A Sit Down with Sunbelt Rentals' Executive Vice President

Anthony Miller, CSP is the Executive Vice President of Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. & Ashtead Group

Published on Thursday, December 9, 2021

Anthony Miller, CSP is the Executive Vice President of Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. & Ashtead Group—a rental organization that rents heavy civil equipment including general construction equipment, industrial tools, pumps, power generation, climate control and HVAC, shoring solutions, etc. and has upwards of 15,000 employees with more than 1,025 locations in North America. 

Anthony sat down with us to discuss his journey to safety, why he and Sunbelt Rentals have such a strong commitment to protecting employees, and why professional certification, particularly, in the case of Sunbelt Rentals, BCSP’s Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) and Safety Trained Supervisor Construction (STSC) certifications, play an important role in developing and maintaining a healthy safety corporate culture. 

BCSP: Why did you decide to become a safety professional, and why is safety important to you? 

Anthony: I joined the safety department at Murray State University and started on my undergraduate degree. While I was doing an internship at an electrical co-op, a lineman was electrocuted, and I was part of the rescue — pulling that individual out of the bucket and performing CPR. Afterward, I was also responsible for the root-cause analysis and the investigation with OSHA. I was an intern and that was all they had from a safety perspective, so I saw the benefits of having a safety professional in an organization.  

BCSP: It makes me think, my son just started driving this year… 

Anthony: Oh man. Yeah. That’s the thing, your son, his behaviors will change when he has to lock it up [the brakes] a couple of times to keep from hitting someone. That’s going to change his behavior. But how do you change behavior without having that exposure? 

That's one of the things that we've done here recently: identifying exposures and talking about things like failing safely. For example, you wear this seat belt for a reason, because when the piece of equipment comes off the trailer, it keeps you inside the piece of equipment. You failed, but you failed safely. We should celebrate that. It's kind of putting things on its ear a little bit, but it's been beneficial to us. 

BCSP: How did you begin to build your safety culture at Sunbelt Rentals?

Anthony: It starts with caring; you have to figure out why you’re wanting to do this in the organization, and you have to build on that. You need to find commonality that everybody can get behind, and you also have to avoid making it about policies or procedures or safety cops; you have to really make it personal. You have to figure out a way that it’s relevant and personal to the individuals that are out in the field and keep it simple. 

Brushing your teeth is important to you, but you can’t build a culture around that. But brushing your teeth is important. So is combing your hair and then eating the right things. And the next thing you know, these elements come together and become wellbeing. It’s more than just one thing, it’s everything together, and you have to figure out how you piece it all together. 

BCSP: Can you speak to benefits that you or others have experienced after achieving certification? 

Anthony: You automatically add that credibility, and you’re also playing in a different field when it comes to a salary perspective. There’s the job opportunities, those increase tenfold. If you’re in sales, you don’t see very many sales professionals having certifications… so it’s powerful to walk onto a construction site and say, “Hey, I’m a sales professional for Sunbelt Rentals and I’m an STS.” That brings automatic recognition from a heavy civil client of ours.
Our field supervisors are now taking STS prep classes so that they can go and complete the certification. We’re hoping to get upwards of 900 folks with STSs here in the next couple of years.

BCSP: How do you picture the future of safety?

Anthony: Team member training is a big one. Individuals learn differently, so it’s adjusting to those learning patterns. The days of sharing 30-minute training modules with folks are over. Now, you have to get your message across in two, three-minute blocks. How do you do that to cater to the workforce? 

I received a letter not too long ago from one of our retiring drivers who had been with us 30-plus years. He said he's going to take the principles that we have instilled through Engage for Life —which is our process — home with him every day, and he will continue to take those home. Everybody will give you a sound bite like, “it's going to reduce the injuries and the customers are going to benefit from it.” But it's really the individuals taking it home and making themselves a better version of what they were before they were exposed to that culture.

Our thanks to Anthony for taking the time to join us to talk safety and the value of BCSP certification. More of his interview can be found in our upcoming eBook, which will be released early next year!