Performance measurement Leadership

2021 CEOs Who 'Get It'

2021 CEOs Who "Get It"
2021 CEOs Who

Safety depends on leaders who understand and support it from the top down, ensuring every major business decision is made with safety in mind. That is the definition of a CEO who gets it.

The eight honorees recognized this year are leaders with decades of experience. These individuals hail from multiple industries and are passionate about safety and the impact it has on their employees, their organizations and their communities. They set bold goals, focus on continuous improvement and deliver strong results, recognizing that safety never stops.

In moving safety beyond compliance, CEOs who “get it” are able to address the myriad safety challenges present in organizations in which risk comes in many different forms. When Jeff Owens pushed for a Live Safety/Beyond Zero culture at Advanced Technology Services, the goal was to encourage all employees to “make safety a way of life, in and out of the workplace.” Meanwhile, Keryn James, ERM CEO, has focused on improving both leading and lagging metrics to sustain a high level of safety performance.

CEOs who “get it” lead by example, like Stephen Sandherr, CEO of Associated General Contractors of America, who uses his voice to promote safety beyond the walls of his organization, raising public awareness around high-risk areas such as work zones.

As leaders, they take time to listen to employee concerns and connect on topics that go beyond physical safety, paying attention to concerns around psychological safety as well as mental health issues. With the health and safety of employees and their families as a “North Star,” these leaders drive the evolution of their organizational safety culture.

Mark Vergnano, CEO of The Chemours Co., set an aggressive goal of improving Chemours’ safety performance by 75% by going deeper to create a companywide “safety obsession” mindset. Phil Breidenbach, president and project manager at Savannah River Remediation, has built a foundation of trust through a personal approach of making sure all employees are on the safety journey.

By using every tool at their disposal, such as promising technology, these leaders are able to address workplace safety performance, including driver safety behavior. For example, John E. Eschenberg, president and CEO of Washington River Protection Solutions, and Jeremy Kucera, president of Duro Electric, invested in safety practices and training for every employee on Day One. Each leader may have his or her own credo and leadership style, but all, like Mike Choutka, president and CEO of Hensel Phelps, believe that “working safely is the most important thing we do.”

Every worker in America deserves a CEO who gets it, and these eight individuals not only inspire their own employees, colleagues and other industry leaders, they help people live their fullest lives, from the workplace to anyplace.

The National Safety Council congratulates the 2021 honorees.

Browse individual CEO profiles by clicking on a photo below or by pressing the navigation buttons at the top of each page.

  • Phil BreidenbachIPhil Breidenbach
  • Mike ChoutkaMike Choutka
  • John E. EschenbergJohn E. Eschenberg
  • Keryn JamesKeryn James
  • Jeremy KuceraJeremy Kucera
  • Jeff OwensJeff Owens
  • Stephen SandherrStephen Sandherr
  • Mark VergnanoMark Vergnano


Does your CEO 'get it?'

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CEOs Who "Get It" through the years

Browse CEO picks from the class of 2015 through the present.


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