29 April 2024

A marathon not a sprint: safety is not about incidents, but an everyday commitment.

Safety specialist Tandi spoke to us about the critical importance of safety and why it’s never too late to find the right career path for you.

Tandi, can you tell me a surprising fact about yourself?

I’m an avid runner, I’ve run over 25 half marathons and around 50 5k or 10k races too in the last few years. I was born and raised in Nederland, Texas, and love doing local races as part of our community. It’s also a great way to explore new places, I’ve run half marathons in Las Vegas and Chicago and have my eye on Boston or New York next.

How did your career in safety take shape?

After high school I went straight into work, taking roles with an employment agency and what is now Air Liquide but was called Big Three Industries at the time. I then worked in a pharmacy for over 20 years before they closed the branch I worked for down.

So, at the age of 40, I found myself at a career crossroads. This took me to a construction site in a contract role. It was meant to be a purchasing role, but I ended up in safety and something just clicked, and I fell in love with safety work. Within six months I had a safety qualification and started looking for full-time safety roles. That’s when I came to OCI, and I’ve been here for 13 years now.

What was it like to retrain and start a new career at 40?

To be honest, it was tough. I had been in my previous career for more than two decades and managed the branch that closed. I had to dig deep and figure out that I couldn’t let that experience beat me because I knew that I wanted to continue working. At the same time, my sons were old enough that I didn’t need to be at home with them, but it was still important that whatever job I picked still allowed me to be there for my family. I wasn’t going to miss their baseball games!

My final day at the pharmacy was a Friday, and I was at a construction site on Monday learning a whole new career. It was a steep learning curve, but once I figured out safety was what I wanted to do, I committed to it. I did my qualifications, I read books, made catalogues. Even now, I remind myself every day that you can’t know everything; things change quickly and we’re all still learning.

Do you have any advice for others who might be in similar situations?

It’s never too late. While you are still breathing, it’s not too late to make a change! There’s a purpose to what you do, and you have to pick yourself up and keep going. You never know where it’ll take you, and whether, as it was in my case, it can take you to better places than you ever expected.

What does safety mean to you?

Safety is everything. In some ways, there are parallels between running and safety. They require commitment, consistency, and discipline. Safety isn’t about incidents, it’s a mindset you have every day that shapes how you and what you do. We take safety incredibly seriously, we have to. It’s the cornerstone of our entire business. Without a safe site we can’t produce and sell our products. Everyone on site is trained, there are strict rules we all follow, Safety is a commitment you make every day, and you can’t be complacent.

On site, I take pride in my responsibility for making sure we are all safe. I oversee safety orientations for all our new hires and the key point I want each of them to understand is that safety isn’t about me, or the team of five I’m in, or even the 200 safety representatives we have on site. Every single person that badges into this facility has a responsibly to keep themselves and everyone else safe.

What’s kept you at OCI?

There’s so much growth at OCI. They give me so much opportunity to grow, but also to mentor the next generation, and encourage them to be passionate not only about their actual role but the community we have here. There’s a mindset on site that we take care of it like it’s our home, we are a family. No one just shows up, does their job and walks away. We care here, we want our people to thrive, grow and contribute together.

Looking to the future, there’s a lot to be excited about. We have the new Texas Blue Clean Ammonia site being built right across the road from here, and when that comes online next year it’ll be the first and largest site of its kind. The opportunity to be part of OCI as we continue pioneering, working towards a cleaner future, that’s something we can be proud of.

How does OCI show up in the community you’ve grown up in?

We’re part of the community here, embedded in and committed to it. A good example of that in action is the OCI Citizenship Committee, which I was chairman of for several years and am still involved in. Our mission is to help the community in whatever way they need at the time. Over the years that’s included everything from building houses with Habitat for Humanity to volunteering at our local food banks.

Finally, what advice would you give your younger self?

Get into the industry sooner! When I was first starting in my career, there weren’t many women in the industry. I wish I had known a woman in the industry then, to see what was possible, I could have been an engineer and then moved across into safety, because I do love my role, but I wish I could have 40 rather than 20 years’ experience in this space, there’s so much I still want to learn, I’m just getting started.

To find out more about how you could have an impact in a career at OCI, visit our careers page here.

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