Team Member Spotlight: Q&A with Lowell Matheny, Compliance and Safety Manager

Jan 18, 2022 | Team Member Spotlight

1. What’s your role at Woven Metal Products (WMP?)

I’m in charge of compliance and safety for the company, ensuring all team members understand and follow safe workplace guidelines. That ranges from the shop floor to our IT systems and cybersecurity. I’m in tune with all accidents or near accidents that happen on-site, and I’m in constant communication with team members and supervisors. If I see trends popping up, I work with those teams to come up with new guidelines to mitigate risks.

I’m also in charge of managing the rigorous process for ISO certification each year, which ensures that we are meeting customer and stakeholder needs within statutory and regulatory requirements.

 2. Tell us about your career journey. How did you get into this field?

I had my first experience with workplace safety in the early ’80s when I was right out of high school working in a chemical plant.  I had a significant accident and ended up in the hospital, suspended for two weeks without pay despite following my foreman’s instructions (which ended up being in violation of a safety code). After that experience, I decided I wanted to work in workplace safety. No one needs to get hurt at work; period.

I launched my career by taking training and working with the safety team at a lighting manufacturer, where I focused on accident prevention. I’ve since worked on safety teams in a variety of industries — from food service distribution to entertainment and eventually in sports with the Houston Astros organization before landing at WMP. Along the way I took OSHA training courses and received certifications at Texas A&M. I’m passionate about using my experience and skills to prevent hazards at work and keep people safe.

3. What’s the best part of your position?

I like to see everyone go home. By that I mean it’s been a productive workday, everyone has gotten a lot accomplished, they feel energized when they leave for the day — with no accidents. I try to infuse positivity into the way I approach our team members, and I hope that’s how I’m remembered. Even if there’s an issue I have to address, I look for ways to make it a teachable moment instead of a punishment.

4. Tell us about your team. How do you work together?

I work closely with all of WMP and consider everyone my team. Their safety is paramount to everything and ensuring they know how to comply with the best practices and are aware of the latest rules and regulations is very important. We all have to work together to make sure we’re taking care of each other — whether it’s on the shop floor or on computer servers.

Additionally, we use an outside safety consulting company to help with safety audits, certification and training. Our contractor there helps to verify we have everything in order should we be audited by OSHA. We have a very collaborative relationship, and he often gives me ideas for new procedures and keeps me updated on the latest trends when it comes to safety and compliance. For our ISO certification process, we work with a certification company that reviews our processes and does the actual certification.

5. What’s one of the most challenging projects you’ve worked on?

I would say weather, especially hurricanes, which we occasionally get in this area of Texas, presents challenges. When we lose power, we have to troubleshoot to get back online as quickly and safely as possible. And of course, we must ensure our team members are safe in the path of a storm. I keep them updated on weather hazards and make sure they can safely return to work.

6. What’s the best advice you have for keeping workers safe on the job?

Creating a safe work environment is a team effort. If you see something say something. It’s also important to have supervisors and managers involved in and aware of risk mitigation policies and approaches. My door is open 24 hours a day for anyone to come to me with a concern. I consider my co-workers not just colleagues, but my friends and family. And I want my friends and family to go home safely every night.

7. Tell me about the ISO audit program. Why is it important? What does it involve?

The ISO audit program is the manufacturing industry standard for operational excellence and quality. Our compliance with ISO indicates to our clients and prospective customers that we adhere to the top standards in fabrication — that we do what we say we do. We have many audits we have to complete annually as part of the certification, including testing our equipment to make sure it’s accurate and up to date, and proving quality by following a product in fabrication from start to finish.

 8. What advice would you share with others considering this industry? Or in similar roles?

Learn as much as you can about this field. Go to where the work is being done to understand what you’re managing. Sitting through a safety meeting isn’t the same as going out there and living it. Instill in your workforce that safety is a team effort. Accidents can and will happen, and it’s up to you to figure out why, find a trend and change procedures.

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