Faces of EHS: Brandy Bossle on strong leadership and the value of volunteerism

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Brandy Bossle started her career as an industrial hygienist and later became an EHS specialist. She is a Certified Security Professional (CSP), Associate Security Professional (ASP) and Certified Security Manager (CSD). She has volunteered with the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) since 2018, where she is the current President of the Piedmont Chapter. She has also volunteered with the Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA) South Atlantic States Chapter as a Board Member since 2020.

Currently, Brandy works as an Environmental and Safety Officer at Kyocera AVX Components Corporation (KAVX), which is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of advanced electronic components with 15,000 employees worldwide.

For our latest Faces of EHS profile, we reached out to Brandy to discuss her biggest influences, the importance of good management, and the value of volunteerism. For Women’s Safety Week, she also gave insight into an issue women face in the workplace when it comes to PPE.

Q: How did you get started in the field?

My first job after college was working as an inorganic non-metallic analyst in an environmental testing lab. We analyze incoming and outgoing water samples from different facilities for analytes such as cyanide, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, total suspended solids (TSS), biological oxygen demand (BOD), and more. When I worked in the lab, I helped the security manager test fume hoods, checked fire extinguishers, and was part of the emergency response team (this was my first time wearing a respirator! ). While here, I spoke to another employee who had recently found employment as an industrial hygienist. She explained to me her new responsibilities as an industrial hygienist and I was immediately intrigued! I started looking for an industrial hygienist position shortly after our conversation and landed one within a few months. I was an industrial hygienist for a year and a half when I transitioned to an environmental, health and safety (EHS) specialist for a 700 employee manufacturing plant, Kyocera AVX Components Corporation (KAVX). After four years, I was promoted to Corporate Environmental and Safety Manager at KAVX. I am currently in this position and have been for a year and a half.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence in the industry?

My biggest influence in the security industry is Abby Ferri. She is not only a knowledgeable security professional, but a kind person. She volunteers her time to advance the safety profession by getting involved in professional EHS organizations. I am already involved in volunteering in professional organizations, but she inspires me to get involved even more! She often speaks in webinars and conferences, which inspires me to step out of my comfort zone and do the same. She has a lot of influence in the security industry and I look up to her as a role model.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of working in the industry? Would you change anything?

My favorite thing about the security profession is connecting with other employees. I love getting to know the operators on the manufacturing floor. I love sparking conversations with them about their lives, and then in the same day being able to discuss the dangers they encounter at work and how we can control them. I like to build trust with employees, so they understand that my goal is to protect them from harm because I care about their well-being. It’s not about boring them or telling them what to do, but about working together to make their job safer.

What I like least is the administrative side of the industry. We should be out in the field interacting with employees and observing how they work to identify, assess and control hazards. But the security profession has many record-keeping responsibilities, which means we’re often at our desks doing administrative work. Training records should be documented and safety specifications are up to date, but as safety professionals we have the greatest impact when we are in the field working with employees. EHS managers should have an administrative assistant to help manage record keeping tasks to ensure that EHS managers can spend most of their time in the field rather than in front of a computer.

Q: How can business leaders make security a value within their organization?

Management plays a huge role in a company’s safety program. Every company can have a security program, but management actions are crucial for a effective security program. Management must provide support and resources to ensure the success of the safety program. First, they must make it clear that worker safety is one of their company’s core values. This could be a safety commitment letter sent by the CEO to all employees to read and understand. They must show their support for the safety program by providing resources to eliminate hazards. This could be the cost and design approval to add safety interlocks to a machine with inadequate guarding.

Management should be a safety leader and a good role model by following all safety rules. This could be wearing safety glasses or other personal protective equipment in an area where it is needed. Field supervisors must manage safety in their area by coaching and correcting unsafe behavior and reinforcing safe behavior. Leaders should demonstrate commitment by participating in safety days, safety shutdowns, Safe and Sound week, or other activities created by the EHS department to emphasize the safety program. Finally, management must ensure that safety is an integral part of the business. An example of this is to ensure that safety, health and environmental elements have been taken into account before the purchase of new machinery.

Q: What is the issue women face in EHS workspaces?

One problem women face in the workplace is ill-fitting PPE. It is the right of every worker to have properly fitted PPE. Women are left behind in this category. They are told to size down men’s clothing (such as arc flash clothing), and sometimes they are told to wear medium-sized gloves when they really need very small. Excess fabric on men’s clothing or the use of larger gloves can pose a safety hazard to women in the workplace. Companies must do better to ensure the supply of PPE to women. Make sure all glove sizes are available, and make sure that if you have a woman on your maintenance crew, she gets the appropriately sized, feminine-cut garment she needs to perform her job safely.

Q: What are you most proud of?

I have two things I’m proud of. First, I’m proud to have earned my Certified Security Professional (CSP) designation. I don’t have a safety degree (I have my BSc in Biology), but I learned on the job, taking safety courses at my local community college, and attending professional development conferences. When I started this career, other people told me that I didn’t know anything about security, but I worked hard to learn and become the experienced and knowledgeable security professional I am today. which allowed me to obtain my CSP! Second, I’m proud to have won first place in the JJ Keller Safety Professional of The Year (SPOTY) award in 2020. Many EHS professionals participated, and there were second and third place, and I won the first place ! It’s still unreal to me, but it has helped build my confidence as a security professional!

Q: Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

It is essential to get involved as a volunteer in a professional EHS organization. Volunteering has helped me become a better leader. Volunteering has also increased networking opportunities with other security professionals in my local community, in the United States and abroad! I have met so many other fantastic security professionals who have helped me in my security career. Security professionals are willing to share tips and best practices on topics you may not be familiar with. Additionally, I asked security professionals to share their company-specific security programs with me for benchmarking purposes. There are many benefits to volunteering, and I highly recommend it! You help advance the security profession and help yourself.

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