I recently had the honor of speaking to employees at Chemours Company in Ingleside, TX. Chemours is a $6 billion global company and a leader in titanium technologies and other chemical solutions. They are committed to “harnessing the power of chemistry as a catalyst to help the ordinary become the extraordinary.” I arrived at the Chemours Ingleside Plant and immediately saw that they take workplace safety very seriously. However, they don’t stop “on the job” – their safety procedures extend towards keeping employees safe and healthy at work, home and everywhere in between!
Left: Kevin Saunders gives his motivational safety speech to Chemours Company in Ingleside, TX Kevin shares how he was in a terrible accident where he was thrown over a two story building over 300 feet onto a concrete parking lot. This happened because of a MECHANICAL MALFUNCTION + HUMAN ERROR = CATASTROPHE!
Right: Kevin Saunders took a picture with some of the Chemours Company – Ingleside, TX Safety and Chemical Team leaders & safety experts
As a matter of fact, upon rolling into their facility, I glanced at a banner showing the Chemours Safety Pledge. There were 3 points on it that are the perfect summary of what it is to promote worker safety in a meaningful way. I was there to speak on the importance of Safety 1st on Every Job, and the banner told me everything I needed to know about their commitment to this important area.
On the Chemours Safety Pledge banner were the following three points.
- We take care of ourselves and each other – Everyone is empowered to raise and resolve safety concerns. Leadership is active and visible.
- We are safe on and off the job. – We owe it to ourselves, coworkers, family, customers, and our communities to be safe. We do things the right way every time and always stress to improve.
- We train to have knowledge and work safely. – We learn from near misses, incidents, audits, and injuries and share our learning in the spirit of cooperation and prevention.
Wow! Those concepts are stated so simply, but they hold a very deep significance. When I read each one, this is what comes to mind….
We take care of ourselves and each other – For me this boils down to everyone being part of the safety team, whether they are wearing a hard hat or in upper management positions. When everyone is putting a huge emphasis on safety from the top to the bottom, it is much more likely you’ll find success in doing so. Safety isn’t “someone else’s” responsibility…it’s EVERYONE’s responsibility. And “taking care of ourselves and each other” doesn’t stop at how you accomplish job procedures. It means that there is something more connecting the individuals and teams at Chemours: appreciation, respect, and care for the well-being of your co-workers and others.
We are safe on and off the job – Most people tend to think of workplace safety only in terms of avoiding accidents or other hazardous conditions in the work environment. But workplace safety goes much further. If we really want to encourage workplace safety, isn’t it critical to promote overall worker health? To value worker rest and preparedness? To promote physical fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Every employee executes their job functions to the best of their ability and all of these factors influence the quality of our work, and even our ability to complete it safely.
We train to have knowledge and work safely – Training and knowledge have always been key cornerstones in a company’s drive to be successful in the market, just like training is a key component in making athletes great. Chemours understands that creating a culture of constant learning in all areas of safety keeps employees better prepared for anything. They can anticipate issues before they arise, plan and execute corrective actions and even design more effective tools, resources, procedures and failsafe measures. When safety is a part of your job and training sharpens your skill and expertise, there is no limit to where you can apply improvements to increase your performance. And with a team of similarly prepared individuals, communication and collaboration are working hand-in-hand so that the right things get done.
In sports, you have to know how your team plays, and your role and responsibility on and off the field. Chemours Ingleside employees are succeeding through these same principles. Athletes want to stay injury-free in order to continue participating at the highest level of competition, and being part of their team’s success. Work is no different – accidents affect everyone.
Motivation – I love the sports world because nothing mirrors real life better than working for a company like Chemours. To be successful in either world it takes effort, discipline, courage, determination and giving your best effort every time you train and compete. Do your best work on a job while always putting SAFETY 1st!
I incorporated those points into my safety speech. I also shared my story of being injured and nearly killed in the nearby Corpus Christi Public Grain elevator explosion – one of the worst explosions in Texas history. That explosion occurred because the grain elevator operators failed to put safety first.
On that day, many of my coworkers were killed. I was fortunate to survive after being blown over a two story building, flying more than 300 feet through the air and coming down hard on a concrete parking lot. I landed with tremendous force on the back of my head and shoulders. The blast wave of the explosion blew my legs over my torso and broke my body at the chest, like you bend at the waist. It snapped my ribs and spine and collapsed my lungs. No one expected me to make it.
After almost losing my life and spending a year in the hospital I came back to become one of the top athletes in the Coastal Bend area, which includes the Chemours location in Ingleside, TX. A few years after my accident, I had done over 50 television commercials on education and fitness, making me a well-known sports figure in the Corpus Christi, TX, viewing area in the ‘80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. After speaking to the Chemours plant employees, I discovered that many of them remembered me from those television commercials and sports interviews.
Some people say that motivation doesn’t last, whether it’s for sports success or making safety first! Well, neither does taking a shower or a bath! That’s why it is imperative you start by putting safety first from the moment you wake up, keeping it in your mind throughout the day, and ending your day by reflecting on what you could have personally improved. That’s what it takes to stay accident-free on the job!
The accident that changed my life forever could have been prevented. Because of my experience, I have made it part of my life mission to carry a message of safety to the workplace. I never want to see anyone hurt as badly as I was and have their life changed forever just because safety precautions were ignored or otherwise neglected.
What is a Chemours Ingleside Safety Champion?
During my visit to Chemours, I thought about how I would define the term “Safety champion.” A champion is something you become through a process involving self-improvement, sacrifice, service, the attainment of your professional goals, and yes, putting Safety 1st on every job you do. These highest goals are normally out of reach of all except those willing to pay the price and always go the extra mile! Because that’s how champions are made in sports and on the job. Be sure to go the extra mile because anything less than your best is where incidents can happen! That’s where you and your coworkers pay the price by getting injured!
We will put SAFETY 1st on every job we do!
I also believe that “There’s NO shortcut to success but good old-fashioned hard work!” I can see it in people whom I work with. I can see it in athletes I’m trying to motivate. I can see it in companies I present to. Chemours Ingleside showed me that they consistently put out the extra effort that enables them to keep their plant incident-free. No shortcuts and no compromises.
Every day you’ve got to do what it takes to win! So start your day by always looking for and staying aware of any and all safety hazards for yourself and your coworkers on every job!
NEVER BE COMPLACENT
After many numerous trips as a world champion athlete, multiple world record holder and multiple Paralympic medalist and Paralympic record holder, I found that my success in competition was directly linked to my preparation, both mentally and physically. Being accident free at home or on the job works the same way – mental and physical preparation are linked to maintaining an incident-free workplace.
This preparation usually began long before I arrived at an event as a competitor, or on the job as a worker. As an athlete, you want to make sure to warm up and get fired up to maximize your ability to perform during practice time. I found that it was vital to get immediate feedback from coaches or strength trainers on how to improve my ability to progress as an athlete to constantly get better at all I do. I know that getting warmed up on the job and putting safety first as a team leader or worker can provide immediate feedback, especially when you see a coworker doing something that could possibly cause an accident. It is so important on the job that you have a team atmosphere so everyone can progress as a worker, leader or manager. Each individual, regardless of their level, must lead by example and always put safety first!
Kevin Saunders presented Chemours company – Ingleside, TX with a copy of his book “There’s Always A Way!” Kevin also presented the team leaders with his challenge coins to challenge the team leaders to step up to the next level when it comes to being successful on the job while always putting safety 1st in all aspects of their lives at home, to and from work in all they do!
I hope more companies will follow Chemours’ lead when it comes to those three key safety points. There is no better way to get everyone on board with workplace safety and how we all benefit from a safe workplace. When every team member can think and act from a Safety 1st perspective, you’ve got the makings of a Safety Champion, and the rewards that come with achieving goals without incidents.
I also presented Chemours Ingleside with a Gold medal. I want that medal to serve as a constant reminder to all employees to make sure Safety is on their mind at all times – when they clock in, when they start a job, when they complete an assignment, and when they are done for the day. By keeping safety at the top of their minds, they will allow everyone on their team to GO FOR THE GOLD IN ALL THEY DO!
AIM For ZERO Incidents! Every Day!
You can make a living at whatever you chose to do in life. But I firmly believe in finding a job that you’re happy doing! When you are happy at work, not only do you get to enjoy it, you can also serve others in a way that makes their lives better and contributes to others. That’s what really makes your job worthwhile! Thanks for reading and keep GOING FOR THE GOLD! by being the best you can be in all you do in life!