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Safety matters at Sandia Labs


National Safety Council honors Cynthia Rivera

SAFETY MAVEN — Cynthia Rivera is one of 38 National Safety Council’s honorees under age 40 with a proven track record of workplace safety leadership and dedication to continuous improvement. (Photo by Bret Latter)

Sandia’s Cynthia Rivera has been named a Rising Star of Safety, Class of 2021, by the National Safety Council.

Cynthia joined Labs’ mission services as an Environment, Safety & Health coordinator in 2014. Since, she has guided the development of safety training sessions and materials, ergonomics programs, occurrence reporting tools and policy assessments.

“It’s great to be recognized,” Cynthia said. “But at the end of the day I do it because I care about people and want to be a good partner in promoting safety for Sandia’s mission and activities.

“The inquisitive nature of our employees helps to create an important safety culture here,” she said. “I really like that. That’s why all of these amazing accomplishments come out of this organization.”

Cynthia is one of 38 National Safety Council honorees under age 40 with a proven track record of workplace safety leadership and dedication to continuous improvement.

Cynthia’s work in Sandia’s industrial ergonomics awareness and assessment program has resulted in a 70% reduction in injuries related to industrial ergonomics and overexertion across the Labs. She also developed the Safe Work Methods annual training program for Logistics Operations to focus on safe practices and behaviors. Cynthia crafted the training session and materials, established an annual assessment process for employees and conducted quarterly safe practice sessions based on her analysis of leading and lagging indicators. To date, the program has reduced injuries by 34% and employee participation has increased by 87%.

“Safety is so important because it’s an element in everything we do here at Sandia and at home, too,” Cynthia said. “Be mindful in the moment. The ultimate goal when developing a safety culture is when people don’t even realize that they’re implementing safety measures; they’re just doing it.”

Searching for her calling

With encouragement from her dad, Cynthia began plotting her academic and professional path toward computer science while attending Pojoaque High School. She enrolled in college courses to get a taste for computer science.

“I started my freshman year at UNM taking (computer science) coding classes and I realized after that first semester that this is not for me,” she said. “I could do coding – I got it – but it was just not me.”

Cynthia sat one night with the entire course catalogue and highlighted all the classes she already had taken. “I was determined to find my calling, but didn’t want to lose the time, money or effort I had already expended,” she said. “I thought it would help me narrow down what I wanted to be. And it came down to nursing or environmental science.”

Cynthia researched both fields intensively to reassure her father that changing her major was a good idea but also to reassure herself that she was making a good choice. “I had done so much research and had a great talk with my dad,” she said. “He respected and supported my decision, so I enrolled in a new environmental science program at Northern New Mexico College while interning at Los Alamos National Laboratory where I was mentored by two industrial hygienists.”

Cynthia earned a bachelor’s in environmental sciences from Northern New Mexico College and went on to earn a master’s in industrial hygiene from the University of Montana. In 2014 she joined Sandia’s Environment, Safety & Health Planning Department and is now an acting integration manager for the department. “I feel fortunate that I found my path,” she said.

Rising Stars award winners align with the National Safety Council awards values and are dedicated to the mission of the National Safety Council: eliminating the leading causes of preventable death so people can live their fullest lives.

Since 2010, the National Safety Council, through the Rising Stars of Safety Award, has honored the next generation of professionals under 40 who provide leadership in their organization and are dedicated to continuous safety improvements.

“It’s no secret that we find ourselves in a challenging moment for workplace safety. But with leaders like this year’s class of Rising Star honorees innovating new safety solutions every day, the future of safety and health is bright,” said Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The contributions of these ‘stars’ to the NSC mission to keep people safe from the workplace to anyplace are truly stellar.”

The National Safety Council’s 2021 Rising Stars of Safety are featured in the October edition of Safety+Health magazine.

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