Share Your Story: Sam Hawkins Sr
We are celebrating one of the many safety superheroes who protect employees and keep workplaces safe, Sam Hawkins Sr!
Safety involves carefully drafted policies, precise protocols, and mountains of protective gear. But above all, safety is about people.
That's why we have chosen to profile one of the many safety superheroes who do their part to keep workers safe, ensure the safety of the public, and protect the environment.
Meet Sam Hawkins Sr.
Sam Hawkins Sr. is the owner of YDE Safety, whose slogan is "Let's Not Meet By Accident!" He encourages you to reach out and ask him how that became his slogan!
Sam has worked in the areas of both OSHA and DOT Safety Compliance for over 24 years. After being laid off in 2013 and moving his family to another, Sam founded YDE instead of pulling his kids out of school and uprooting his family for another job.
He now has a great team of experienced safety professionals who pride themselves on bringing in young and hungry individuals and growing them to outstanding safety professionals as well. They are currently keeping companies safe all across the United States.
Sam's Thoughts on Safety (and a Few Other Things)
Safeopedia: What's your safety origin story?
Sam: I had never heard of a safety professional until I was hired as a hazardous waste technician back in 1997. Since this position had me working with a shovel or squeegee in hand, suited in Level A and Level B PPE, removing hazardous material, the first few weeks involved a lot of safety training.
I had made the decision to become a firefighter and I was studying to increase my chances of passing the firefighter exam. I think already being in the mindset to help people as a firefighter made me really gravitate to safety as I was a bit mesmerized by the approach and effectiveness of the company's current safety manager. He recognized that and gave me a shot at being a safety representative on a project. That one shot turned into a 23-year career!
Safeopedia: What do you do when you're off work?
Sam: I do a lot. I am big on family and family time. I like to go on date nights with my wife. I train my kids for their respective sports in the off season and make it to all their events. I coach and manage professional boxers. I love to read and listen to books.
I also give back to the youth by working with a program that opens the doors of a boxing gym to the youth for two hours every Saturday. During that time, we teach them the basics of boxing and let them have fun working out their aggression and building self-discipline. We also spend an hour talking about obstacles they currently face, how to overcome them, and help guide them towards success in the future.
In addition to that, I am a volunteer Coach for the local 7th/8th grade Rugby Team.
Safeopedia: Who has been the greatest influencer for you in your life and career?
Sam: For me, it was Malcolm X. This is a name that makes people uncomfortable, depending on what they know or believe about his life.
However, his beliefs in themselves didn’t influence me at all. The lesson I took from Malcolm X’s life was: don’t be afraid of change or to change.
He was a known criminal who went to prison for the crimes he committed. While in prison, he was introduced to something that made him want to change who he was as a person. He dove in, learned everything about it, and became its biggest spokesperson. He later visited other countries, started to question his beliefs, and changed in accordance with what he had learned.
In those moments, he knew people would hate him and turn against him but he still made a change for what he thought was right. Even when he knew each change could cost him his life.
Muhammad Ali, who was a friend of Malcolm X, said “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
That quote, and Malcolm X showing it in practice, shaped my excitement for reading and learning. I always say, "when it comes to making decisions, I will make the best decision based off the information I have at the time and live with the outcome." If I am wrong later, I’ll own up to it and adjust accordingly.
However, I never want to be stuck in an idea, belief, practice, or view simply because it is how I’ve always seen it or done it. I am not stuck in my old training or way of doing things. I like to embrace technology and the ways of the younger generation of safety professionals. I feel that is one of the things that makes me a very effective safety professional.
Safeopedia: Can you look into your crystal ball and tell us what you predict will be the next big thing in safety?
Sam: I feel the next big thing to come in safety and what we should include in our focus is mental health. I know we aren’t mental health experts, but the safety professionals who are good at what they do genuinely care about people and their well-being.
When I look at things like the suicide rate in construction, I see two things:
- A need for workers to feel they have a place to open up and safely seek help.
- The workers (in terms of age group and race) who are committing suicide in construction closely match the workers who are involved in the most workplace fatalities.
Mental health professionals or not, we signed up to make sure every worker who clocks in is able to clock out the way they showed up to work. We cannot truly do that without touching on the mental health aspect of the workers we are working to protect.
Safeopedia: If you had a magic wand, how would you design the Health and Safety in the workplace for future generations?
Sam: I would start with encouraging more companies to promote someone from the field to safety and let them grow into the safety professional the company needs. This wouldn’t be someone who is injured and moved to safety as a “lesson” or a place to put them since they can’t be fired.
If no one is a fit for this, companies would be open to hiring a person without much experience and letting them grow into that role as well. This isn’t just because it is the way I started. I just feel there are so many skills that aren’t being honed in safety as we all race to get the degrees and certifications to be the safety professionals with the best-looking resumes.
There are so many positions in safety. We don’t all need the highest degrees and biggest certifications to be safety coordinators, site safety officers, safety supervisors, safety staff, and safety technicians.My version of health and safety would include a great salary for safety directors but at a cost where the company could also hire some of these other positions. Then these teams could work together as a more effective safety unit. I would get away from the mediocre safety results caused by one person getting paid a lot to take on more than they can handle.
Want to hear more from Sam? Check out his recent appearance in our Share Your Story series!