Scott Gaddis has built his long and accomplished career as an Environmental, Health and Safety leader on the belief that collaboration and communication are essential ingredients for success in protecting people in the workplace.
It’s this people-based approach that makes him a natural fit for his new role as the Health and Safety Practice leader for the EHSQ Alliance, powered by Intelex.
After all, the Alliance is an evolving vision to construct a one-stop repository of great insights and knowledge for EHSQ professionals, and to also build a cooperative virtual community and meeting place for information-sharing and collaboration.
In his role, Gaddis will lead integration of the EHSQ Alliance in thought leadership and building partnerships with key clients and other top influencers in EHS. He will be responsible for the engagement of EHS professionals across the globe to provide a platform for sharing information and collectively driving solutions that mitigate workplace loss. In addition, Gaddis will work internally with the sales and marketing teams to further increase EHS capability and knowledge that supports customers.
Suffice it to say that Gaddis knows much more than a thing or two about cooperation and community. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, the Owensboro, Ky. native went to work for General Electric at a facility that made large industrial motors. He quickly rose through the ranks to become the plant’s Environmental, Health and Safety program lead.
“I walked into that position with 165 OSHA (injury and illness) recordables in front of me. And the workers compensation claims were out of control.”
Gaddis realized that the key to improving the situation at GE was working with people in a different way.
“I took it from a rules-based organization to one that was performance-based,” he says. “I started partnering with workers differently. I was on the manufacturing floor, helping them do their work so I could understand the types of barriers they faced and, since a lot of our injuries were cumulative trauma, understanding motions the workers were faced with on a daily basis.”
Gaddis instituted exercising, stretching and ergonomic programs, and other focus areas to mitigate machine problems to limit the high amount of physical work. The company started to see a steady and significant decline in injury and illness rates. “That was very satisfying to me.”
Gaddis’s work was getting noticed, in particular by Kimberly-Clark Corp. He was hired to lead the company’s health and safety efforts at a new paper product manufacturing facility in his hometown. This, however, would be a leaner operation from what he was used to at GE: Gaddis went from managing a staff of six people to “being an army of one,” he says with a laugh.
It meant that forging relationships with fellow team members that worked in production became even more crucial than at GE. “I tried to keep procedures and rules at a minimum and work with the plant manager on building a values-based safety and health system that created 500 safety leaders, which was the plant population at the time.”
One of the most important values he demonstrated by way of example was that of caring about people, which to the gregarious Gaddis meant not just inside the plant, but outside of it, too.
“I wondered why people would come and tell me about their kid in little league or going to a piano recital. I figured they did so because they were reaching out, wanting somebody from the leadership management team to care enough to partner with them in a social setting.”
Gaddis found himself going to these types of extracurricular activities. “(Employees) would come back to work and say, ‘You know that safety guy came to my kid’s baseball game?’ And, so it provided another opportunity for people to see me just as a regular guy that cared for them.”
Such displays of empathy are not surprising, considering that Gaddis had once considered becoming a minister before choosing a career in health and safety. He was the first member of his family of traditionally blue-collar workers to earn a college degree. In fact, his grandmother was an assembly line worker at the same GE facility where Gaddis began his own career. “She basically told me, ‘Don’t forget where you came from.’ So that stuck with me.”
Gaddis was eventually promoted into a position that saw him working for the vice-president of Kimberly-Clark Professional – a man who eventually became the president of the company division. Gaddis was charged with taking the model of success he’d developed at the Kentucky location and applying it globally.
Gaddis has also held senior Environmental, Health and Safety positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Coveris Group. In January 2018 he joined Intelex, a company he had been watching for the better part of the past decade.
“What really drew me to Intelex was a company strategy to partner differently with clients through the sharing of best-practice content. One of the biggest hinderances for Environmental, Health and Safety practitioners is partnering and networking with others and sharing best practices.”
The EHSQ Alliance, Gaddis says, gives EHSQ professionals a place to leverage collective intelligence and collaborate across industries, with the underlying idea that they can learn from one another.
“I know a great number of health and safety professionals who have something to say, but they’re never given the platform to say it. One of the big motivating factors for me is to really work with some of those folks and give them that platform.”