2009 Green Cross for Safety Medal Winner
Established in 1999, the Green Cross for Safety Medal recognizes organizations and their leaders for outstanding achievements in safety and health, and for responsible citizenship. To be considered for the Green Cross for Safety Medal, an organization and its leadership must demonstrate a superior record in advancing safety and health practices consistent with the mission of the National Safety Council.
How do you see the relationship between safety and quality at FirstGroup? Production and profitability?
Transporting passengers is an activity that must first be measured by safety and then by the on-time delivery of quality service. All of the same cultural elements that lead to safety lead to the delivery of quality service. We have worked to instill these elements in our safety culture along with line-management ownership for safety. We encourage our front-line workers to participate in our safety processes, and take pride in the work they perform and their affiliation with FirstGroup. Production for FirstGroup is being efficient in the delivery of service that is both safe and secure. When a company provides safe, on-time, courteous service, they will also attract more customers and operate profitably.
What does safety leadership mean to you?
Safety leadership is built on the combination of knowledge, power and courage. We would expect all of our managers to know how each and every aspect of our operations should be safely delivered. By definition, they have the power to influence the behavior of their staff, but crucially they need courage to make sure that they lead their teams to deliver safety in the workplace and on our services. For example, it takes courage for a young manager to point out to a 30-year veteran that they may be doing something that is unsafe – even if they have been doing it that way for many years. But the combination of knowledge, power and courage works both ways. We encourage, enable and empower each member of our staff to discuss safety. It requires courage for a junior employee to raise a safety issue with a manager, and we try to make it easier for them to do so through our Injury Prevention handbooks, which encourage all staff to talk about safety with their colleagues.
What advice do you have for other CEOs who want to “get it”?
Above all, be relentless in your efforts to create an active, caring safety culture. Provide the workforce with opportunities to participate in safety, and increase the frequency and quality of safety conversations between management and front-line employees. To help promote hazard recognition, risk assessments must be built into the safety process, empowering employees to take action to prevent injuries. Hold line managers accountable for leading injury prevention and “owning” safety for their area of operations.
Why is safety a core value at your company?
Our 137,000-person staff provides rail, transit, motorcoach and school transportation services to more than 2.5 billion passengers each year. These services are provided in challenging operating environments and in all types of weather conditions. We put safety first in everything we do and every decision we make. Safety is a core value because we carry the most precious cargo in the world.
How do you instill a sense of safety in your employees on an ongoing basis?
It is a daily, relentless effort from everyone. It starts with an unwavering commitment from the top, which includes providing all of the resources necessary to ensure safe working conditions and the safety of the services we provide. We empower and engage our staff with safety processes built on our commitment to injury prevention and our injury prevention principles. These principles provide the 10 basic rules for working safely at all levels within our company, as well as key direction, empowering everyone to work safely at all times. Our simple message is “If you cannot do it safely, don’t do it.” We combine this with the requirement to risk-assess all work before performing it to help ensure the safety of all involved.
Our injury prevention process provides the tools to engage staff to embed a culture of safety. All members of our staff worldwide carry an Injury Prevention handbook that contains the First Safety Principles and other company-specific safety information. In addition, the handbook contains a contact pad that staff can use to report safety and security concerns, route hazards, near misses or simply a record of having a safety conversation. Local managers are required to act on these reports and report back on the action they have taken. This handbook can also be used to record and praise good practices and safety awareness. We have a group-wide database that keeps a log of all Injury Prevention contacts and tracks all actions arising from these contacts to completion.
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?
There are traditional indicators such as lost-time injuries, overall collision and injury frequency rates, and the results of safety reviews and independent safety audits. These are important and provide a baseline indicator for the overall safety of our operations. The employee reports of safety and security concerns, route hazards and near misses also provide leading indicators. It is a well-established fact that there is a direct correlation between the number of near misses and the number of injuries. We are already seeing a dramatic reduction in the number of injuries in our company, and the Injury Prevention handbook is now being increasingly used by our staff to actively report on and create Injury Prevention opportunities. Using the Injury Prevention database to track all actions, we know we are making a big difference in creating a safer environment for our employees and customers.
How important is off-the-job safety to your company’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety programs does your company offer to employees?
Off-the-job safety is a critical element of creating a mindset that puts safety first in everything. For example, we distribute information on home safety themes such as fire prevention with follow-up discussions on these topics at our monthly safety meetings. Recently, we introduced a ban on the use of cell phones or other electronic devices – including hands-free devices – while driving on company business. We are providing educational information to all staff on this subject and encouraging them to talk with their families about the dangers of cell phone use while driving. We constantly appraise and review our safety processes and we are currently developing other off-the-job safety programs. I believe our Injury Prevention process is life-changing – “If you cannot do it safely, don’t do it.” It really is that simple.
What is the biggest obstacle to safety in your workplace, and how do you work to overcome it?
The biggest obstacle to an injury-free workplace is apathy and unsafe behavior, and our challenge is to get everyone to become a safety leader and “own” safety. We work relentlessly to create a safety culture from the top by demonstrating “active caring” and visible, felt leadership through safety tours conducted by all senior executives. Although the Injury Prevention process is continuous, we measure and evaluate our performance at the most senior level in our Executive Safety Committee and we hold our managers accountable for safety.