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Patrick J. Karol

President

Patrick J. Karol CSP SMS is an independent safety & health consultant. He began his safety career as a front-line supervisor with safety as a collateral duty and now involves advising senior leaders on strategies to reduce injury risk. His career as a full-time safety professional includes over 20 years in the corporate safety departments of two Fortune 200 companies and the Federal government.

I never had any aspirations to pursue a safety career. Not even the slightest intention. It more or less chose me. Some might say I was in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. I can say without reservation, I am thankful I did land in a safety position. Being a safety professional has given me a great sense of purpose, satisfaction and pride in my professional and personal life. It didn’t just happen overnight. There were three seminal moments in my work life that not only led me into the safety profession, but shaped my approach to safety.

Seminal Moment #1 – I tolerated safety

The first seminal moment came during my first job after graduating high school. I worked in a factory that made glass bottles at a time when everything was in glass; Gatorade bottles, milk bottles and prescription bottles to name a few examples.

We were required to wear eye protection supplied by the company which was incredibly uncomfortable. Further, the plant was hot and the glasses tended to slide down my nose. So, I did what any good junior employee would do in this situation, I learned from the senior employees. I clinched the stem of the glasses between my teeth and when I saw the inspector on the floor, I could quickly put them on. That worked great until one day when the foreman walked up from behind me. I should also mention that it was noisy in the factory, although hearing protection wasn’t required. My foreman tapped me on the shoulder and said “if I have to wear these things, you have to wear them. Put’em on!” I don’t even remember his name, but his words and tone still ring out in my mind today.

Safety quickly became something I tolerated, something that I endured. It was boring, not enjoyed or appreciated for the benefit; it was enforced on me because we had to, not because we wanted to. That feeling about safety stayed with me for the next several years. which brings me to the next seminal moment in my life.

Seminal Moment #2 – Safety became personal to me

Ten years later, I was working as a ramp supervisor at Atlanta Hartsfield International airport. You know these workers if you travel by air. They are the ones that load and unload your baggage and cargo from the planes.

It was a cool fall evening, about dusk when a call came over my radio for Echo 1 to gate A-17. Echo 1 was the ambulance service dedicated to the airport. A call to Echo 1 usually meant a medical emergency. Gate A-17 was directly across the ramp from me. I glanced up and could see that a Boeing 757 aircraft had started to push back from the gate. It made it only about 25 feet and stopped. It was my assumption that a passenger was sick and needed to be deplaned. I had some time and thought I would hop on a tug and ride over to gate A-17 and offer assistance. I knew the supervisor well and knew he would do the same for me. As I drove up, I noticed that a couple of guys had gathered around the left rear landing gear of the aircraft. I slowed down as I approached and the thought occurred to me, “we didn’t do what I think we just did.” My fears were confirmed when I noticed the supervisor taking off his coat and putting it on a worker who was lying down next to the landing gear tires. Another coworker had removed his belt and was tying it around the workers leg. We had just run over a worker with a Boeing 757 aircraft…an aircraft that weighs 250,000lbs empty! At that moment, safety stopped being something I tolerated to something that was very personal to me. The worker did live, but lost his leg above his knee.

Within the next year I formally began my safety career with Delta Air Lines, Inc. I would eventually work in Delta’s Corporate Safety department for the next thirteen years. My job over the years included analyzing incident trends, conducting investigations, inspections and assessments, and writing procedures. Looking back, it was a change management, culture change initiative, although that’s not what we call it.  

Seminal Moment #3 – I had to make safety personal for others

The third and final seminal moment occurred almost 20 years after the ramp incident. I was working in the Safety & Risk Control department for the Aramark Corporation. Aramark is a food and facility services giant. Based in Philadelphia, Aramark has operations worldwide and over 200,000 employees. My job was to work with senior leaders to develop a strategy and tactics to reduce the risk of employee injury.

I received a call one late summer morning that an employee was struck and killed by a pickup truck while at work. The incident occurred during the pre-dawn hours in an area with limited lighting and no marked vehicle or pedestrian paths. A twenty-two year old mother would not see her two year old daughter grow up. My immediate thought after completing the investigation was “how do I get this information out to over 200,000 employees at thousands of locations worldwide?” “How do I make safety personal to so many employees across the globe?”

Today I work as a safety consultant sharing my knowledge and experience with my clients and the safety profession in general. My mission is to make safety personal for everyone from executive leaders to front line workers and safety professionals. I recognize as most safety professionals do that regulatory compliance only gets us so far. By making safety personal and by connecting safety to what is important to the worker we can begin to exceed minimum standards. By making safety personal, we create an environment where workers are following procedures because they want to, not because they have to.

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Pat’s professional safety career includes:

 

  • Safety and Health Consultant with EEC Environmental.

 

  • Safety Manager at ARAMARK Corporation Safety & Risk Control Department. Responsibilities include working with senior leadership to develop strategies and tactics to reduce the risk of injury, environmental exposure, and foodborne illnesses.

 

  • Safety and Health contractor to the Transportation Security Administration where he managed a team who was responsible for safety and health compliance at all US airports in the southeast region. 

 

  • Safety Manager in the Corporate Safety Department at Delta Air Lines. His responsibilities included investigation of serious incidents, development of procedures and training, identification of trends and development of mitigation strategies, and assisting with VPP applications.

 

Pat is a successful speaker and has spoken on safety and health at numerous regional and national conferences. He most recently spoke at ASSP Safety 2018 and the American Industrial Hygiene conference in May 2019. Pat speaks frequently on safety leadership topics. His most popular presentation is Selling Safety to the Front Line Employee.

 

Pat is a member of the American Society Safety Professionals (ASSP) Philadelphia chapter. He is Past President of the Philadelphia chapter and was honored to receive the Gold Level award for 2015/16 as President. Pat is currently the ASSP Area Director for the Keystone area.  

 

Pat attended Georgia State University where he completed the Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Pat and his wife, Nancy, have been married 25 years and have three children: Army SSgt Peter Karol is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, AK, Nikki is a dance instructor and Kristina in middle school.