The king of culture: Meet the boss who wants to change mindsets
Robert Burnett is the UK Regional Health and Safety Manager at Amazon. He oversees Amazon’s fulfilment centres in the UK and is also part of the EU Safety team contributing to safety projects worldwide. Growing up, Robert was (and remains) a huge fan of legendary TV detective Columbo, and while he did not become a detective - after studying business at University and pursuing a career in safety - he still gets to lead investigations, in a way!
Robert’s interest in safety in the workplace began at Tesco where he became a safety rep, while at college and university. After graduating, he landed safety roles at the Symphony Group and Wilkinson’s before joining Amazon.
“I’ve been with the team for over five years and have worked with an amazing range of people in various locations around the UK and EU,” says Robert. “Each member of the Amazon team has their own experiences prior and this is one fun part of the role when you work with different teams and people. For example, one of my site leaders was a fighter pilot in the Gulf - I learned a lot working with her. Having exposure to these characters with such a diverse range of experiences allows me to learn new skills to become a better manager and apply them with my safety knowledge.”
Culture is absolutely critical, every associate needs to play an active role, so driving engagement is a big part of our focus as a team.
Robert has a great team of over 100 professionals across the UK supporting him, ensuring every single issue, however small, is addressed. To achieve this, Rob and his safety team look to engage employees in every aspect of their day-to-day operations. Rob says, “culture is absolutely critical, every associate needs to play an active role, so driving engagement is a big part of our focus as a team.”
Given this focus, and the priority that Amazon as a business places on safety, Rob says the team are seeing great results: “Our associates are passionate, and that is a big thing in the health and safety industry because it is something most businesses struggle to achieve.
“Outside of Amazon, Safety can be a divisive word within industry; some people still have that old-fashioned traffic warden type image of someone working in safety who is here to say no or, ‘you can’t do that’, and walk away. Within Amazon, I believe we work to a standard that inspires operational leaders and associates. We take into consideration what is needed and ensure it is as safe as possible, using input from all personnel involved.”
This year, Robert and his team are focusing on the concept of inside/outside safety and employee wellbeing, he says that, “It’s a big team environment here, we all own safety and we try to improve our Health and Safety standards every single day. I would like to see more people come along on tours. To see what we do, to see how we do it and to see how passionate we are about it.”