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2012 CEOs Who 'Get It'

February 1, 2012

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Dan Batrack

CEO
Tetra Tech Inc.

Why is safety a core value at your company?

DAN BATRACK: At Tetra Tech, our work is focused on improvement. Whether our efforts result in improved water quality, greener energy solutions, more efficient infrastructure design or more effective governance in struggling democracies, our completed projects leave behind tangible results that improve the quality of life. This is what we do as an organization. Our people are our No. 1 asset, so neglecting the health and safety of our employees while conducting this work would be contradictory to our mission.

What is your company’s biggest obstacle to safety?

Tetra Tech has established itself as a global leader. Nearly one-third of our employees currently work outside the United States – including employees in remote and austere working environments in Afghanistan, Africa and the Arctic Circle. And many of our employees are working in parts of the world where safety may be lacking or addressed differently from the United States. This shift in our work population requires that our commitment to safety and the safety education of our employees be communicated from the perspective of Tetra Tech’s best management practices.

I recently sponsored an initiative within Tetra Tech to address the challenges of working abroad. Our international administrative council, which includes safety and security representation, regularly engages with key managers to address the many obstacles of working abroad and provide the resources to perform this work safely.

How do you measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe you are, and where do you see room for improvement?

As CEO, I have established a regular operations forum for all key managers in every Tetra Tech operating unit. These monthly calls span multiple countries and time zones. The purpose of my call is to discuss the current performance of the enterprise. It is my practice to include safety performance as a regular agenda item.

Presenting financial and project performance data, as well as safety performance data, emphasizes my expectation for our key leaders that they are responsible for safety and health within their areas of authority and will be held accountable for their safety performance just as they are in all other operational aspects of our business. I have seen our operational leaders follow this example and have made health and safety a standing reporting item in each business group’s operations calls. What gets measured gets managed.

Our tracked metrics include total recordable injuries and illnesses, as well as lost time case metrics. During my five years as CEO, our TRIR has been reduced from 1.55 to a current year-to-date (September 2011) TRIR of 0.52 – more than a 66 percent reduction. Tetra Tech’s LWDIR rate has been reduced from 0.53 to a current year-to-date (September 2011) of 0.15 – more than a 71 percent reduction. Our near-miss reporting has increased 35 percent this year.

Our focus on the safety education of our project managers has resulted in more than 2,000 project managers trained to date. We are continually striving for improvement in both our leading and trailing metrics.

Describe your journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

I began my journey with Tetra Tech in June 1980. The first few years of my employment were spent working in a variety of challenging environments.

My first project was in the Arctic Circle conducting oceanographic research on the ice pack’s interaction with the continental shelf. This project required that I address safe practices for work in extreme weather conditions and exposure to other physical hazards in very remote locations. I went on to spend several more years working in South America and the Middle East. I was the project manager on one of the first hydrographic surveys to identify future marine port locations off the largely uncharted waters of Saudi Arabia from Yemen to Jordan. Our work practices routinely addressed safe diving and boating practices. Over the next 30 years with Tetra Tech, I was involved in project management from many various perspectives as a project manager, operating unit manager and eventually as CEO in 2005.

It was with this extensive project experience that I learned it was my responsibility to complete all of my projects safely, on time and within budget. When incidents occurred on my projects, the responsibility to investigate was not delegated to the safety coordinator. I personally conducted the investigation and worked with my team and the client to identify the root causes and implement effective corrective actions. I experienced firsthand that a strong safety program was integral to a successful project. This innate understanding of the various challenges that our project managers face is what I bring to the table as CEO of Tetra Tech. One of my goals as CEO is to provide the resources for our project managers so that support is available to them at all facets of project implementation, including safety.

Tetra Tech is a global company with more than 13,000 employees involved in solving the world’s most complex engineering and environmental challenges. It is a leading provider of consulting, engineering, program management, construction management and technical services that focuses on supporting fundamental needs for water, natural resources, the environment, infrastructure and energy.

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