David T. Seaton

2013 CEOs Who "Get It"


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David T. Seaton
Chairman & CEO

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

DAVID T. SEATON: A set of core values pervades the culture at Fluor – Safety, Integrity, Teamwork and Excellence. One of our core values and a fundamental business strategy is our constant pursuit of safety. While all four core values define the company's culture, safety ranks at the very top in terms of what's critical at Fluor. This is natural, when you consider the work of our company. We execute more than 1,000 projects annually, serving an excess of 600 clients in 66 countries. Our work is complex and often performed in remote and challenging geographies, so safety is paramount.

Both for us and our clients, the stewardship of a safe workplace is a key business driver. A safe jobsite decreases risks, ensures a proper environment for our employees and enhances their morale, reduces project cost and exposures, and generally improves client relations. Safety is at the forefront of every project we undertake for our clients around the world. They expect and deserve the highest levels of safety on their job.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

I started the journey the same way most people do. I had strengths and weaknesses and innate skills and plenty of room to learn new ones. But probably the most important tool I had was good judgment – stemming from respect for others and a desire to lead.

That started at home and was honed on construction sites. I learned early to use good judgment, to listen, to learn and to apply my experience and new knowledge with a huge focus on doing the right things right. Safety was always important – whether playing sports, driving a car as a teenager, being a caring parent, or later running businesses and operations – it was clear that people counted on me to do things right.

I "got it" early growing up.

And I applied that commitment easily across the work environment – learning from colleagues, mentors and clients about the value and importance of safety to the value and growth of our company. This is especially true when you look at the scope and complexity of the projects we complete for our clients.

They rely on us to do the job right, and the reputation of our company – and theirs – hangs in the balance every time we accept new work.

Superior safety performance is a strong test with far-reaching implications – words like achievement, performance, commitment, reliability and success can be washed away in an instant without a continuous commitment to safety. I've been fortunate to keep safety as a core value as an employee, a team member, a team builder, a manager and an executive.

It's equally important as the chief executive – never let up.

So, I have seen firsthand how safety has helped grow the enterprise value of our businesses and our company. But that doesn't happen without the commitment of everyone. I credit our people every day for their commitment to their safety, the safety of their colleagues and all who are engaged in our work.

They make Fluor a great company with safety a true centerpiece of success.

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

The nature of Fluor's work – building complex projects in unique, diverse and often remote environments, spanning many industries, and in numerous cultures – is a challenge in itself. While Fluor's 60 global office locations on six continents serve global customers in a variety of industries, the geography, the culture, and the work being performed are all different and unique.

Our employees include individuals from diverse backgrounds – different cultural beliefs, different languages, different levels of safety knowledge and commitment. At our jobsites, we have introduced basic safe work practices – like the use of hard hats, eyewear and shoes – to workers from cultures not experienced with that type of personal protection. Language barriers often require us to raise the level of our training and communications efforts. Many times we must provide safe living conditions and food for our workers.

At Fluor, we implement comprehensive training programs and detailed global Health, Safety, and Environmental Management Systems; we measure our performance versus our expectations; and we hold people accountable for results. We take an active role in ensuring the safety of all parties working at our sites, including subcontractors, partners and clients. We work collaboratively with our people to function as one team with a common goal.

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

We clearly outline our HSE expectations and philosophy. Everyone is expected to adhere to this philosophy and recognize the importance of our principles. We have established an operating rhythm that integrates HSE in all our activities. For example, every Fluor meeting begins with an HSE topic; every employee performance review is based in part on HSE measurements; every work task in the field begins with a safety task assignment; and HSE is considered in our engineering designs. In this way, HSE has become ingrained into the fabric of our company.

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 track traditional lagging safety indicators such as injury and illness rates; events (fires, spills and property damage); regulatory compliance; and external recognition. In addition, we track and focus on leading indicators, which are activities or circumstances that can be precursors to incidents. Leading indicators include items such as training; HSE plan development and coordination, hazard identification and elimination, pre-task planning, management in action, effective implementation of a recognition and disciplinary program, and site observations.

Opportunities for improvement include building and strengthening our culture, empowering our workers to get more involved with hazard identification/abatement and near miss reporting; and getting all employees involved in the safety planning process. By improving in these areas we can more proactively manage safety and prevent incidents before they occur. Benchmarking and sharing lessons learned are also opportunities.

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?

For the past century, Fluor has brought its unparalleled safety culture to all corners of the globe. It is a value so deeply entrenched that most employees say they cannot separate safety mindfulness from their working hours and their time at home. If something wouldn't be safe at a jobsite, it's not acceptable at home.

Our safety mindset as a lifestyle is nurtured by sustained safety campaigns and communications pertaining to off-the-job topics such as driving safety, lawn and garden safety, home fire safety, etc. Our annual Kids' HSE Poster Contest, for example, encourages dialogue, knowledge and family participation.

Our Employee Assistance Program offers confidential assistance with many of the issues of daily living. Our offices sponsor weight management and smoking cessation programs, fitness clinics and health fairs. In 2013, we are launching a companywide wellness initiative to help our employees lead healthier lives. Just as an on-the-job safety mindset translates to the home, safe habits created during off hours can serve as model behavior to influence our culture on the job.

Fluor Corp. is a FORTUNE 200 company that designs, builds and maintains many of the world's most challenging and complex projects. Through its 43,000 employees and a global network of offices on six continents, the company provides comprehensive capabilities and world-class expertise in engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operations, maintenance and project management.

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