Environment, Health and Safety is “Job One for All of Us”
Tim Watson and his team of six design, build and manage systems to help AmSty employees stay safe while aiming to protect the environment as much as possible and maintain public trust. They are a valuable part of the process that ensures AmSty can keep sustainable polystyrene flowing to the company's valued customers who make products we use every day.
"The goal is to help people become better versions of themselves, work safely at our facilities and be good stewards of our natural resources and of each other," said Tim, vice president of Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) at AmSty since 2020.
AmSty has an impressive record that exemplifies that dedication, including the recent designation as a Responsible Care® company. It's a certification by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) recognizing industry leaders dedicated to ensuring that the business of chemistry is safe, secure and sustainable.
"Being named a Responsible Care company is truly a testament to our employees' commitment to the highest standards in health and safety," he said. "At the heart of AmSty's core values are safety, employee focus, environmental responsibility and sustainability, and this certification demonstrates that our leaders truly embrace these values."
Tim wouldn't work at AmSty if they didn't.
"I'm proud to work for a company that puts its values into action," he said.
One example is when AmSty shut down its St. James facility at an inopportune time and at great cost to address an environmental concern. It cost AmSty millions, but "it was the right thing to do," said Tim.
"You can't bank safety, you have to earn it and abide by our safety protocols and federal regulations every minute of the day," he said.
The reality is, working with chemicals can be a dangerous business without proper training and appropriate safeguards. It's an environment where materials are combined, requiring high temperatures and pressures in very complex systems to create other materials or products. Facilities must be accurately designed and operated with discipline by trained staff.
Rigorous internal protocols, regulatory oversight, corporate investment and decades of experience have resulted in an industry that statistically is much safer than you might think.
In fact, Responsible Care® companies have a worker safety rate that's nearly five times better than the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole, and almost three times better than the business of chemistry overall.
Tim points to the record at AmSty's eight sites. A number of them have many years in succession without injury. In fact, our Joliet plant went 13 years without an event and our Marietta plant has just completed 7 years safely. Others have had other impressive years-long milestones as well. The commercial driving team has had no AmSty-caused events in its 2.5 million miles on the road.
Last year, AmSty celebrated three years without a process safety event. It also had a two-year period with zero recordable injuries.
"To put that in context, that's three-million employee hours. Think of anything you do three million times, with 475 Amsty employees and contractors working each day in high hazard conditions – and doing so safely," he said.
In addition to an impressive internal safety record, Tim is proud of the success in managing longstanding partnerships with a wide number of contractors who assist during turnarounds – times where plants are intentionally shut down for inspections and maintenance.
"Sometimes this involves upwards of 500 to 700 people on site," said Tim. "We've had five turnarounds to-date and all were completed safely."
While Tim works each day to make sure certain things get done, in the end, his job is more about making sure things don't happen.
"It's about focusing on what we're doing in the moment and the positive contributions our employees make each day," he said. "It's job one for all of us."
His leadership role is a big job, but one that suits him well after a long career in various EH&S positions.
With a degree in chemical engineering from California State Polytechnic University, Tim was drawn to the operations side of the industry, not design like many of his college classmates.
His first job was with The Dow Chemical Company as a production engineer in Los Angeles. That position eventually led to various manufacturing leadership roles including EH&S Business Operations Leader for Dow in 2004, overseeing operations globally. Then in 2008, AmSty was formed through a joint venture between Chevron Phillips Chemical Company and Dow. That's when Tim was selected to lead development of EH&S performance and improvement compliance programs – and the rest is history.
"There's nothing more important than ensuring our employees are safe at the end of the day," he said. "It's rewarding and an interesting assignment, considering there are nearly 500 employees across the company."
Each must play a part in doing things right, "but it's not always easy," said Tim. "I'm incredibly grateful for the continued commitment."