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James “Skipper” Kendrick, a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and former President of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), is the Manager of Industrial Safety and Hygiene at Bell Helicopter. In this interview, Kendrick describes how safety practices and training methods are implemented at Bell Helicopter. He also offers suggestions for improving safety performance and training in the workplace and shares his perspective on the future of safety professionals.


What do you believe are the benefits of integrating the “Six Sigma,” “5S” and “Lean” methodologies into companies’ safety, health and environmental (SH&E) programs? Does Bell Helicopter use these methodologies in its own safety programs?

These three concepts are all about eliminating waste and stabilizing a process to a high level of predictability. What better benefit than to eliminate the eighth waste—injury/illness—and to stabilize the process to prevent the same? Throughout these disciplines, typical safety tools (job hazard analysis, inspections, root cause corrective actions, ergonomic evaluations, etc.) can be used to eliminate those things that might cause injury or illness and to put actions into place to ensure continued safe performance.

What are your responsibilities as Manager of Industrial Safety and Hygiene at Bell Helicopter? How do you ensure that safety is maintained among employees and students?

I am responsible for protecting the people, property and environment as we produce products to protect our military personnel and to satisfy our commercial customers. We ensure excellent safety performance by taking care of the people and the business and by maintaining compliance with applicable regulations and standards.

What kinds of training methods does Bell Helicopter use to train its employees and students?

We use a blended approach that combines typical classroom stand-up instruction, team meetings, computer-based methods and Web-based training.

How are supervisors trained at Bell Helicopter?

We have a specifically designed environmental health and safety (EH&S) 101 course. It consists of 19 modules, and it can be presented over a 40-hour timeframe or on a module-by-module basis. We also offer a custom-designed safety training program for operations managers.

How can the training of SH&E professionals in general be improved?

Training can be improved by using the same concepts that 5S, Lean and Six Sigma encourage. Develop a pull system instead of pushing training on employees. Conduct a training needs assessment and then offer blended training tools to allow the employees to pull from these tools the training needed to help them safely perform their respective jobs.

What new tools do you believe safety professionals should employ to more successfully guide and monitor safety performance?

We should develop a balanced scorecard of leading indicators whose activities tie in directly with the goals and objectives of the business. In order to do so, we must step outside the typical safety mindset and look to measurement tools that businesses use today. We must get away from the negative, trailing indicators that are currently used as standards for safety performance.  

What do you think motivates SH&E in the workplace?

There are several motivators. True care for the well-being of employees. The desire to be an ethical corporate citizen and to do the right thing. Fear of failure—injury/illness or citations, violations and fines. Pride in what we do and who we are. All are motivators, and they play a part in ensuring safety in the workplace.

What is your view of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance?

It is a given. Non-compliance is not an option. However, it is only one leg of the safety triangle. We must first take care of our people and then take care of our business. Those that have these two under control usually have little trouble with compliance issues.

What can be done now to secure the careers of future safety professionals?

Nothing. In today’s world, there is no security. We must continue to learn, grow and improve every day. Safety professionals are in charge of their own careers. They must take command and develop not only the technical skills, but also the managerial skills that will ensure success. They must be able to produce on the shop floor as well as in the boardroom. And when they step back to look at the accomplishments of today, they must realize that they will have to do better tomorrow and in the future.

How did your experience as president of the ASSE prepare you for your position at Bell Helicopter?

The ASSE provides a wonderful opportunity to serve and to give back to the profession. In doing so, it also provides an excellent managerial toolset. The training and preparation I received in strategic planning, communication, budgetary controls and interpersonal relationships are tremendous resources from which I constantly draw when performing my duties at Bell Helicopter.



James “Skipper” Kendrick is the Manager of Industrial Safety and Hygiene at Bell Helicopter (a Textron Company) in Fort Worth, Texas. He provides technical assistance and consultation to manufacturing facilities and service centers in the United States and in other countries.


Kendrick is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), and he has been an active Professional Member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) since 1980. He is also a former President and Chairman of the Board of the society.


He was named Edgar Monsanto Queeny Safety Professional of the Year (SPY) in 2000, and he has received SPY recognition from the ASSE’s Greater Baton Rouge Chapter (1985), Fort Worth Chapter (1989) and Region III (1990).


Kendrick holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial technology (with a safety option) from Louisiana State University. He is active in the Bell Helicopter Leadership Club, and he serves in Bell’s Mentor Program as well. Kendrick is a nationally recognized seminar leader in the field of safety management and training.