Safety culture Leadership
SAFETY LEADERSHIP

2015 CEOs Who "Get It"

The National Safety Council recognizes nine leaders who demonstrate a personal commitment to worker safety and health

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William “Bill” S. McIntyre IV

Chairman, Shareholder and Co-Founder
American Contractors Insurance Group

Accomplishments

  • Implemented “Project Life Saver” initiative that committed to reduce losses by 40 percent over four years
  • Created two annual CEO roundtables for group companies that require top management to focus on safety
  • Led the organization to its best overall safety performance regarding injury rates

Founded in 1981, AMERICAN CONTRACTORS INSURANCE GROUP is a construction industry-owned insurance company with executive offices in Dallas. ACIG has 80 employees, and its primary lines of business are workers’ compensation, general and auto liability, and subcontractor default insurance.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

On any given workday, our member contractors are responsible for the safety and lives of 100,000 workers at project locations and their offices, including their own employees, subcontractor employees and others. ACIG’s commitment to safety is a reflection of our members’ deep commitment to safety and quality. We are all committed to the zero-loss philosophy to reduce injuries, save lives and reduce the cost of our work.

Describe your journey to becoming a CEO who understands the importance of worker safety. What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

In the beginning of my career in property/casualty insurance, I mainly focused on reducing the cost of insurance/risk by negotiating lower rates with insurance companies. As I became more involved with large-premium payers, I came to realize that because premiums are based on losses, the better way to reduce the cost of risk was to reduce losses through implementing enhanced safety practices.

With my understanding of the insurance mechanism, I became very proficient in helping CEOs “connect the dots” between the moral obligations of protecting their employees and the financial rewards of doing so. This led me to partnering with contractors in ACIG to establish a vehicle to maximize the safety effort and the financial rewards.

At the end of 2002, our group was “breaking our arms” patting ourselves on the back. However, we were still having $50 million in losses. All of our CEOs, including me, made a personal commitment to reducing our losses by 40 percent over a four-year period through supporting “Project Life Saver.” While there were, and are, many moving parts to this effort, the underpinnings were improving our safety culture and providing the executive leadership to make it happen. It worked! We reloaded the program and established new goals of reduction. After 12 years, we have realized the following improvements:

  • 58 percent reduction in workers’ compensation losses
  • 69 percent reduction in general liability losses
  • 40 percent reduction in auto liability losses

While these are great numbers and results, we are continuing with our efforts to improve. I and my partners have experienced the deep satisfaction of reducing injuries to our employees and others, which has served to increase our dedication to this process. Having any injury is unacceptable.

 

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

Getting everyone on board with the idea that safety is not adverse to production has always been a challenge in the construction industry. There is a direct correlation between enhanced safety results and increased profits. Once an organization and its employees understand this fact, it is much easier to instill and maintain a proactive safety culture. Educating all levels of employees on the financial reasons to be safe, along with the moral reasons to protect fellow workers, sends a very powerful and effective message.

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

My mission has been to motivate the 41 CEOs involved in ACIG to promote continuous improvement and help them fight their biggest enemy – complacency – while improving and maintaining their safety cultures. We have two CEO roundtable meetings a year and an annual ACIG “Best Practices” meeting that more than 200 operational managers, including the CEOs, attend. None of our safety professionals attend, which forces the managers to be more interactive. These managers take new ideas back to their companies and provide the leadership to improve the safety awareness of their employees. That process is supported by an annual “Contractor Action Plan,” approved by the CEO, to develop a well-defined roadmap for improvement for the coming year. If a specific company is struggling, we have developed an effective strategic planning process to “reboot” their program.

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?

While “Metrics R Us,” due to our unusual association, we are able to develop some unique benchmarking. Using a well-defined and enforced set of statistical reporting protocols, we are able to rank our 41 contractors according to their lost-time rates for workers’ compensation and accident rates for general and auto liability from best to worst. The peer pressure developed from the rankings and the risk sharing of the first $5 million per line of coverage among the group of members motivates the entire group to improve while helping each other to improve.

The improved performance as measured in human terms is the number of injuries prevented. Based on the number of man-hours worked in the last six years of 389,424,382 and the improved loss rates, we prevented 247 construction accidents, which meant 247 workers returning home to their families. Since 2002, this number will be well in excess of 1,000. This is the next to most important metric to us as a group.

The most important metric to us – and where we have been extremely disappointed – is that with all our success in reducing our lost-time accidents, we have not reduced our death rates. In the last 7 years, we have had 21 deaths, which is totally unacceptable. We have come to the conclusion that the assumption that if the frequency of lost-time accidents are reduced, then fatal accidents will decrease. That has not happened in our case, and we’ve heard that others are experiencing the same. As a result, we are developing a new approach to address this most important issue.

What advice would you offer to other leaders whose organizations are at an earlier stage of the journey to safety excellence?

  • Make a truly deep and personal commitment to safety. Become the Chief Safety Officer.
  • Identify the metrics you need to become an agent of change. Develop the protocols for future statistics.
  • Incorporate safety into your company’s strategic planning. Kick off the process with a “boot camp” where goals are identified to kick start the program.
  • Hold managers and profit centers responsible for the results, good or bad.
  • Based on your financials, assume as much risk that is prudent under your insurance plans.
  • Compare your results, both past and future, with outside benchmarks.
  • Do blind perception surveys of top management, middle management and the field people on the state of the safety culture. You will probably be surprised at the disconnect between these groups.
  • Above all, take personal responsibility for injuries to your people and have the attitude that no one has the right to hurt your people.

What advice would you offer to a safety professional whose CEO doesn’t “get it”? How can safety pros secure buy-in from the C-suite?

There is a greater tendency for the CEO and the COO to pay lip service to safety even if they thoroughly know and understand that supporting safety is the morally right thing to do. Combining the morality of an effective safety program with the financial reasons to do so makes getting the buy-in much easier. Unfortunately, most safety professionals are not knowledgeable about the complexities of risk financing and are often not “numbers” people.

To the extent necessary, ally yourself with someone who can team up with you to make the financial case. A good place to start is the CFO. Add a competent insurance person to the mix. Suggest a loss sensitive insurance program. In addition, identify CEOs who do “get it” and encourage your CEO to meet with them.

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