Health and Safety Resource

​August-September 2017

Gary Boswell

Company: Portland General Electric
Senior Safety Consultant: Gary Boswell
As a senior safety consultant, I’m responsible for ensuring the different work groups at PGE are aware of changes in safety regulations, and I assist in scoping out the impact of any new regulations on our operations. I participate in Oregon OSHA advisory work groups and Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Safety and Health conferences. Because EEI focuses on federal safety rules, our work with them benefits PGE and the entire electric utility industry.

How have things changed in terms of safety in your line of work?

The biggest changes are in our safety culture at PGE. Employees are developing an ownership view of our shared safety journey. Having strong support at the top – from our CEO and President Jim Piro – has made having conversations about safety a lot easier.

Today, we want everyone to feel safe about speaking up, and empowered to stand up for safety. If you look back – say 15 years ago – that wasn’t always the case.

Everyone has a role in achieving our goas of zero injuries"

In the past, a common perspective was “safety is the responsibility of the safety department.” At PGE, we’ve shifted dramatically to a new understanding: “Everyone has a role in achieving our goal of zero injuries.” Having the support of an Executive Safety Council – made up of executives, managers, and union leadership – is a big help. The members are engaged in our safety journey and that reinforces the commitment to improve among our safety professionals and every employee.

When it comes to keeping workers safe, how do you measure success?

I look at the willingness to share information after an incident occurs. In the past, events were internalized by work groups, but that reduced our ability for others – who could face the same safety challenges – to learn from an event. Today, incidents are openly discussed and corrective actions shared. Weekly in-house phone conferences, in which we review safety incidents, provide an open forum for discussion which can then be shared with all PGE employees.

The willingness to report near misses is another important way to measure success. With near-miss reports, every work group can determine if they could be susceptible to the same at-risk behavior. Open communication in all of these areas is critical to reducing injuries and eliminating at-risk behavior.

Gary Boswell

Gary Boswell helps lead a tabletop exercise at the 2017 PGE Safety Summit.

What are some important things you’ve learned about safety over the years?

First and foremost, to make a difference with safety, you’ve got to be willing to get personally involved. During my first 20 years of working in PGE’s line operations, I learned that just talking about safety was not enough. You have to make it part of every job, every day. My favorite saying taught to me by a long-time crew foreman was “No one gets hurt on my watch.” I have tried to live that throughout my whole career – whether I was running crews, being a supervisor, or in my role today as a safety professional.

Another theme I like to share with our newer employees is to come to work every day with the idea you’re going to learn something. Safety is nothing more than lifelong learning and a continuous improvement journey. It’s up to each individual to set the bar higher and look for ways to motivate their peers.

What is some advice you’d give to those looking to keep their workplaces safe or to those who are seeking a career in this field?

Get to know your fellow employees. Having a personal relationship promotes a more caring environment.

Next, share your knowledge. No matter what your position is, everyone has the ability to teach and reinforce safe behavior with their peers. Take advantage of those times when you can talk about safety with other people – inside or outside of the company. You’ll find that others in safety are more than willing to share their ideas. There are no trade secrets when it comes to sharing safety experiences.