The 2022 CEOs Who 'Get It'
President and CEO
Environmental Air Systems
High Point, NC
- Instilled a top-down leadership approach and challenged all the leaders of each business unit to make safety a part of all aspects of the culture.
- Personally responsible for the creation and implementation of the Safety Medallion Program for frontline leadership. The program created recognition, accountability and competition among peers for safety performance and adherence to required safety activities, which in turn improved the leading indicator activity performance.
- Heavily involved in all safety get-togethers in which he plans and speaks.
- Regularly visits with employees and speaks with them personally about safety.
- Writes handwritten notes both to hourly employees, thanking them for their safety performance, and to members of the safety team.
Founded in 1953, Environmental Air Systems specializes in mechanical, electrical and building controls contracting, combining both field construction and manufactured modular solutions. With more than 1,600 employees, EAS works with clients in a range of markets, including pharmaceutical, industrial, mission critical and health care.
Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”
There is no better conversation to have with our many employees than to talk to them about their safety, both on the job and off. As a leader of a company in the construction industry, in which work conditions pose a number of risks, the highest priority is to ensure the safety of our EAS family members. The success of any company striving for world-class safety begins at the top. It must be important to you before it will be important to others. But credit goes to our many leaders. Our pride in striving for excellence in all that we do drives our strong safety performance, and everyone throughout the organization plays an important part in our results.
What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?
It is essential that our culture of having each other’s back, as defined by our Courage to Care Pledge, is followed by everyone. To summarize, we all pledge to care enough for those we work with to have their back by speaking up to fix an unsafe situation. We often hire dozens of workers, and instilling this responsibility in each new hire is essential to drive their behavior. The sooner our safety culture is absorbed, the sooner they understand the importance of working safely. This education for new hires starts on Day One of their employment, with a full day of orientation. From there, both their safety and work practices are supported by our mentor program, our safety team and our many safety programs.
Why is safety a core value at your organization?
The success of our business is dependent on the abilities of our people. People of all walks of life make up our company, and our company’s strength is the result of all of our dedicated people who go to work every day with the goal of being the best we can be. This all starts with working safely, and our overriding goal is to have everyone who comes to work to also go home safe to their families each day. The alternative is unacceptable to our leadership team and to our entire EAS family.
How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?
It begins with our Courage to Care Pledge, which is read at all company gatherings and morning toolbox talks and is carried around by our workers. Each worker writes and signs a safety pledge each year and is thoroughly trained on how to perform their job in a safe manner. We also recognize safe behavior and acknowledge our high performers. Making sure everyone is safe is also about daily touches around safety, so we have a number of programs we use such as near-miss reporting, jobsite safety surveys, companywide safety campaigns and the commitment to safety excellence throughout all levels of the organization.
How does your organization measure safety?
To begin, because our results are much better than industry averages, we measure our progress against ourselves, comparing current versus previous performance on recordables, lost time, first aids and near misses. We use a variety of measurements, including industry standards such as OIR, DART and EMR. We also have a number of internal measurements to confirm the effectiveness of our many programs. We also analyze our statistics and let them guide us toward further improvements. Finally, we perform a detailed analysis of every recordable and many of our first aids with the goal of implementing work processes that will eliminate the incident from reoccurring. Taking this extra step is essential to world-class performance. If you do the same thing you’ve always done, you will end up with the same results. We change the way it has been handled and drive a different result.
What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program?
In addition to our many health benefit programs, we work to engage the family into our safety culture. Our safety newsletters are mailed to the home in both English and Spanish. We provide T-shirts to all employees and family members at our annual company events, and the messaging on the shirt is geared toward safety. As sports arenas often display jerseys to exemplify their star athletes, we display all of our safety shirts at our headquarters facility.
What have you done to support employee mental health and well-being within your organization?
Of course, our benefit programs include a variety of employee assistance programs that are available to all employees in support of a host of concerns. We also have a Comfort Cares program that is both company- and employee-funded and provides aid for special situations for those in need. Most importantly, our culture is all about our EAS family, our pride and how much we care about each other. We are always there to support one another and are truly a giving organization. In our company guiding business principles, people do matter and we measure that with three questions that both management and employees can ask each other. They are: 1) Can I trust you? 2) Do you care about me? 3) Are you committed to excellence? To support someone who has been injured, it is common for us to provide meals, mow their grass or provide other help as needed.