EHS Leader Reflects on Safety, Success
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published September 25, 2018
If you were to ask if a career in health, safety and environment is effective and rewarding, Chris Laszcz-Davis can easily demonstrate the answer with more than 40 years of experiences in government, industry and management consulting in helping reshape safety culture and expanding environmental health and safety operations. She is currently on the Cal/OSHA Standards Board, the American Society of Safety Professionals’ Council on Professional Affairs (COPA), Co-Chair of the Occupational Hygiene Training Association (OHTA) and is a Board member on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Board of Scientific Counsellors (BSC), just to name a few. Laszcz-Davis’ rich science education and work history in EHS leadership and executive management stewardship has established her role in continually helping to improve companies, workplaces, and the lives of people throughout the world.
Creating a Culture of Safety
In a 2017 health and leadership survey conducted by risk management auditing company Deloitte, 169 CEOs said that health and safety program improvements were deeply important. However, only about one in five CEOs mentioned improving leadership among the key health and safety initiatives they are undertaking. Worker participation was ranked last in a list of health and safety-related topics discussed by boards in the last year. Laszcz-Davis has made it a career goal to get safety management and company goals in line.
Leadership that listens, coupled with data and dedication, are just some of the fundamentals that are part of creating a culture of safety. Laszcz-Davis has a formula to break through destructive habits by utilizing a not-so-secret recipe of strengths in leadership, ethics, and communication.
“You have to have the desire and ability to connect,” she said from her office in Orinda, California, speaking about her leadership style and EHS successes. One of her core philosophies is that “one person can truly make a difference.” However, she says that when it comes to the true effectiveness of an EHS program, it takes individual strengths coming together inclusively, “working hand in hand” to add to the enterprise organization’s operations. “Effective EHS leadership understands operations and guides them through the mire of standards and best practice options,” she said.
Confident, honest, and educated, Laszcz-Davis can talk the industrial safety and health talk. She attributes her track record in the global professional community with being able to help successfully turn industrial safety and health talk into action - by connecting with manufacturing and other industries beyond the environmental, health and safety side of the business and integrating into the DNA of a business. The goal is to nurture a cohesive operational and support staff team with strong safety and health values, skill, problem-solving capability and dedication. This, in turn, provides companies with a strong business foundation, which increases their chances of succeeding overall.
The heart of Laszcz-Davis' career is in progressing environmental health and safety, though it did not start out that way. With curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning and discovery, Laszcz-Davis was heading for medical school back when occupational health and safety demands began to really take off. Having specialized in both chemistry and biology, she opened up her options to include possibilities of a career in health and safety and dove in. “I began to think that I might find it more non-linear and adventurous and less formulaic career-wise,” she said.
Decades later, the adventure continues for one of the most influential EHS leaders in the country. She sees a continuing need to bring cutting-edge subjects such as Total Worker Health, enterprise risk assessment and management, nanotechnology, and exposure limits (to name a few) to the forefront of EHS dialogues. She believes that trends in education and encouraging more multidisciplinary backgrounds will spur more full-bodied EHS change agents in operations to support better global management goals. Some peers call Laszcz-Davis a tireless advocate of environmental, safety and health options for youth, especially young women, and is often considered quite a role model. She is actively involved and encouraging in community STEM Expanding Your Horizons programs, cheering on middle school and high school age girls to be upstanders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Her advice to the young women of the future: Be confident.
“I’ve always believed I can do what I need to do,” she said. “I put my mind to it and go. We all can and should, for our lives aren’t dress rehearsals. We need to seize each day!”