The Safety Family
For those of us who work in safety, we often refer to ourselves as a “family” of safety professionals. There is good reason for that. We realize that we share a bond, such as most family members do. That bond is our passion to help others perform their jobs as safely as possible so that they may go home to their families at the end of their workday.
The past week, we lost two members of our safety family and clients of Baldwin Safety and Compliance as well. Ken McLure, Director of Safety and Compliance for Alaska Seaplanes based in Juneau, Alaska and Joe Guhin, Director of Safety at 21 Air based in Greensboro, NC. Both were shocking because they were sudden and unexpected. They were both true safety professionals and will be greatly missed. Both deaths hit me hard, but Ken’s passing hit me especially hard. Not only were we fellow safety professionals, but we were also friends. We worked together previously at the same airline where our friendship developed.
While listening in via Zoom to Ken’s funeral service the other day, it came as no surprise to me to hear the word “passionate” used to describe Ken by one of those who shared their thoughts about Ken. Ken was that and much more. Ken was a good person, with a big heart. He was a dedicated family man as well. I don’t think he had ever met a stranger!
Ken took on the challenge of building an SMS at Alaska Seaplanes. Ken’s boss said that when he interviewed Ken for his job, he laid out his vision for what he felt Alaska Seaplanes needed and that it would not be easy. He wanted to make sure Ken knew what he was getting himself in to before he accepted the job. Somewhat to his boss’s surprise, Ken seemed eager and enthusiastic about the idea. Ken’s boss remembered asking himself “Is this guy for real?” after Ken eagerly agreed to take on this huge undertaking. Ken wasn’t afraid to take on a challenge! Ken was making huge strides in the safety culture at Alaska Seaplanes at the time of his untimely passing. This is what a “true” safety person can do for an organization, and that is, to have a positive effect on their culture! Ken did, as the old saying goes, walk his talk. It was said that Ken was seen everywhere around the Alaska Seaplanes operations, finding out first-hand, what the safety conditions were and engaging his fellow workers. I recall many times our calls being interrupted by Ken being called upon to help with a safety matter. It was not a problem, we both understood that this is what it takes to be a successful safety professional.
For those lucky enough to have a dedicated Safety Manager or Director as part of their operations, be thankful. They are an asset, one which many operators don’t have. Most Safety professionals I have met are like Ken and Joe. They are caring people and have normally already been in service to others which ultimately led them to their Safety roles. Take time to get to know your Safety Manager / Director.