A career driven by care: Meet one of the Accelera HSE managers

"Take the word 'expert' out of your vocabulary. There's no such thing," says Salvatore Turco, or Sal as we know him at Accelera™ by Cummins. That's what Sal learned from a mentor early in his career. He champions listening, not just so that we can respond, but to understand where people are coming from and what we can learn from others.  

Sal Turco is a Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Manager at the Accelera Mississauga facilities in Ontario, Canada, and he celebrated 35 years in the field in 2024. We caught up with him to find out more about the integral role that support for one another plays in creating our culture of safety.

 

I found Accelera because…

I've always loved chemistry. At school, I took senior chemistry in grade 9 and majored in the subject at university. Working in HSE has allowed me to bring together two of my greatest loves: people and chemistry. I get to use my technical knowledge to help keep people safe. At earlier jobs, my chemistry background was vital for navigating safety concerns and potential threats.

I heard of Accelera and the breakthroughs the company has made. Thirty years ago, the costs of working with hydrogen technology were prohibitive, and the technology itself was limited. Being part of the global push to embrace greener technology was hugely exciting. The timing for joining the business couldn't have been better. It was right when Accelera invested in electrolyzers and added them to its technology portfolio. It meant I could get involved with a business that would directly help tackle the climate crisis.

 

My greatest learnings over the years…

They came from Smitty, a mentor who taught me a lot about HSE. Smitty was in HSE during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. He also taught me that there is no such thing as an expert because we should always keep learning and improving.

Another mentor once said, "You should learn to approach people with a servant's heart." In HSE, we provide advice on security, fire protection, ergonomics, risk assessments, and electrical and health and safety programs. By acting with a serving mindset, we can feel inspired to find the best answers and solutions for people.

 

My typical day involves…

Getting up early and keeping my phone on me 24/7. HSE never stops, and we never know what might happen, so I make sure we always have coverage by staggering hours across our team.

Being present to identify issues is a huge part of my day. My goal is to be on the floor for the majority of my working hours, which means I walk an average of three to five kilometers by visiting different facilities and connecting with employees. To be an effective HSE manager, people need to see me, and I need to be physically there to coach them. I can drop by to run ad hoc checks, ensuring everyone follows procedure to stay safe and well.

 

Something I tell my colleagues is…

HSE is all about people. When people speak up about ideas and start brainstorming, they create a safer work environment. But before they can raise issues, they need to feel psychologically safe. That should always be a massive focus in our work.

Part of nurturing this psychological safety is connecting with people. I take the time to get to know people and understand their point of view to create that connection. In four years, we've hired 350 people at Mississauga – and I know every single person. It has got to be personal.

I encourage my colleagues to make health, safety and environment processes real for people. We wake them up.

 

In my role, it's important to be…

Innovative. It's one of the core behaviors in Accelera culture, and it drives me to create new processes and contribute in ways that may be viewed as unconstrained or unconventional. Addressing HSE issues or trying to reduce the risk to our employees sometimes requires you to not just "think outside the box" but to throw the whole box away. Letting loose in brainstorming sessions works wonders, especially with cross-functional teams. It emphasizes that we are stronger together than working alone.

Each challenge, problem and constraint is an opportunity to do our very best. The end goal is always our Accelera family's safety and well-being.

 

We're pushing boundaries by…

At Accelera, we're creating things that didn't exist before, so my team is creating safety programs to go with them. If a machine needs to work faster, we think about what must happen to ensure it doesn't hurt the person using it.

Everyone at Accelera truly cares. Over my career, I've heard every reason imaginable for not investing in health and safety – but the leadership team at Accelera is always keen to invest in protecting people and the environment. Suppose my team identifies a situation that could lead to a future incident. In that case, the leadership team supports us in implementing the proper safeguards. Because to leadership, it's a no-brainer – we prevent harm. I'm proud to work for our leaders at Accelera.

 

In the future, I'm excited to…

I plan on retiring over the next five years, so one of my ongoing focuses is preparing my team for a time when I'm no longer their leader. I want to nurture a culture centered around an innate drive to look after others. Supporting and protecting people has been the foundation of my work for the past 35 years. I've been able to create a career out of caring for others, and I want to inspire the next generation of leaders at Accelera to do the same.

Once I retire, I can look forward to spending more time with my three grown-up children and filling my home with even more antiques. My motto is 'enjoy the gift of the day,' which will undoubtedly be how I make the most of my retirement.  

 

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Reflecting on Sal's long and successful career, his foundation of supporting and caring for others drives him. While Sal humbly says that there is no such thing as an "expert," his unmatched expertise and unwavering dedication to health and safety tell a different story. His commitment to continuous growth and excellence in this field sets him apart and inspires those around him to prioritize the well-being of others in every endeavor.