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Richard D. Fox

2013 CEOs Who "Get It"

February 1, 2013

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Richard D. Fox
Chairman
CDM Smith

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

RICHARD D. FOX: Safety is reflected in all of CDM Smith's core values – excellence, initiative, integrity, shared commitment and teamwork. We make safety a top priority in everything we do – ensuring our employees, our clients and the public's safety receives proper attention and is addressed as an underlying expectation.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who "gets it." What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

I worked for a general contractor the summers of my college years. The harsh hazards of power tools and power equipment became so obvious and were never forgotten. A tour of duty in the Naval Civil Engineering Corps gave me a healthy respect for the hazards of electrical generation and distribution, confined space entry and explosive materials. As director of the $4 billion Boston Harbor project (a constrained site with 65 general contractors and a peak workforce of 6,000 craft workers), I was shocked by the actuarial estimate of the injuries and deaths expected from this heavy concrete and mechanical construction. We adopted a very aggressive owner-directed safety program that resulted in the 10-year program concluding with safety results at two-thirds less than the actuarial estimate. CDM Smith's concern for the health and safety of our employees has continued to be the foundation of our corporate culture. This extraordinary commitment was driven to exceptional levels by the exemplary leadership of our construction unit and our safety managers. Their leadership has built a culture of safety that is founded on the goal of zero being the only acceptable goal for injuries to our employees.

What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?

Our biggest obstacle is hazard recognition. With a diverse global organization, getting all employees to recognize and mitigate hazards is a challenge, especially where the local standards and practice are lacking. We have developed our "Safe-Think" process, which encourages employees to pause a moment and think about the task they are about to perform, assess the hazards and decide on an approach to accomplish the work safely. Language barriers and differing standards throughout the world also present challenges we are currently addressing.

How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?

Instilling a sense of safety in our employees is an essential component of developing and strengthening our safety culture. Every year, all employees are required to complete safety and health awareness training to reinforce individual responsibility and communicate everyone's role in safety. We use posters and companywide emails to routinely distribute safety information, and we maintain a health and safety site on our intranet. Managers also routinely include safety topics in their operations meetings. We have also implemented a near-miss/good-catch program companywide to help gather information from non-injury events. Lessons learned from these events are shared with applicable staff and incorporated into future training. It always comes back to accountability – safety performance is included in our performance evaluations, and our employees recognize that they need to take personal responsibility for their own safety and that of their co-workers.

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

ACDM Smith measures safety using the traditional lagging indicators and is transitioning to more leading indicators such as near misses and good catches. We are also beginning to monitor safety activities and interactions by our group leaders and have increased our monitoring of safety training. We have established health and safety training requirements of our engineering and consulting staff and are implementing our best practices throughout the world, including locations with less-stringent regulations. On our construction projects, we track the participation of supervisors and superintendents on safety audits and inspections.

The construction safety auditing system we use records the results from routine safety inspections and the data is immediately distributed to project and senior managers. In addition, the data from these inspections is routinely reviewed to look for trends or areas that need additional emphasis on a project, regional or business unit basis. This system also helps us identify problem projects or areas and allows our safety team to intervene before an incident occurs.

Overall, our safety performance is much better than industry averages; however, we continually look for ways to improve, realizing that accident-free performance is the only acceptable goal. While we have achieved some significant progress and reached some impressive milestones in accident-free performance, we focus on continuous improvement. As our performance improves, more of our employees believe that the goal of zero accidents is truly achievable.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization's overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

Off- the-job safety is playing a larger role throughout CDM Smith. We have implemented a formal wellness program to reward employees who live a healthy lifestyle and make good personal decisions regarding their health. Our safety communications routinely include information intended to improve the safety of our employees away from work. We have formal smoking cessation and weight loss programs, in addition to providing support through our health insurance carrier for managing our employees' health. We also encourage employees to use our Safe Think process at home to help increase their awareness of hazards away from work.


CDM Smith provides lasting and integrated solutions in water, environment, transportation, energy and facilities to public and private clients worldwide. As a full-service consulting, engineering, construction and operations firm employing 4,500 workers, CDM Smith delivers exceptional client service, quality results and enduring value across the entire project life cycle.

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