2018 CEOs Who "Get It"

2018 CEOs Who Get it
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Michael McMahon

Michael P. McMahon

Day & Zimmermann ECM
Philadelphia, PA


  • Has been instrumental in promoting the drive for, and accountability to, the safety of all employees, and has taken that drive beyond his own business unit to the balance of the D&Z organization.
  • Leads thousands of workers at field and office locations around the country by setting a strong personal example, challenging the status quo, and inspiring each to safeguard their own personal health and safety and the health and safety of co-workers.
  • Led the development of a comprehensive safety program that enhances employee engagement and accountability for safe execution throughout the organization.

Day & Zimmermann is a leading provider of engineering, construction and maintenance services for the power, process and industrial markets. The company is the No. 1 maintenance services provider to the U.S. power market and maintains more than 50 percent of the U.S. nuclear power fleet. Day & Zimmermann employs 25,000 workers.

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

My personal mentor was Joe Ucciferro, the former president of Day & Zimmermann NPS and the former chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Safety Council. Joe used to say that safety is a value, not a goal. It’s not something you do, it’s in your heart and it’s a part of you. I believe that, and I credit Joe with instilling in me the respect for safety that I have carried throughout my career. In my younger days, when I was working in the field, I thought, “Injuries happen, and I better be careful so that they don’t happen to me.” As I started to do accident investigations, I began to see that there are no injuries that we come across that we couldn’t have avoided. And that is why we started to talk about the zero injury principle.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Safety begins at the top with strong core values that are fundamental to our owners, the Yoh family, who carry the zero injury safety focus across all the Day & Zimmermann companies. Safety is our No. 1 corporate value, and nothing is more important. We care about safety because we care about our people. We are a people business. Our employees and our customers have come to associate Day & Zimmermann with safe delivery because of our constant vigilance and daily commitment to create a work environment that is without accident or injury.

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

The biggest obstacle to safety is getting everyone to buy into the concept that safety isn’t something that is done to you or for you, but starts with each and every one of us. It is not about what the other workers are doing, it is about what I must do to protect myself within my own surroundings. We can avoid injuries if we each take personal responsibility for our own conduct, protect others and monitor our surroundings. We constantly work to keep safety top of mind by modeling safe behaviors and reinforcing our zero injury principles. When I tour the sites, I look for safe work practices. If and when I find the opposite, it is addressed immediately.

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

We have a comprehensive EHS program built on the Construction Industry Institute’s nine Zero Injury safety management techniques. We conduct safety training throughout the organization. Our Safety Conscious Work Environment encourages employees to identify and report work-related concerns or issues without fear of retaliation. This is coupled with an Employee Concerns Program, which provides a confidential method for workers to report their concerns. We also conduct Craft Pulsing Surveys to solicit honest feedback so workers are assured their concerns are addressed.

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?

We measure our safety performance using OSHA and other industry standards. We benchmark our performance and look for opportunities for improvement. We teach our people to identify and mitigate or eliminate hazards and risks. We embraced a behavior observation learning tool that drives accountability through preemptive evaluations of personal behaviors, plant conditions and surrounding behaviors. We know that over time, we become blind to what is right in front of us. We can look at work in action and look right past the errors. When safety becomes boring, people tend to have an inaccurate perception of the risk and a high-risk tolerance. In other words, we lack the heightened awareness and caution we have when we first enter a strange or unfamiliar work environment. It takes managerial courage to passionately refuse to lose the battle to get to zero injuries.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program?

If safety is something that you turn on at starting time and turn off at quitting time, you are going to hurt yourself and others. We continually preach and reinforce that safety is a 24-hour-a-day commitment. We must take our safe practices home with us and teach our children, grandchildren and loved ones how to be safe. Safe workplaces and behaviors are cultivated not just by what we tell our people. We must lead by example and show people how to be safe.

We teach children to pass the driver’s test at 16 years old. But, in reality, our children learn how to drive by watching mom and dad for years from the back seat. If you drive defensively, wear your seat belt and obey the rules of the road, your children will model that behavior. Conversely, if you are speeding or consistently distracted when driving, your children will follow suit. If you don’t respect teaching the next generation at home, you won’t respect teaching your co-workers.

What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

We know the impact personal medical conditions can have on worker safety, and continually remind our employees to speak up if they are not feeling 100 percent. Every business meeting begins with a safety message, and I think we do a good job talking about health-related topics such as the warning signs of stroke and heart attack, choking hazards, and environmental hazards like heat and cold that can cause physical harm. Our benefits package includes professional assistance for health-related issues, and we offer a variety of wellness programs that promote healthy lifestyles and choices. New this year is a digital option, which gives our employees the ability to access a doctor by phone or secure video to help treat any non-emergency medical conditions.

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