• Todd Thomas

The Safety Family


For those of us who work in safety, we often refer to ourselves as a “family” of safety professionals. There is good reason for that. We realize that we share a bond, such as most family members do. That bond is our passion to help others perform their jobs as safely as possible so that they can go home to their families at the end of their workday.

The past week, we lost two members of our safety family. Ken McLure, Director of Safety and Compliance for an organization based in Juneau, Alaska and Joe Guhin, Director of Safety at an organization in Greensboro, NC. Both were shocking because they were sudden and unexpected. They were both true safety professionals and will be greatly missed. Both deaths hit me hard, but Ken’s passing hit me especially hard. Not only were we fellow safety professionals, but we were also friends. We worked together previously at the same airline where our friendship developed.

While attending Ken’s funeral service via Zoom, it came as no surprise to me to hear the word “passionate” used to describe Ken by those who shared their thoughts about Ken. Ken was that and much more. Ken was a good person, with a big heart. He was a dedicated family man as well. I don’t think he had ever met a stranger!

Ken took on the challenge of building an SMS. Ken’s boss said that when he

interviewed Ken for his job, he laid out his vision for what he felt the company

needed and that it would not be easy. He wanted to make sure Ken knew what he

was getting himself into before he accepted the job. Somewhat to his boss’s

surprise, Ken seemed eager and enthusiastic about the idea. Ken’s boss

remembered asking himself, “Is this guy for real?” after Ken eagerly agreed to take on this huge undertaking. Ken wasn’t afraid to take on a challenge!

Ken was making huge strides in the safety culture at the time of his untimely

passing. This is what a “true” safety person can do for an organization,

having a positive effect on their culture! Ken did, as the old saying goes,

'walk his talk.' It was said that Ken was seen everywhere around the operations, finding out first-hand what the safety conditions were and engaging

his fellow workers. I recall many times our calls being

interrupted by Ken being called upon to help with a safety matter. It was not a problem, we both understood that this is what it takes to be a successful safety professional.

For those lucky enough to have a dedicated Safety Manager or Director as part of their operations, be thankful. They are an asset, one which many operators don’t have. Most safety professionals I have met are like Ken and Joe. They are caring people and have normally already been in service to others, which ultimately led them to their safety roles. Take time to get to know your Safety Manager / Director.

It may seem at times they ask you to do things that annoy you, but believe me, they truly have your best interest at heart.

I was looking forward to helping Ken make his organization the gold standard in safety for Alaskan operators. In honor of Ken’s passion for his job, our friendship, and our shared safety commitment I plan to help his successor do just that. I will welcome that person to the “safety family” and will use Ken’s example to guide us forward. You may be gone for now, Ken, but certainly not forgotten. Thank you for the wonderful example you set for me and others. Until we meet again my friend.

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