Bill Wright

2013 CEOs Who "Get It"

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Bill Wright
President & CEO
Petrochem Insulation Inc.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

BILL WRIGHT: My primary commitment to our employees is that they return home safely to their families at the end of each day. Our employees at Petrochem work in highly congested and complex environments in refineries, power plants, food plants, wineries and solar energy fields. Such environments can harbor unsafe and dangerous conditions if the commitment to safety is not embraced by every employee and at every organizational level. By promoting a corporate culture in which each employee takes responsibility for maintaining an incident-free work environment, we make safety the primary and most important focus of our organization.

We provide an open work environment that promotes positive results without compromising the health or safety of our employees, our clients' employees, or the general public. Protection of the environment is also an important focus in our organization. We back up our commitment with training, communication and employee recognition to encourage everyone in Petrochem to participate in our health, safety and environmental programs.

You see it; you own it." This catch phrase has become our companywide safety philosophy. Ensuring an incident-free workplace requires each employee's concerted effort and daily attention. Every Petrochem employee is responsible for taking appropriate actions to correct unsafe acts or conditions. At Petrochem, I expect zero-incident performance in all projects and operations the firm undertakes. But the process of ensuring an incident-free workplace doesn't stop there. It extends to every level of the organization. By accepting responsibility to operate safely, employees contribute to the well-being of their co-workers, as well as to the successful operation of our business.

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

Petrochem is a subsidiary of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the largest employer located in Alaska. Its companies operate in some of the harshest climates of North America. A few years ago, an employee who was almost killed in an accident on the North Slope transferred into my organization during his recovery. Despite severe physical and mental after-effects of his injuries, he was one of the most positive and committed employees I have ever worked with. He insisted on talking with newly hired employees heading to the North Slope about his accident. The accident had occurred while he was performing the same task he had performed many times before. A lapse in his concentration for just a few seconds nearly resulted in his death. His experience drove home to me that you can never become complacent about safety or overestimate its value.

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

Due to the nature of our work, we regularly bring new employees into our organization, and we frequently bring back experienced employees who have been off work due to project scheduling requirements. This makes it a challenge to communicate our safety priorities, particularly to those employees who previously worked for companies that lack Petrochem's commitment to safety. Consequently, all of our employee training programs place significant emphasis on our overarching safety priorities. At Petrochem, personnel with less than six months of service in the same position are considered Short Service Employees and are subject to a performance evaluation period. The purpose of this period is to identify new, talented employees who share Petrochem's safety culture and embrace work safety as a core value.

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

I require that all Petrochem employees demonstrate their commitment to our health, safety and environmental programs by learning and following all our safety policies and practices. Employees are encouraged to recommend improvements to our work and safety processes and are empowered to stop work if they encounter a high risk or an unsafe situation that hasn't been adequately addressed. We have a non-punitive open-door policy when it comes to reporting hazards in the workplace. This year, we launched a companywide "Good Catch/Good Save" incentive program that rewards employees monetarily for their proactive participation in hazard recognition and safety interventions.

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?

At Petrochem, we measure a variety of lagging indicators, including the total OSHA-recordable incident rate, professional first aid incidents, onsite first aid incidents, vehicle damage incidents and property damage incidents. We measure these indicators across our regional branches, and we report performance in these areas at monthly management meetings. We have seen significant improvement in our TRIR with increased reporting of first aid incidents. We believe that we can prevent serious injuries if we learn lessons at the near-miss incident level or, barring that, at the first aid level. Petrochem also places significant emphasis on leading indicators by conducting and tracking workplace site inspections, job hazard analysis audits, near misses, and "Safety Communications Lessons Learned" documents and communications, along with the number of Good Catch/Good Save cards turned in to management by region.

We also task our safety department with completing initial and refresher training on time, and we track safety training with our new Virtual Training Assistant, a powerful software tool that enables us to proactively anticipate and plan employee refresher training. Our commitment to safety is ongoing. We are still working toward our goal of zero injury incidents at Petrochem. To achieve this, we continue to look for ways to improve our communication, training, oversight and leadership of our safety programs.

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?

To ensure our employees consistently perform at a high level, we ask them to take "safety awareness" home with them each day. To accomplish this, we encourage the use of worksite protective equipment (e.g., safety glasses, earplugs and cut-proof gloves) for home projects. We believe that the focus on safety should not end when our employees clock out at the end of the day.

Petrochem recently participated in a "Family Safety Day" by donating raffle prizes and other safety items that employees and their families could win and then use at home and within their communities. Additionally, in 2013, we plan to institute a companywide wellness program to provide employees with practical information on the benefits of exercise, nutrition and smoking cessation.

Since 1974, Petrochem has completed almost every form of large industrial insulation project, including process piping, storage tanks, spheres, exchangers, evaporators, refrigeration systems, turbines, and boilers throughout the United States. Petrochem also provides scaffolding, fireproofing, painting and coating, flooring, linings, heat tracing, and lead and asbestos abatement services to clients in the refinery, power, chemical, mining, pulp and paper, and food and beverage industries. The organization employs approximately 1,200 workers.

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