2009 CEOs Who 'Get It'

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Andy Studdert

Chairman and CEO
NES Rentals

NES Rentals specializes in the rental of aerial equipment to industrial and construction end users, and is one of the largest companies in the $26 billion equipment rental industry. The Chicago-based company employs 1,300 workers.


Why is safety a core value at your company?

For NES Rentals, safety is a core value because we want our employees and customers returning home to their families each and every day. The importance of safety is further magnified because of the aerial lift equipment we rent every day to our customers. While the equipment itself is very safe, unqualified operators or hazardous jobsite conditions can result in accidents; therefore, putting safety first is an absolute necessity for our employees and customers. Anyone who says they can’t afford safety in their organization doesn’t understand the value it brings in avoiding personal loss and to the bottom line through the reduction in direct expenses.

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

Every communication to our employees, whether written or verbal, includes a reminder for them to stay safe. We work toward a culture of intervention, where all team members own the responsibility for the safety of all our employees. This also comes from our management team, which promotes a safe work environment through their words, actions and commitment. Additionally, we regularly recognize individual efforts and branch performance so that all of our employees understand the expectation that safety comes first.

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

Ensuring that our employees are integrating safety into everything they do, including their activities at home, is a challenge. It requires continual effort to keep safety at the forefront of their minds, especially during these difficult economic times. We emphasize the importance of safety through efforts such as regular safety training; environmental, health and safety campaigns; and rewards for their efforts quarterly and annually with company-wide acknowledgement for superior performance.

How does safety “pay” at your company?

Over the past three years, through a strong partnership between the SH&E department and operations, we have seen a decrease in our workers’ compensation claims. As a result, our insurance premiums were significantly reduced. This not only had an impact on the profitability of the company, but also served as a tangible example emphasizing the value of putting safety first for our management team. We have also had situations where an individual employee’s actions have helped avoid accidents at our branches and at customer jobsites. This is how safety pays daily and is exactly what we expect from our employees in terms of owning safety.

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

We measure safety using both “soft” and “hard” metrics. The soft metrics are related to the culture of safety intervention we see when visiting a branch. This includes employees’ ability to identify ways to improve safety at their branches and their initiative to take action.

We conduct unannounced annual SH&E audits of every branch. The audits are completed by our regional SH&E managers and require documented corrective actions within a specified period of time. The audit is published at the start of each calendar year, which allows each branch to prepare. This program helps the branches maintain their safe work environments and assists management with focusing training and other efforts toward those branches in need. We also evaluate our OSHA recordable rate, number of lost workdays and number of motor vehicle accidents to obtain a sense of our safety performance using hard data.

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