2020 CEOs Who 'Get It'

2020 CEOs Who "Get It"
2020 CEOs Who Get it
< >
Kim Bassett

Kim Bassett

President and CEO
Bassett Mechanical
Kaukauna, WI


  • Invests in safety through state-of-the-art safety gear, safety trainings, Lean/Kaizen events and initiatives, and a behavior-based safety program.
  • Serves as a core member of the behavioral observation review team, engaging associates to help problem-solve and prevent hazards.
  • Crafts a monthly safety message to associates promoting safe behaviors and speaking up when they see something unsafe, including an open-door policy for her personally.
  • Believes that meeting safety minimums are never enough and that continuous improvement is paramount.

Bassett Mechanical provides custom-built industrial refrigeration; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; plumbing; metal fabrication; and preventive maintenance service solutions to customers throughout the United States and the world. The company has more than 400 workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization, and these guiding principles dictate behavior. At Bassett Mechanical, our core values represent the way we empower our associates to make the best choices for themselves and each other. These choices go beyond providing honest and value-added solutions for our customers, and extend to making the best decision for the health and safety of others. Safety here goes beyond daily planning, toolbox talks and frequent training. We genuinely care about each member of our Bassett Mechanical family and believe that all injuries are preventable. We are dedicated to providing a safe and injury-free workplace for all our associates, our customers and the public at large in all that we do. To us, nothing is more important than making sure our associates go home every day the way they arrived in the morning, which is why our values give power to our associates to halt all work if necessary until they feel a task can be performed safely.


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

As the third-generation owner of our family business, I grew up with many of our associates who are still with us today. I attended company picnics, spent Saturdays in the office with my dad, and worked with our associates during holiday breaks and summer vacations throughout high school and college. I knew everyone’s spouse, children and families. When I came back to the company for a career after having been gone for a number of years, many of the same people were still here, just a little older. I was grateful to be able to work once again with our Bassett Mechanical family.

When I started my professional career with Bassett Mechanical, I worked in various roles over many years to learn about our business, the inherent risks and saw the business through the lens of our associates. From working in the shop to working alongside our field foremen, sales leaders and executives, I experienced firsthand the intricacies and uniqueness of our business, as well as the hurdles that must be overcome every day, from safety planning to successful execution. Having observed a few near misses while in the field and shop, it opened my eyes and motivated me even more than ever to ensure every one of our associates kept safety top of mind 24/7.

When I became president and CEO, I incorporated Lean safety as the platform from which we would run and manage our business. Not only did this methodology support an efficient and value-added business model, it concentrated on safety and respect for people as keys to success. We practice the 6S’s of Lean by adding “safety” as one of the pillars.


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

Our risks are ever-changing. Each day we face new environments, unique project requirements, temperamental weather, and the pressure to ensure the highest quality product and service for our customers. In a traditional safety-focused environment, we might track and acknowledge incidents as they happen and try to prohibit them from happening in the future. When it comes to the safety of our associates, “ordinary” was not a high enough standard. We wanted to take safety a step further and implement a program in which we identified potential risks before they happened, with the intention of eliminating the risk completely and lessening the likelihood of any injuries in the future.

Our desire to pursue a proactive safety initiative led us to implement a behavior-based safety program. BBS is a process that creates a safety partnership among all levels of an organization, with attention to daily behaviors and actions. It applies the science of behavior change to real workplace situations. Our BBS program creates a focus on risk-reducing decision-making and continuous improvement to ultimately provide the safest work environment possible. It does not place blame on the individual and is not centered on stringent rules or policies. Through peer-to-peer observations, interactions and courageous conversations, this type of program engages our associates directly with safety and provides leading indicator safety data, which can help identify risks before safety incidents occur.

In the rare occurrence of an incident, our investigation process engages the individual to help determine their experience, thoughts and ideas of how the incident could be prevented in the future. This firsthand experience is then shared with others across the organization to increase awareness and minimize the risk amongst others who may be exposed to a similar potential hazard.


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

The strongest message we can send as a company is that each life is valued and important, and therefore we will not compromise when it comes to safety. Risking one’s safety is nonnegotiable, even for the betterment of performance, outcomes or timelines. When everyone feels empowered to make decisions to protect one’s self, each other and our customers, right choices prevail. We feel responsible for each other’s well-being. That is the message we aim to send every day to our associates.

Safety begins when a new hire starts. They not only are trained on safety best practices, but also on our company’s values, which include safety as our No. 1 value. Our executive team leaders regularly visit our shop and field crews to discuss risks, to ensure accessibility to needed personal protective equipment and training, and to share the message that each person and their family is important to us. Everyone across the organization is expected to participate in a daily stretch and flex at the start of each day. This helps to reduce the occurrence of strains and sprains and gives the collective group an opportunity to talk about the risks for work being done that day.

I am an active member of our steering committee that oversees the BBS team. The message we send is that safety is everyone’s responsibility. We encourage participation in safety throughout the organization by establishing safety participation goals on annual reviews, creating proactive metrics, tracking and acting on submissions for safety improvement opportunities, and participating in our safety committees and observation programs. We stay in tune with our safety metrics and share our statistics and observations weekly. I enjoy sending out a personalized monthly message to our associates reminding them that I am here to support their safe efforts and to listen to any ideas on ways we can improve.


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?

Similar to other companies, we track OSHA incident rate, OSHA recordable incidents and lost-time injuries. We also look at other measures of mitigating risks and injuries – including near misses and safety improvement opportunities – which helps us identify trends and correct potential hazards before they can cause any harm. Through BBS, we also track the number of safety observations, safe actions observed and observed risks. Each of these observations are opportunities for our associates to discuss safety in our day-to-day activities and keep it at the forefront of everything we do. Each risk observed is then tracked, documented and discussed with our steering committee to evaluate follow-up actions and communications necessary to minimize the risk of that particular activity. Data and trends are analyzed and, as a result, a monthly topic is highlighted and shared with everyone.


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?

Safety is not just on the jobsite. It’s not just in the manufacturing facility. Safety starts when you wake in the morning with a healthy mind and a strong body. Safety continues on your ride to work, your trip to lunch and your carpool to your kid’s soccer games. Our associates are important not only to our business and to our customers, but also to their families and friends who care deeply about them.

With the trend of distracted driving, we recently implemented a tool that will not allow for texts while operating a motor vehicle. This is a requirement for any company-owned phone and highly encouraged for personal devices as well.

During our annual National Safety Week celebration, we ask for our associates to tell us why they stay safe. What keeps them in check? What are they looking forward to that motivates them to prioritize safety? Every year I enjoy our associates’ submissions of pictures with their families, upcoming fishing trips, pets, new cars and their joys beyond the doors of Bassett Mechanical. They are a perfect representation of why it’s vital that we focus on safety each day. We also compile videos submitted by their families thanking our associates for staying safe each day and reminding every one of us that safety isn’t only about the company or the individual, it’s about you, us, them and each other.

We believe in healthy minds and strong bodies. We believe in supporting our associates to be their best selves each day. Our company encourages healthy behaviors by providing wellness challenges, stress education and reduction activities, weight loss programs and support, health club reimbursements, self-funded insurance programs, free weekly fruit delivery, exercise programs and initiatives, smoking cessation programs, and discounts on well-balanced food onsite. Our wellness committee continues to take suggestions and look for ways to create a healthier work environment and healthier people.

The extensive expertise and knowledge of our associates is our greatest asset. I want everyone to go home the way they arrived in the morning because the lives of each one of our Bassett Mechanical family members is priceless. I do many things in my role as president and CEO, but doing my best to keep our associates safe is by far the most important.


Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)