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Pardee: Safety leadership must be engrained in every aspect of our business – not assigned to any one individual, but rather to each and every employee. We strive to establish a culture where all employees at all levels recognize it is their obligation to stop and correct any unsafe condition or behavior. We look out for one another.
S+H: Why is safety a core value at your company?
Pardee: Preserving the health and safety of our employees and the general public is a basic tenet in our business. Safety, whether it is industrial, environmental, nuclear or radiological, is at the forefront of everything we do. We believe each employee in our company is personally responsible for all aspects of safety.
We have a management model in place that is essentially a playbook for how we operate. The document describes how we operate as a team to keep everyone working toward a common goal: To provide safe, clean and reliable power. This model shows where we need to focus our energy on a daily basis. A key element of our management model is industrial safety and the protection of our workforce and neighbors.
We have invested a significant amount of time and resources into our safety program, including developing clearly defined policies, processes and training programs. Daily sharing of lessons learned, identifying potential safety risks and learning from others in the industry is how we make certain safety remains a top priority for every employee at Exelon Nuclear. At the end of the day, we want every employee to return home safely to their families.
S+H: How do you view the relationship between safety and quality, production and profitability?
Pardee: My belief is that if we’re focused on safety and quality, production and, ultimately, profitability will follow. At Exelon, our mission is to provide safe, clean and reliable power. We have worked hard to ensure our employees are knowledgeable about, and understand how to apply, the many human performance tools they have available to them. Consistently applying these tools on a daily basis ensures safety is the first step and consideration is given to every task.
S+H: How do you instill a sense of safety in your employees on an ongoing basis?
S+H: What is the biggest obstacle to safety in your workplace, and what do you do to overcome it?
Pardee: There are a few safety obstacles that I believe are true for many companies: complacency and mixed messages of safety versus production. Safety must always be first. For example, before we start any job, we discuss the safety hazards relative to the work being performed. If we cannot meet the safety needs, then the job will be postponed. This same approach is used with all of our communications from the leadership team. In our messages, we communicate about safety before operations-related activities. As leaders, we must demonstrate our commitment to safety if we expect our employees to do the same.
Complacency also can have a negative impact on safety. Employees who have been doing the same job day after day, year after year, can fall into the complacency trap. At Exelon Nuclear, we consistently say that no job is routine, but saying it is not enough. We’ve equipped our line leadership with the human performance tools they need to ensure every task is discussed (pre-job brief), challenged (two-minute drill) and followed (three-way communication) so even the most routine job is approached as if it were a first-time evolution.
S+H: How do you measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show how safe you are, and where do you see room for improvement?
Pardee: There are two key “performance indicators” we use to measure employee safety: the OSHA Recordable Incident Rate and OSHA DART Rate. We’re proud that our rates have significantly and consistently improved over the past 10 years. However, our goal is to have zero work-related injuries. This is the goal for which we will continue to strive. We will continue to educate our employees about safety and adjust our programs and processes as necessary until we reach the goal of consistently achieving zero work-related injuries.
Safety also is measured through our annual employee feedback survey. Portions of this survey are dedicated to understanding what employees think about our safety performance and safety policies and procedures. It measures the intangible aspects of safety that are not captured by simply “counting” an event. The feedback from this survey helps us improve actions that create a safety-minded culture.
Pardee: Off-the-job safety is an important contributing factor to the success of our safety program. The National Safety Council reports that more than 3 million people are injured in home accidents each year. Some of the same situations that create hazards at home are similar to those in the work environment, such as poor housekeeping, inadequate lighting, faulty wiring, etc. If we can instill the importance of off-the-job safety in our employees and increase their awareness of identifying and mitigating hazards while at home, then they will be more likely to identify and correct hazardous conditions and situations while at work.
S+H: What types of off–the-job safety programs does your company offer to its employees?
Pardee: Our off-the-job safety program primarily consists of communications, tools and benefits to improve the quality of employee safety and health outside of the work environment. For example, our Occupational Health Services (OHS) organization issues a comprehensive safety and health-related newsletter that is distributed to employees’ homes monthly. This publication provides the most relevant and accurate safety and health information so employees can make better decisions when it comes to personal safety and health outside the workplace.
It is important that our employees have direct access to relevant, accurate health information, with interactive tools and programs to improve the health of our employees and their families. Exelon has partnered with Mayo Clinic to provide our employees with access to an online health management tool that will significantly improve their ability to manage their own health. This program combines smart Web technology with proven behavior change approaches to help improve our employees’ lifestyle habits, make better treatment decisions and reduce health risks to live healthier lives. Users have access to various resources such as health assessments, behavior change programs, tailored behavioral messages, instructional videos, treatment decision guides, answers from Mayo Clinic specialists and a comprehensive health reference library.
S+H: How does safety “pay” at your company?
Pardee: Safety “pays” each day an employee returns home injury-free; this is how we measure Exelon’s safety performance. Electricity is essential to our lives, and it is our responsibility to produce that power 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is our responsibility to guarantee a robust safety program is in place that employees can rely and depend on to ensure they are always working safely. Our commitment to safety also has helped us with recruiting talented individuals. Prospective employees want to be assured they are joining an organization that recognizes safety as a core value.
S+H: What advice do you have for other CEOs who want to “get it”?
Pardee: Listen to your employees. Safety must be leader-led and have a substantial employee engagement component to be successful. Organizations operate better when more employees are part of the discussion rather than being audience participants. Most employees take pride in their work, so leverage that knowledge and dedication to create a culture where employees feel empowered to raise safety issues. Just as important, however, your leadership team must demonstrate its commitment to safety through their actions.
Employees will quickly recognize and resist leaders who may frequently talk about safety, but don’t display a personal commitment to safety through their direction, actions or oversight. If leaders demonstrate that daily safety commitment, organizational acceptance is much easier and more effective.
- Q&A with Chris Curtis, Schneider Electric, recipient of the 2011 Green Cross for Safety Medal