2019 CEOs Who "Get It"
President and CEO
- Leads the “Zero Harm” philosophy that purports any incident is intolerable, all incidents are preventable and quality investigations of incidents – as well as communication of learnings – can prevent recurrence.
- Empowers all personnel to intervene when unsafe conditions and acts are observed via the behavior-based HSE process, which involves positive conversations to determine root causes instead of placing blame.
- Encourages leadership to visit work locations, participate in safety meetings and conversations, and listen to employee safety concerns.
KBR is a global provider of differentiated professional services and technologies across the asset and program life cycle within the government services and hydrocarbons sectors. KBR employs about 34,000 people worldwide (including its joint ventures), with customers in more than 75 countries and operations in 40 countries, across three synergistic global businesses.
Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are today?
I’ve worked in a variety of industries and roles throughout my career, but in every position, the people are what mattered most. When I became CEO of KBR, I felt the weight of responsibility of keeping our nearly 34,000 employees safe each and every day.
Safety has been a core value for KBR since our inception, but when I joined the company in 2013, I didn’t feel that we were doing enough to get this message across. We immediately hired an HSSE professional who reports directly to me, because the safety and well-being of every employee is of the upmost importance to me. And some of the places we send our employees to work are among the harshest, most remote and dangerous places in the world. I want to keep our employees safe – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but I genuinely wish to see every employee go home to their loved ones at the end of the day in the same state that they arrived at work.
I’ve had many poignant moments that have helped cement the importance of people and safety, but one of the greatest was making a phone call that no one ever wants to make. A few years ago, there was a tragic industrial accident that resulted in multiple fatalities – and while KBR was not part of that project – we had an employee whose two sons were killed on that site. I called that employee to offer him my condolences and provide support as a company, whether it be counseling or other resources. As a father myself, it was one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever made.
A few years later, I lived through quite a different event: my first hurricane. Hurricane Harvey brought devastation to Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast region, displacing many KBR employees and impacting almost all of our Houston-area employees in one way or another. That storm was a wake-up call for many, including myself. I realized there are a lot of safety and security threats that are out of my control, but there’s a lot we can do as a company – and for our people – to prepare for natural disasters and other safety and security scenarios.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, the company’s HSSE team saw the need to create a full-time position dedicated to emergency management, crisis management and business continuity to help the company navigate natural disasters or emergency events in the future. Today, this employee spends her time training KBR teams around the world through crisis management exercises covering a range of topics. This is just one example of how we’re making safety a core part of KBR’s culture.
From our scientists who work in labs at NASA to support staff on military bases overseas to the professionals building and supporting energy facilities worldwide, it’s our responsibility to make sure our employees know and understand the tenets of our HSSE program.
Why is safety a core value at your organization?
Safety is a core value because our people are our greatest asset. We describe safety as a value that is inherent in every part of our operation and it is everyone’s responsibility. At KBR, we believe that zero harm is achievable and safety incidents are intolerable. If we can avoid injury or harm to our people, then we will do everything possible to keep them safe at every turn.
We also believe that safety extends to the locations and environments in which we work. As a company, we have a duty to do everything we can to achieve zero harm to the environment wherever we operate. From deserts to deep-water fields, Arctic regions to rainforests, and urban areas to nature preserves, with each project, KBR assumes a responsibility for safe and successful completion. We should be producing environmentally friendly solutions, technologies and best practices every single time. No matter the location or work performed, we aim to build a better future by leaving a positive legacy at each project site around the world.
What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?
The biggest obstacle is our vast global footprint. With customers in more than 75 countries and operations in 40 countries, it is very challenging to create a safety culture that is consistent across the organization. We have managed to overcome this challenge with specific and relevant messaging at sites and locations around the world and by placing high visibility on examples of positive safety behaviors. We have also instituted an annual “Zero Harm Day” to recognize people who have visibly embraced the courage to care, recognize projects for improved safety performance and safety-related achievements, and to highlight all the various ways that safety is a cornerstone of who we are at KBR. Our people have fully embraced this celebration at our offices and projects around the world to gather with colleagues for events, meetings, small and large group gatherings, and other occasions to reflect on the vital importance of our HSSE programs.
How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?
KBR is committed to a culture of safety in which employees feel personal ownership for their own well-being as well as the safety of others. Employees are urged to engage in “Courage to Care Conversations,” which help us achieve an incident-free workplace through observation, intervention and discussion.
We also encourage all of our employees, contractors and clients to employ stop-work authority to suspend any individual task or group operation when the control of health, safety or environmental risk is unclear.
24/7 is one of the key pillars within the KBR “Zero Harm” culture. We consistently communicate the message to take safety home with you, and we also clearly challenge everyone to choose to work safely when the only governance is their own personal choice.
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?
The majority of our metrics are focused on leading indicator initiatives, including, but are not limited to, leadership SAFE tours, safety energy walks, behavioral-based observation and interventions, and near-miss reporting. We are always striving to improve the level of engagement in our global behavioral-based observation and intervention process, which is called “Courage to Care Conversations.” As leaders within the KBR organization, we are responsible for creating a work environment in which everyone feels comfortable speaking up.
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?
We believe that an all-day, every-day approach is a key pillar within the KBR “Zero Harm” culture. KBR is a big supporter of personal health and wellness globally, and has recently sponsored local family days geared toward cascading “Zero Harm” principles back to the home 24/7.