Director Leads by Example During COVID-19 Pandemic

Stephen EasleyBy Lindsay Emery

The meaning of "Safety" in Stephen Easley's title gained new meaning when the COVID-19 pandemic hit as his role rose to the forefront of PAE's operations as he navigated new challenges to risk and safety management. As director of risk management, occupational health, safety, environment and quality, Easley's role expanded to include debriefing executives about COVID-19 precautions multiple times a week in addition to his typical responsibilities.

"We also needed to identify our risk, develop plans and make recommendations to the executive team for action, which was not an easy task," Easley said. "When you think back to 2020, there were so many conflicting reports, so many conflicting theories and conflicting medical advice. So trying to navigate the myriad of conflicting information and then consolidate it and keep every bit of the executive team aligned in the same message—financially, from the human resources aspect, from an operations aspect—it was a difficult challenge and it's one that I think I navigated fairly well."

Easley's position consists of multiple responsibilities for the entire corporation's risk, insurance, occupational health and safety and environmental quality programs. Risk takes up most of Easley's time, which consists of reviewing corporate insurance claims, projects and potential projects for possible risks and identifying ways to mitigate those risks.

When Easley started in his position five years ago, he primarily focused on occupational health and safety. Now, he controls safety administration for corporate operations, as well as oversight over the business units. With all his responsibilities, Easley enjoys how PAE is always trying to do something different.

"With PAE, we're always doing something unique or something challenging," Easley said. "Either a unique location in the world or some unique or exciting support roles for our government customers. So that gives me the opportunity to play a unique role in helping provide solutions that help keep our people safe, protect our property, and help protect our financial risk overall."

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Easley has continued to implement universal precautions to protect all employees. His ongoing commitment to safeguarding the organization under these extraordinary circumstances earned him recognition as a PAE Values Champion for the value "Be Safe."

Human Resources Vice President Julie McGowan nominated Easley because of his extra workload that proved successful for the whole company. Her nomination cited the task force Easley established and managed in response to COVID-19 that included stakeholders across the business to ensure that they were informed of relevant information and their voices were heard.>

"Many employees provided PAE positive feedback for how quickly they responded to the escalating situation with COVID-19, and I am certain Stephen's role and the information he was providing influenced this outcome favorably," McGowan said.

Easley knows that leading by example is important, especially during the pandemic. His team prided themselves on wearing their full compliance with mask requirements, even as it wasn't always convenient or comfortable.

"What we are doing is keeping our employees safe and our safety employees are leading the way," Easley said. 

In 2021, Easley is implementing a new occupational health and safety campaign called "Ready, Set, Protect." PAE is pursuing two certifications for occupational health and safety and environmental management standards. These certifications are part of Risk and Safety's goals that Easley hopes will create organizational and cultural standards to put PAE in a new category as a model for its peers.

"It certainly helps that [the certification pursuit has] positioned the company to be in a better place by protecting our employees, protecting our property, managing our risk portfolio, but also doing the right thing by being a socially responsible partner to employees, visitors, subcontractors and—most importantly and often overlooked—the environment," Easley said.

Easley said he is excited for 2021 and the seeing the launch of the Ready, Set, Protect program he's been working toward for several years.