do things, at work and at home.

Since joining the firm, I noticed that many of my interactions with my colleagues have safety in mind. For example, during my first time onsite, I casually walked down a flight of stairs and one of my colleagues asked me why I wasn’t using the handrails. I didn’t have a good reason to comment back because I never really consisted the potential risks associated with walking up and down the stairs, but I frequently think back on that moment .To this day, I have been using handrails and I make sure others do so, to this day (including my family members). While my colleague may have since forgotten all about this conversation, I will always remember it as he completely changed my behaviour and attitude towards safety by simply raising an observation in passing.

I have become more observant with identifying work hazards. In fact, I find I am more cautious and look to mitigate risks in everything I do. I have learned a lot about quick prevention strategies and other safety and wellness-related topics from our daily Safety Shares, which are conducted at the beginning of every meeting. I have also put Safety Shares into practice with my partner and kids to encourage safety awareness on a daily basis!

 

While in some workplaces ‘safety’ is seen as a department where people simply file and report incidents occurring at work (no doubt, it is a lot of paperwork), I find that ‘safety’ is engrained as part of the culture here and it is ‘hard wired’ into everyone’s behaviour.

 

How does Safety connect with our core values?

Our firm’s value of ‘No Harm’ resembles the ‘why?’ that supports our Safety practices – we strive to avoid harming ourselves, those around us and our environment. But safety is also strongly connected to another core value of ours, ‘Do the Right Thing’ (consisting of four key elements – Integrity, Compassion and Respect, Courage and Responsibility). When you combine these two core values, you get this powerful culture where everyone is encouraged to do what it takes to keep ourselves, our families, our clients and our community safe.

Going back to my experience with the handrail: it is obvious that my colleague has deeply engrained our values through his actions. First encouraging the ‘No Harm’ value by questioning whether not holding the handrail is considered a risk, but also leading by example by using the handrails when he goes up and down the stairs (integrity). He felt responsible and had the courage to speak up and make me notice the risks I was taking and instead of telling me off, he respectfully asked a really simple question that made me stop and think. It might have looked like a simple act of compassion, but is rarely seen in normal every day settings.

 

How has your role as Safety Manager shaped your view and approach to safety now that you are back 'in the field' consulting?

There are two things I observed.

Firstly, mental health is part of safety. Though I have returned to my normal duties as a consultant, with COVID-19 still at large in Latin America, I am still working from home full-time. Working remotely brings a different set of challenges that we have never faced before, but offers a unique opportunity to broaden the concept of safety by making sure all dimensions of wellbeing are considered – both physical and mental.

Secondly, I also discovered there is a vast number of situations that require tailored solutions – during my time at as the Global Safety Manager, I had the opportunity to connect with different people from all around the world; I realised how broadthe personal situations map can be. When on a client site, the whole team is exposed to similar hazards (you are usually on the same client site, living in the same hotels and always commuting together), but when working from home, the situation can differ from person to person. Some people have their kids at home full-time and have to start home-schooling (myself included); some have less-than-ergonomically-ideal setups (e.g. working on the dining table or on your couch); some live with noisy roommates; some even spending long hours alone with no face-to-face interaction; some may require changing their daily schedules to accommodate for work... the list goes on. We need to make sure that, as a team, we are taking enough time to know and understand this complexity, so we can implement solutions to make remote work sustainable for ourselves, our colleagues, clients, friends and family members.

 Photo fms

Federico often juggles between being a consultant and being a father while working from home. Say hello to his sons Bautista (left) and Benjamin (right)! 

 

How can we contribute to a safer environment for everyone?

We can build a safer environment and achieve ‘No Harm’ if we ‘Do the Right Thing’ – we need to avoid any unnecessary risks and help others do the same by speaking up when we see anything that may be unsafe to ourselves and everything around us in a timely, respectful manner. I strongly believe that Safety is part of our firm’s DNA – and I am proud of it – so we just need to make sure it continues to be that way.

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