If you want to be successful in safety, you must be willing to listen—and be compassionate, said Marty Rouse, vice president of safety, CSP, CHST, STS-C, Rosendin Electric Inc., San Jose, Calif. I caught up with Rouse to learn more about how he translates this philosophy into action.
What’s the secret to your success?
The key to my success is remembering where I came from. I started in the construction industry, in the field as a union ironworker. I attended Murray State University, where I received a degree in safety. To this day, I keep our field workers at the top of mind for every program our team develops. We always keep in mind the first thing that people ask: “How will this affect me?” My goal, and that of our team, is to show workers and their families how being safe at work and home improves everyone’s quality of life, be it emotional or physical.
I have instilled in our safety team to ask workers, “What’s the top priority in your life?” To which the No. 1 answer is consistent: Family. Then, to follow up with, “What would you do to protect your family?” And we get the response, “Whatever it takes!” Once we’re able to dig deep, we apply that philosophy and values to safety. If your family is a value to you and you will do anything to protect and provide for them, then look at safety as a value and a way to do that. We ask our employees not to compromise their value of safety for anyone.
Is there a specific injury or almost-injury that changed how you thought about safety on the job?
No one injury in particular stands out. It used to be a constant in the construction industry to see workers injuring each other unintentionally. To improve construction safety, you must first take a look at yourself. It’s easy to blame a company for an injury, but what is a company? It’s a group of people. People have to take accountability for their actions. What right does anyone have to ask someone to put themselves in harm’s way to get a job done? The answer is none.
What spurred your interest in getting into the safety profession?
I believe that construction workers are some of the most talented, caring people in the world. Their job is to build the world, whether it’s roads, schools, data centers, hotels, hospitals, grocery stores or other things. We’re all impacted by the work that construction workers do in all aspects of our life. I wanted to be their voice for change within our industry and really make an impact in keeping our industry safe.
What challenges do you face in managing safety responsibilities for your company?
A challenge we have seen is hiring people from other companies that have not treated their employees with the compassion and respect they deserve. It’s challenging to convince new employees that we do care about their safety and making it home at the end of the day to their families. It’s our top priority. Many companies say they want their employees to work safely, but when it comes down to getting the job done, safety frequently gets pushed to the side. That’s not what we do at Rosendin, and we want our employees to know and live our culture.
We ask our employees not to compromise their safety, or the safety of others, for any reason. This message is challenging to get across. Every employee in the field and the office is given a Stop-Work card signed by our CEO, Mike Greenawalt. This card empowers anyone to stop work at any time if they feel that they, or others, are in danger. We empower our employees to take control of their safety and make a difference in our industry.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic created additional safety challenges?
Yes. We are asking our employees to do things that they have never been asked to do before. It’s a significant change in all of our lives. We have implemented enhanced safety protocols on all of our project sites and in our office. Those include social distancing, masks and an increased number of hand-washing stations, as well as disinfecting and hand-sanitizing stations, to name a few.
Do you have any other advice for safety professionals?
If you want to be successful in safety, you must have a passion for people. You have to show people that you care and that you’re willing to listen and share, and empower others to innovate and excel in safety. Most importantly, you have to be ready to show kindness and compassion.