Navigating a path to safety excellence

How Jeff Adamson carved out a career worthy of recognition

Navigating a path to safety excellence

Carving out a career that leads to excellence in health and safety is no easy task. But Jeff Adamson has been doing exactly that for more than 25 years. He now finds himself in the spotlight as a nominee for the CSEA Safety Leader of the Year award.

This recognition fills him with joy and gratitude.

"It's definitely a sense of pride in everything we've been doing in the field for multiple years. And to have an accomplishment to be nominated is a sense of pride, but also respect for your peers. Because it was a peer of mine who nominated me," Adamson remarks with humility.

His journey through the realm of health and safety began in 1997, when he embarked on a career with the Flint Group, a prominent global printing services company. Initially working in the maintenance department, fate had other plans for him.

When the safety manager went on a health leave, Adamson stepped up to the plate, gradually taking over the reins of health and safety for the organization.

In 2007, Adamson’s career took a momentous turn when he transitioned into a permanent role, overseeing one division comprising around 14 manufacturing facilities.

In 2015, Jeff ascended to the position of global director for environmental health and safety, overseeing 140 locations and approximately 8,000 employees. His tenure witnessed a colossal merger with industry giants Goldman Sachs and Koch Industries, leading to extensive due diligence work involving compliance audits and an extensive evaluation of the health and safety systems.

"That's a huge task, in addition to all my regular work," Adamson acknowledges with a hint of understatement.

But, as life often unfolds in corporate landscapes, Adamson faced a significant twist in his journey in 2019. The company he had served so diligently decided to shift its direction and underwent a seismic change, cutting 50% of its senior leadership. Adamson’s position was among those terminated, as the organization shifted its focus to Europe.

"I knew that position was going to be eliminated. It's corporate politics,” says Adamson, who says he “saw the writing on the wall.”

His resilience shone through as he embarked on a new chapter, going through several job interviews and fielding several offers. But he ultimately decided to join Cosmetica Laboratories in March 2020 as their environment, health, safety, and sustainability manager.

“They had the heart,” Adamson says, explaining why he chose Cosmetica. “I felt they wanted to improve, they wanted to do better, and they just didn't know how to do it.”

Cosmetica, with its 1,000 employees and a global presence, posed a different set of challenges. He also started the new job at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Adamson says he helped the company achieve one of the lowest transmitted COVID cases rates in Ontario.

Cosmetica's journey culminated in winning an Excellence Award in 2022, a testament to Adamson’s impact. Drawing upon his extensive global experience, he transformed the safety program, dramatically reducing recordable injuries from over 20 a year to just four in the first 12 months.

As Adamson contemplates his next steps, he finds himself at a crossroads once again. With a grandchild in Nova Scotia, far from his him in Ontario, and a decade left before retirement, he has choices to make.

Life and career have been marked by resilience, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to safety. The path ahead may be uncertain, but if his past is any indication, Adamson will continue to leave an indelible mark in the world of health and safety, wherever it may lead him.