People Profile - Mellanie Pascual

Mellanie has been a member of the Smithbridge Guam team since March 2016. With a long career grounded in safety, Mellanie accepted the role of OHS Administrator responsible for championing the safety and compliance regulations and culture in the organisation. We recently spent some time with Mellanie to learn more about her unexpected path into safety and how she is working to embed safety systems at Smithbridge Guam.

Give us a summary of your professional journey so far. What is your current role, and how did come to be in this role? What are your current safety responsibilities and accountabilities?

I actually found myself in the safety field by accident! I was working as a Property Manager, and the company had two technicians who needed to get certified for electrical and HVAC roles. We went to Guam Trades Academy and saw they were offering scholarship grants for any construction-related courses being offered in anticipation for the US military build-up on Guam. I initially wanted to take classes in human resources, but a friend urged me that safety management would be better for me and my skills, so I selected that instead. The more I studied it, the more my interest grew.

After completing the program in 2011, I started working as a part-time safety consultant for a construction company. In 2012, I began teaching classes at Guam Trades Academy for the core curriculum and then eventually taught classes at Guam Community College as an Adjunct Instructor for industrial safety. I am also currently the Occupational Health & Safety Administrator for Smithbridge Guam, responsible for implementation and management of the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance program. I am also an OSHA Authorised Instructor and MSHA Competent Trainer, and since February 2019, now hold a Construction Health and Safety Technician under the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

What do you think is the most important issue in crane safety today?

There have been some recent changes in requirements for crane operator certification in Guam. A pressing issue for us is the demand and need for an operator who not only knows how to operate the crane in line with these new requirements but also has a strong moral obligation to embrace safety culture, uphold their duty for the safe operation of cranes and keep themselves and their work colleagues safe.

What motivates you in your role and/or what motivated you to become a safety professional?

As a mother of three and a wife of someone who works at a construction company, I feel motivated to do my share when it comes to spreading safety awareness and teaching others about safety. Everyone deserves to come home from work safely to their family every day. I love that in my job, I play a part to ensure this happens and being able to impart my knowledge in the best way it will be understood. For example, our company recently hired some workers from the Philippines, and they required a safety induction and education. I was able to conduct a class largely in Filipino (and a bit of English), which made it easier for them to understand, remember and embrace our safety culture.

How do you help to build an effective safety culture? What do you think are the keys to this?

Personally, I believe in positive reinforcement. While it’s important to acknowledge an individual’s unsafe act, you have to do it in a positive way and take the opportunity to have a positive safety interaction. I always assure the individual that while they made a mistake, it does not make them a bad person. Some other important keys to effective safety culture are communication, training and leading by example. In communication, it is important that we all understand each other regardless of the differences in nationality and languages.

Our Guam team is multicultural, so this is an important area for us to consider in our communications. Companies should make sure they impart the importance of safety through safety meetings, stand downs, toolbox talks and safety newsletters. As for training, committing to the continuous improvement in your team’s knowledge and capability demonstrates a company’s commitment to safety and team members are more likely to embrace the safety culture if they are aware of the hazards. In leading by example, management must not only implement, but they must also follow. Safety is more than talking the talk. It is walking the walk also.

Sally Austin