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Wright Helps Make it SAFE
May 21, 2012

Nadia Wright and Shawn Albertson talk to a Dryden employee.Nadia Wright and Shawn Albertson talk to a Dryden employee about safety at the Drydenland event April 18. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)

Nadia Wright wants Dryden employees to be SAFE.

When people go home from work at the end of the day, she said they should be as healthy as when they arrived. To help see that happens, she is the current leader of the Safety Action Forum for Employees, or SAFE, a Dryden volunteer organization that works to educate people about safety and learn from them if there are hazards that need attention.

For Wright, safety is her job, but it is also her passion. In fact, Joel Wright, her Marine husband, also has a safety job at Edwards Air Force Base. Family and friends often joke that the couple has a "super safe" home.

Nadia Wright began her Dryden career in December 2010 as a support specialist in the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, assisting with safety projects and with facility inspections. Wright isn't an inspector seeking to identify new hazards, but more of a liaison between the safety office and employees with violations or potential safety challenges in their areas.

"If it is a really simple fix, I'll try to find someone in the area, educate them on the hazard and propose a solution. Instead of putting it on the back burner, we want to fix hazards and keep them from accumulating on the facility finding list. At one point, the center had over 800 open items that were identified during inspections," she said.

Many of the violations are easily addressed. For example, portable heaters are permitted at Dryden, but there are requirements for having one. Safety inspectors will look to see it the unit is plugged directly into the wall, has tip over protection and that a nationally recognized laboratory tested the heater, usually signified by a marking on the unit, Wright explained.

The work to fix safety items rather than simply document them helps resolve what she said she saw as a disconnect. People didn't understand why something was a safety violation and why it needed to be fixed. In fact, there often wasn't a way for people to know that they had a safety violation in their work area.

To meet this challenge, Wright developed a spreadsheet including all of the items identified during facility inspections that she manages on the Xnet. As a result, people have taken ownership of safety challenges and helped get them resolved, she said. SAFE began in February 2011 and Wright became its chairwoman in September 2011. One of the biggest challenges is finding volunteers, as Dryden employees are busy. However, people have stepped up to join the organization.

SAFE has a solid reputation for its coffee chats, where SAFE provides the coffee and treats and employees bring their ideas and questions about safety at the center.

These information events provide an outlet for people to ask questions and pick up literature about the latest accident prevention ideas, or propose some creative solutions.

Wright is quick to add that members are active at booths at events, such as at Safety Day or the recent Drydenland activity. It takes a team to make things happen and she appreciates the members of SAFE. SAFE meets quarterly, but the core committee meets once a month. SAFE also has a new webpage on the Xnet site. It is accessible under the safety menu on the main Dryden Xnet page.

SAFE core members include: Wright; Shawn Albertson, deputy chairperson; Kim Puebla, secretary; Denise Cope, treasurer; Gus Carreno; Geraldlyn Drake; Eric Huffmaster; Dean Lebret; Todd Mostyn; Tami McCoy and Patrick Ray.

Huffmaster has been a key member. He is charged with keeping the organization's Issue Tracking and Resolution Binder and talking to people about resolving safety challenges contained in the book.

"That's what we do, we talk to people," Wright said. "Because it might be intimidating in a formal setting to bring challenges up, so SAFE is there for you to talk to. We are bridging the gap that we think currently exists among the safety office, employees and communicating messages to management," she said.

Wright's philosophy is simple: "Safety is everyone's responsibility, because when it comes right down to it, we all want to return home in the same condition we came to work and you need to look out for your fellow co-workers to make sure they do the same." In her safety office position, she said some people misunderstood her goals at the beginning.

"Accidents do happen. It's not a matter of if, but when. I'm not the bad guy. I'm here to help you understand why certain rules exist," she said.

People's attitudes have changed a lot since Wright came to Dryden, she said.

"They used to be grumpy because, 'Here comes safety.' We still encounter some of that, but it has improved. We are really trying to establish better relationships and a better rapport with people. We're not using a hammer, we're using a handshake," she said. Wright has taken on the challenge of changing attitudes, but she said she understands that is a slow process overcoming a person's past negative experience with the safety office.

"We can't go back and change people's past experience with safety. However, we have a great team and we want to help," she added.

Communication is so important to accident prevention and that's a role SAFE fills, Wright said. The committee wants to be the voice for employee's safety ideas or concerns.

"SAFE is all about following up with the employee who voiced a concern or idea. We will do the research. We will help you," she said.

Employees who have safety questions or concerns are welcome to ask SAFE for help. Contact Wright at ext. 6137, or Albertson at ext. 2229, for more SAFE information

SAFE will have a booth at the Dryden Safety Day on May 16, or people can grab a cup of coffee and talk to SAFE members during one of the future chats. It's just important, Wright said, that employees voice their concerns and offer solutions so that the center's goal of zero lost-time injuries can be realized.

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