College of Education and Professional Studies

Jesse HilleyJesse Hilley, Safety Manager - OKC Utilities Dept.

(Story courtesy of ASSE (American Society of Safety Engineers) OKC September 2012 Newsletter)

Jesse has been a safety professional for 10 years. He received his B.S. in Industrial Safety from UCO, and started his career as an Asbestos Compliance Inspector at the OK Dept. of Labor. His current responsibilities at the City of OKC Utilities Department include seven lines of business that involve Water, Waste-water, and Solid Waste.

Question and Answer with Jesse Hilley

Q - What is your safety philosophy?

I believe you have to make safety personal and promote it as a value in your organization. I call it the soft side of safety. It really helps answering the “why” when talking to managers and workers. I also believe you must hold your managers and employees accountable for their roles and responsibilities in a safety management system. Our organization is currently promoting an initiative, 100% Commitment/Zero Excuses that requires participation by all employees.

Q - What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy watching the positive impact that safety has on an organization. As a safety professional I get to see all layers of our organization. Interacting and helping our managers and workers solve their safety issues is enjoyable such as finding the right PPE to helping them customize safety initiatives that will be effective in their culture. The Utilities Department has been the trailblazers in promoting safety in the City of Oklahoma City government. Other Oklahoma City Departments are showing interest in what we are doing such as our safety training plan, succession planning, and safety compliance.

Q - What is one of your most rewarding experiences?

The Utilities Department has had a dramatic decrease in OSHA recordable injuries in the last five years. It has been rewarding achieving this success as a team and developing positive relationships with managers and employees. Our organization rewarded all employees in our department with luncheons in each division and our director presented award plaques to groups that demonstrated exceptional safety performance. Seeing these groups recognized by top management was a rewarding experience.

Q - Specifically in your industry, what is the most important issue?

COMMUNICATION! We have a fairly large department, 750 employees and two safety professionals and one safety intern. We rely heavily on Division Managers and supervisors to dis-cuss issues such as procedural changes, safety performance, etc. with their employees. It is also important to have a healthy ratio of safety professionals to employees.

Q - What do you believe is the future of safety?

With more and more organizations implementing safety programs and with an aging workforce, safety professionals need to be creative on how they support safety management systems and the technology they use to keep up with the demand of their clients.