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A Commitment to Safety: Keolis’ Teresa Cole shares her Passion for Safety

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When Teresa Cole began her career in the 1980s, safety culture was not largely recognized within organizations. Now, as the Vice President of Safety and Risk, Cole oversees all things related to health and safety at 12 locations across the United States. Cole has worked in the safety business for 34 years and has grown more passionate about it through the challenges of the pandemic.

She continues to improve Keolis’ safety initiatives to ensure that her colleagues are trained and ready for anything on the job. This interview explores her experiences as a safety leader and how she stays #SafeWithKeolis.

Question: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we approach safety?
Answer: We had a lot of safety challenges during the pandemic. The important thing was to protect our employees and passengers. We followed all of the CDC guidance and state regulations and immediately put our pandemic plan into action. It was a huge challenge in the beginning to find personal protective equipment and our key concern was protecting our employees. However, our procurement team was amazing at helping us quickly secure what we needed to keep everyone safe and healthy. The pandemic has placed a greater importance on safety; and we saw that first hand as we watched employers place greater importance on hiring safety managers during COVID-19. Being in the business for as long as I have, I've become so passionate about safety, and the pandemic has really enhanced that.

Question: What are the most important ingredients to developing a safety-first culture?
Answer: The most important thing is for every employee to adopt safety as a personal core value. Most of the time, the employees are out on the road, driving a bus, unsupervised. My challenge is to have each of these employees drive safely, pay attention, and understand that safety is everyone's responsibility in the organization. We also work hard to make sure managers and supervisors embrace giving praise when employees are doing things right.

Question: Training and collaboration are key to a safe culture. How do you ensure your team is equipped with the right tools and training?
Answer: We are constantly evaluating different training materials and technology. We want to make sure that we are providing the best materials for our teams. We embrace feedback from the team and speak often to make sure they know and understand what’s expected of them and ensure they have all the tools they need.

Question: Since joining Keolis, what #SafetyMoment are you most proud of?
Answer: I’m proud of the improvements we’ve made to the safety culture within my division. I’m so impressed with the innovative approaches to our programs. I’ve been here three and a half years and I feel that we have greatly improved the safety culture. Even at the local level, they're taking ownership of safety and really creating a culture where they each want to make a difference. We’ve also reduced accidents and injuries over the past few years, which is important.

Question: If you could go back to your first day working in safety what would you tell yourself?
Answer: People usually don't call me with good news. It's always because of an accident. But if I could go back to my first day, I would tell myself that safety is a very rewarding career. It has its challenges along the way, but it has been rewarding for me.