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Bill Pineda: Director of environment, safety and health, Kelso-Burnett Co.

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert | May 15, 2023
Bill Pineda

Bill Pineda has always been devoted to safety and helping people. Pineda shared his best practices on how to overcome safety challenges.


Bill Pineda has always been devoted to safety and helping people. Pineda, director of environment, safety and health at Kelso-Burnett Co., Rolling Meadows, Ill., shared his best practices on how to overcome safety challenges. He is also a professional speaker, trainer and nationally recognized expert in occupational safety and health management.

What safety practices have been effective?

Working alongside field personnel has effectively influenced other leaders on job sites to take true ownership of proactive safety activities. In addition, reinforcing and supporting our stop work program has enabled employees from every level of the company to stop work if they see an unsafe procedure, job task or act. 

Moreover, quarterly safety committee and best practices meetings have enabled our company to look at incidents, accidents and near-misses with a broader focus. We get feedback from those in and outside of the field, which in turn allows us to dive deeper with our investigations. After all, I’m a true believer that we cannot solve problems with the same thinking that caused them.

We then share the findings of the investigation companywide in a lessons-learned format. Via email and toolbox talks, we push the narrative that it’s not about blame, but prevention of future incidents and accidents. 

Training has been a great push for us as a company. In 2017, we instituted an OSHA 30-hour class for all those who work or even walk on a construction job site. Since then, we have trained nearly 90% of our 500 or so employees. Our initiatives and practices have been so successful that we’ve been asked to share safety practices and training programs with other companies. We take pride in sharing our initiatives and practices because safety is not a secret! 

What challenges do you face in managing safety?

The challenges have changed over the years. When I first took the director position, finding quality employees with an education in safety who are teachable and shared the same vision for addressing issues and employees in the field was a challenge. I worked with a regional university, setting up internships and interviews where I was able to find two stellar individuals.

I mentored them and asked them to build relationships, look people in the eye when shaking hands, generally care about people—even the difficult ones, help people work safely and be a partner in safety. I asked them to get to know the field employees, the electrical field environment, learn more about what they do on a day-to-day basis and help electricians see how they can work safely. I told them that when it’s time to be firm, be firm—but do it with respect and class.

More recently, the challenges are staying on top of the latest technology and where to best spend our time and resources in that market. I have also faced my own biases with virtual meetings versus in-person meetings. I still believe more can be accomplished if people meet in person—rarely if ever did I walk away from a virtual meeting feeling as though issues were resolved completely. Whereas in person, full attention was given by all. I’ve had countless satisfactory in-person meetings, walking away with the resolutions.

I approach the challenges we face daily in the safety field with a curious mind and always ask myself if we are failing to look beyond the obvious with these challenges.

How do you encourage crews to take safety seriously?

I’ve spent time as an electrician, so I understand the issues faced by the employees exposed to hazards, and I understand the culture set for those in the field. This understanding allows me to bridge the gap and be a resource for the ever-improving safety management system and culture. I set high expectations for those in the field because I believe people will perform to the level of expectations set for them.

We also utilize a coaching approach on the job to eliminate unsafe behaviors. This coaching has been successful enough that foremen continuously utilize it with other workers.

Do you have any other advice for safety professionals?

Hire the right people for your company, develop and implement a specific training program, build personal relationships with your employees and share incidents and accidents with all employees. Look at the root of the problem, give guidance and be a resource for your fellow employees.

It’s important to state that finding the “why” people work safely—which could be their spouse, kids or hobbies—has been a cornerstone to developing the safety culture in my company. When you find the employees’ “why,” they tend to become an advocate for the safety program and keep themselves and others around them safe.

Header image: Bill Pineda

About The Author

KUEHNER-HEBERT is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience. Reach her at [email protected].  

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