The 2022 CEOs Who 'Get It'
Montrose Environmental Group
Little Rock, AR
- Made it a priority to recruit experienced safety professionals and mandate that safety remain a top priority for its leadership team.
- Rolled out the organization’s first “Safety Mission” statement that was signed by the senior leadership team and employees at each location and framed.
- Gives the safety and risk division, which reports directly to the CEO, the same level of authority as operations, finance and other crucial business functions.
- Makes safety the most important consideration when making crucial business decisions.
- Is always available to the entire safety team to assist at any time.
Montrose is a leading environmental solutions company focused on supporting commercial and government organizations as they deal with the challenges of today and prepare for what’s coming tomorrow. With more than 2,000 employees across more than 75 locations around the world, Montrose combines deep local knowledge with an integrated approach to design, engineering and operations, enabling the company to respond effectively and efficiently to the unique requirements of each project. From comprehensive air measurement and laboratory services to regulatory compliance, emergency response, permitting, engineering and remediation, Montrose delivers innovative and practical solutions that keep its clients on top of their immediate needs – and well ahead of the strategic curve.
Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”
When I started at Montrose, I recognized our people deal with dangerous situations. For example, they climb smoke stacks, they drive long distances and they are exposed to environmental contaminants. Those risks and many others are part of the expertise needed to create environmental solutions, but the risks can and should be minimized. I often reflect on my upbringing when it comes to workplace safety. I recall my mother getting hurt at work. She fell down the stairs at the hospital in which she worked and limps to this day. My mom’s accident wasn’t any person’s fault, but rather a function of a safety hazard or safety lapse at her place of work. An injury can have a permanent impact on someone’s life and their family’s life – it certainly did for my family. I think about that experience and the potential impact on individuals and families when a Montrose colleague gets hurt. As a result, when it comes to workplace safety, I insist on and need us all to be vigilant and protective of each other.
What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges we face is a function of the fact that we have grown rapidly, requiring us to continually integrate new hires or new companies into our culture, philosophy and systems. In additional, we have different types of environmental businesses, from laboratory services and water treatment to methane emissions testing and wildfire mitigation. So, establishing consistent processes and tracking mechanisms and training a diverse employee base on a diverse set of risks is very hard. We address that challenge by investing in and trusting in incredible people and systems that make up our safety team.
Why is safety a core value at your organization?
How can it not be? As an environmental service or solutions provider, we are often sent into situations in which our clients oversee the processes of their facility and their sites; however, we always remain in charge of the safety of our employees, and that is critical to us. And if our employees don’t feel safe, they have stop-work authority, and it comes to me and my team very quickly.
How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?
We have multiple layers of procedures and processes in place to ensure safety is always at the forefront of our thinking. We have an executive safety committee that meets on a quarterly basis and sets the goals and addresses concerns at a senior level. We also have divisional safety committees that meet monthly, and sometimes even more frequently. Our executive safety team and divisional teams meet to make sure that there is consistency in planning and execution.
As for projects, we have two main controls. We perform comprehensive safety planning prior to any project, but we also understand that things do not always work out as predicted, so we have a procedure called “stop-work authority” in which every employee has the authority to stop a job while maintaining support from management. We want all our employees to feel safe and in control while they are working. The credit goes to all of our managers and leaders in the field who regularly include safety planning and processes into their daily routines.
How does your organization measure safety?
We have established a program called “MIMS,” or Montrose Integrated Management Systems. We model our program after ISO occupational health and safety standards. When using the system, we can quantify a safety metric based on selected key performance indicators that are defined by both the executive and divisional safety teams. We develop a metric and can give a scorecard to each division showing their KPIs. It creates accountability and allows us to make sure we are meeting our goals.
Our leading and lagging indicators can tell us when we are doing a good job and when we need improvement. If needed, we can investigate incidents and use our data and compliance management software to put new programs in place. As our systems get better, we can analyze data better and, overall, react better.
What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program?
This year, we began implementing a wellness program, which has taken on new importance for us during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also have clinicians onsite or accessible during work. And we have a comprehensive health and safety training program, which not only equips our employees with the work-related health and safety training they need, but also features a lot of elements of what to do at home, like how to use a fire extinguisher or how to use your carbon dioxide monitor properly.
Another unique feature of our programs is driver safety. At Montrose, we have a lot of people on the road every day – driving is one of our biggest employee safety risks. So, a few years ago, we began installing driver safety systems in hundreds of our Montrose vehicles, which evaluate driver safety in real time, allowing us to provide real-time interaction and feedback to teach better driving habits, both for work and off the job.
What have you done to support employee mental health and well-being within your organization?
Our separate divisions all have their own dedicated HR staff. We also have our employee assistance program at the heart of our benefits. We have had it in place, but really wanted to focus on it more during the pandemic, so we encouraged HR and leaders throughout the organization to emphasize it in divisional meetings. We periodically do wellness checks with our team and do our best to remind and encourage employees that we have this program. We don’t just prioritize physical safety, but also mental health.