A Look at the Three Es of Safety Leadership


By Charmine McKinley

During a recent open call hosted by ASSE's Blacks in Safety Engineering Common Interest Group, Britt Howard shared his path to success and what he has learned along the way. He shared his background and what drives his passion for safety. He didn’t focus on his many degrees or certifications, instead, he shared this motto: “Give to those who are less fortunate and or less knowledgeable.” This principle, he said, will make your environment safe from a cultural perspective. Those in safety roles are often stewards for developing culture.

Early in his career, Howard developed and focused on three important principles that he called the three Es:

  1. Educate others.
  2. Engineer out as many hazards as possible.
  3. Enforce what has been put into place.

Over the course of his career, Howard added to his “E” principles:

  1. Expectations.
  2. Explanation.
  3. Example.
  4. Engineering.
  5. Education.
  6. Execution.
  7. Enforcement.
  8. Encouragement
  9. Embracement
  10. Exci​tement.
  11. Empathy.

He ultimately narrowed this list to these three principles: expectations, execution and excitement.


When thinking about the principle of expectation, Howard used a slogan that many can relate to: “Coaching is short term, but mentoring is long term.” This saying gives a vivid picture of how changing a culture doesn’t happen with reminding employees to put on their glasses. It causes a person to become thoroughly invested in the success of that individual. Howard refers to his co-workers was his “work-family.” Those with whom he works are his family, therefore he does everything possible to protect his them.


To drive the principle of execution, Howard reminded us about K.I.S.S.: Keep it super simple. He believes that any procedure and or policy put in place should be so simple that others could explain it to a 6-year-old. In addition, he also makes it a priority to plan, do, check, act and debrief everything—in that order.


The final principal, excitement or enthusiasm, is the tool to influence how people receive the information you present. If there is excitement in what you are presenting, no one will ever question your passion. Much of safety is explaining and training. If you are not excited about an annual training or new-hire training, it will be reflected in your teaching.

In conclusion, Barrack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for someone else or we wait for another time, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek. “

Be the change today.

A recording of Howard's presentation is available on the BISE web page.

Charmine McKinley is a plant safety representative with Georgia-Pacific LLC. She holds a B.S. in Safety Management from Indiana State University. 


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