ASSP Safety 2020 Virtual: Creating a Safety Culture with Diversity & Inclusion in Mind

During the first full day of sessions at the American Society of Safety Professionals’ Safety 2020 Virtual Conference and Expo, a panel on diversity and inclusion really stood out.

Safety professionals from around the country are tuning into the American Society of Safety Professionals’ virtual Safety 2020 Conference and Expo from their computers at their home or office. The day was full of sessions on topics such as eye and face protection, construction site safety, electrical safety, Total Worker Health programs and more. The session that stood out most, however, was on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Session speakers Lindsay Bell, Regional Health and Safety Manager at Solvay, and Abby Ferri, Co-Founder of Safety Justice League broke down not only what it means to be inclusive, but how to take safety issues and turn them into action items with the help of diverse employee voices who want to see change in the workplace.

First, Bell discussed what the words diversity, equality and inclusion mean. Though these words are normally lumped together, they do not share similar definitions and connotations. Diversity can be defined as, “Everyone is individual and different,” while equality can be defined as, “Everyone has equal access to opportunities.”

Inclusion however, is an all-encompassing word that Bell defined as, “a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that you can do your best at work.”

“Inclusivity should be your goal,” Bell said. “You want your team to feel like they belong, like they are valued and that they are respected.”

Bell and Ferri explained that when people feel included, they feel they are able to express to you, the safety professional, their concerns so that positive change can occur. Because that is what the safety professional is there to do – be a change agent.

In order to be a change agent, however, the safety professional must hear from all perspectives in a workplace. To ensure that these perspectives are inclusive, those in the safety professional’s role must work towards the steps that Bell and Ferri outlined in their session using the acronym P.I.T. S.T.O.P. (Pause, Invite, Trust, Shift gears, Turn the Corner, Open, Proceed).

It is the safety professional’s role to pause when an issue arises, invite members to a committee to discuss (careful not to force those with unique perspectives to join), trust that those members are open and honest with you and then shift gears to pose potential action items that can lead to solutions.

Be sure that when working with committee members that you are turning corners by moving forward with action items and leading by example. Be open to critique and understand that a large part of being a successful safety manager is the ability to learn and fail. If a solution is not working out the way it was intended to, listen to feedback and try again.

The final step is to proceed. These pit stops are not to be done once a year, but are to be repeated when necessary. When safety professionals show employees that outcomes are more important than intentions, more employees will want to become part of the solution.

Bell and Ferri’s presentation titled “Racing Toward Inclusion: How to Impact Your Safety Culture,” was part of the three-day ASSP Safety 2020 Virtual event. To learn more, visit

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the former editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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