Safety Star of the 2nd Quarter 2024

Karen Lee K. Kazanecki

Location Health & Safety Coordinator
Wilkes-Barre, PA

How did you get involved in safety?

I spent 10 years as a Firefighter/EMT and obtained a degree in Fire Science Technology prior to joining Cintas. I started giving fire safety presentations at our location because I didn’t want to see my fellow partners go through the devastation that fires bring. This led to assisting with other safety trainings, learning the Cintas safety program and building on those requirements, having the WIlkes-Barre location become a VPP star site, and eventually overseeing the safety programs at both the Wilkes-Barre and Allentown facilities.

What is your most recent safety related work accomplishment or something you’re proud of?

A most recent safety accomplishment for work has been helping chair a new safety sub-committee in our group to focus on reducing vehicle accidents with our lower-tenure driving partners. It has been great to collaborate on ideas and hear about best practices that a number of our locations are using. We are using those ideas along with trend data to help create a group-wide process to implement with our new drivers that will give them more confidence, practice, and training to help avoid vehicle accidents.

Some things I am proud of are helping both my locations go through their first VPP recertification processes with both locations approved for continuation in the VPP program and being able to visit other VPP sites as an SGE.

What has been your favorite aspect of the VPPPA/how has your company benefitted from VPPPA membership?

We had ideas from seminars and presentations brought back from attendees and implemented or incorporated them into some of our existing safety programs.

What is one of the biggest challenges you and/or your company currently face when it comes to safety at the workplace?

I see complacency as the biggest challenge for safety. We can get into a rut of doing the same job or task over and over and go into ‘auto-pilot’ or let distractions take our focus off what we are doing. Once we stop actively thinking about the safe way/procedure of doing the job, we can slip into bad habits, start taking shortcuts, or rush to get the job done to move onto something else. And those bad habits/shortcuts/rushing will eventually lead to mistakes which in turn can lead to an accident.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in safety?

I would advise benchmarking with other safety professionals to see first-hand some of the challenges they face on a daily basis and the methods they use to overcome those obstacles. Attend a seminar or other safety event to learn about the various avenues a safety professional can take. Taking an OSHA-10 course is also a good way of getting the safety fundamentals.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

While in high school, I was able to spend 2 weeks in the former USSR as part of an student educational exchange program, visiting Moscow, Leningrad (St Petersburg), and Krasnodar.