Worker health and safety at Boeing

NWCOHS students outside of Boeing factory
Students at factory tour in early November
NWCOHS trainees tour Boeing

December 5, 2023

In early November, Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NWCOHS) alumni hosted current trainees at the Boeing Everett site. Trainees spent the morning getting their “steps in” touring the facilities, hearing about various occupational health and safety issues and solutions, and seeing the planes at various stages of production. The final part of the tour included a visit to the ‘safety dojo’ or the place of the way, a workshop where Boeing designs safety improvements to common machinist tools.

Connecting with current Boeing occupational health and safety professionals

Over lunch trainees chatted with Boeing professionals about their environmental health and safety (EHS) careers and Boeing’s role in sustainability and the EHS landscape.  Current employees shared how it is easy to connect with workers to explain personal safety and health, but harder to explain the importance of environmental compliance. They appreciated that Boeing, as a large manufacturing company, provides many opportunities to try new jobs in different EHS areas. Boeing’s size also provides resources for it to have a research unit to investigate new hazards and design controls. Boeing employees also highlighted the importance of developing technical writing and public speaking skills while in school. They stressed that because occupational health and safety positions weave through different areas being able to communicate clearly with different audiences is essential.

NWCOHS trainees reflect on their visit

Balaji Sridhar, Occupational and Environmental Medicine

“One thing that struck me about the tour besides the shear mass of the planes that are being built is the ‘safety dojo’ that they have and how they can create items to help their workers.”

Mallory Thomas, Occupational Health at the Human-Animal Interface trainee

“It was very interesting to speak with industrial hygienists in the field. They had insights into what their normal day looks like, as well as how they dealt with unexpected events - such as a massive spider from Australia loose in the factory. Although I am not on the IH [Industrial Hygiene] track myself, I still thought that participating in the tour was important to my future career. Having a base understanding of other fields in occupational health is important for future collaboration efforts and moving towards a more One Health system to our health system.”

Sophia Dillery, Work and Health Graduate Certificate trainee

 “I really enjoyed the Boeing tour. Touring the facility and having conversations with employees focused on the environmental, health, and safety of Boeing personnel was extremely helpful in understanding the large amount of effort that goes into keeping individuals safe. It was also great to see the Safety Dojo, a unique space that should be incorporated into more professional and working areas.”

Britt Millard-Hasting, Occupational and Environmental Medicine

“I had a very meaningful interaction with one of the other ERC trainees during the tour. He was previously an employee at Boeing and is taking a leave of absence in order to complete his degree. He shared that he plans to go back to Boeing when he finishes. It was special to see how his co-workers interacted with him so warmly. It made it clear that this work environment is far more than experts in their fields working in parallel. The feeling of interconnectedness among other human beings is infinitely valuable. It served as an important reminder that I need to look for this kind of human connection as I am looking at options for future employment.”

Sydney Spencer, Occupational Health Services Research trainee

“Seeing the processes for building airplanes and keeping workers safe was incredible. However, I found myself most inspired by the Boeing EHS’s team passion for their work. For me, this reinforced the importance of matching career with personal purpose and how shared vision can lead to critical innovation in worker safety.”

Hunt Solaro, Industrial Hygiene trainee

“The detailed and thorough efforts by those in occupational health, industrial hygiene, and safety at Boeing, was inspiring to see. Having the time to engage with IH peers and connect with those in our field is vital, such as our time spent engaged with their ideas/creations in the Safety Dojo. I have a new-founded respect for their IH team and awe in what they accomplish while safeguarding all their workers.”