Janet Froetscher Discusses Workplace Safety

Janet Froetscher – President & CEO of the National Safety Council

We are honored to have the chance to interview Janet Froetscher regarding her knowledge and expertise pertaining workplace safety.

Janet Froetscher serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Safety Council. Ms. Froetscher has extensive leadership and operational experience.Janet served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and in a variety of roles at the Aspen Institute, served as its Chief Operating Officer. Janet has been a Director of CBOE Holdings, Inc., since January 2010. She serves as Director of Chicago Board Options Exchange, Inc. She serves as Director of National Safety Council. She is a member of the board of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Chicago Network, Commercial Club of Chicago and Economic Club of Chicago. Janet also holds a B.A. degree from the University of Virginia and a Masters of Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

1. What is one of the most avoidable workplace accidents, and how would you recommend it to be remedied?

Janet Froetscher – There are several leading causes of workplace injuries, and they are all preventable! The leading cause of disabling injuries is overexertion typically from manual material handling, meaning activities involving lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing and pulling. The discipline of ergonomics – the design of work to fit the capabilities of the worker – is the most effective means of preventing overexertion injuries. These injuries often involve the lower back and can lead to extended periods of disability.

Motor vehicle crashes are by far the leading cause of workplace fatalities. One of the leading causes of crashes is distraction. Use of mobile devices is a significant contributor to distraction. We strongly recommend not using any mobile electronic devices or cell phones (handheld or “hands-free”- no difference) while driving.

2. If a company was struggling with the implementation of true safety plan, what tips could you offer to help them move forward effectively?

Janet Froetscher – The National Safety Council has a guiding philosophy for safety plans, which we call the Journey to Safety Excellence. Four pillars make up this Journey of continuous improvement, which include leadership and employee engagement, safety management systems, risk reduction and performance measurement.

In terms of leadership, if the chief executive and management team is not actively engaged in leading the safety effort, that is where you must start. There has to be clear commitment from the top that establishes a culture of safety where all employees are engaged and take responsibility for their safety and that of others.

Next, seek the help of a safety professional who can serve as a coach, supporting the work of a cross functional team that includes operations, facilities, human resources, finance, front line workers and others in developing an effective safety management system. If the company does not have a professional on staff, there are many sources for obtaining that help, such as through organizations like the National Safety Council. Creating a culture of hazard recognition and reporting where the goal is to make corrective actions and not place blame, is crucial to reducing risk. Finally, since it is an ongoing Journey, results need to be measured and a plan for continuous improvement should be set in motion.

3. What is one of your most memorable experiences while working in the safety field?

Janet Froetscher – The National Safety Council touches so many different areas of safety including workplace safety, distracted driving, teen driving, Safe Communities and prescription drug overdose. The most memorable and impactful experiences I have had include working with families who have lost loved ones. I have heard tragic stories of victims related to all of our key initiative areas. These are the faces and lives behind why we do what we do.

There was one father of a teen killed in a car crash that I vividly remember speaking with. He and his family recorded a video for us, which we use to impact other teen drivers. I was thanking him for having the strength to do the video and he looked at me (with eyes that were still haunted years later) and said “just make it count.” I have always felt his presence and the need to make sure our work counts – that we put in place effective ways to save lives.

4. How has working with the National Safety Council made an impact in your professional life?

Janet Froetscher – It is an honor to work in a profession where you know you are making an impact in people’s lives. In safety, you are helping to prevent injury and death so families can stay together and people can live long and full lives.

Being part of the Council, I’ve also had the pleasure to work with top companies in safety. It’s wonderful to see the partnerships that have grown and how we are able to garner best practices in the industry and share them with all of our members. As I mentioned earlier, safety excellence is a Journey and just as we have a lot to share, we’ve also learned a lot from all of our partners along the way. Working together, we are best able to save lives and prevent injuries.

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