The 2023 CEOs Who “Get It”
Over the past year, I’ve had the honor of speaking with several safety leaders about what makes safety personal to them. Time and again, they’ve told me how witnessing unsafe conditions led them to become dedicated advocates for safety in the workplace. Listening to their stories, I’m continually reminded that strong safety leadership is much more than adhering to workplace regulations – it’s making sure everyone gets home safe at the end of each and every shift.
That’s what it means to be a CEO who “gets it”: a leader who ensures safety remains their organization’s top value by building a strong safety culture and encouraging workers to use their voice to speak up about safety issues, near misses and possible improvements.
The seven CEOs being honored this year have proven their dedication to the value of safety across a wide variety of industries and locations. They’ve integrated new technologies, broadened the scope of their programs to include psychological safety and bolstered worker engagement. Their impressive achievements have not only enhanced the safety of their workers, organizations and communities, but undoubtedly saved lives.
A CEO who “gets it” is inherently an innovator. Take CEO Paul Danos, whose company uses a custom-built safety tracking tool, as well as cutting-edge virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, to enhance worker training. Similarly, Jane E. Cheeks of the City of Houston successfully advocated the implementation of a new safety manage-ment system that has improved safety outcomes across city departments.
In the past several years, the importance of looking at a worker’s mental well-being has moved to the forefront. Our psychological safety – how included we feel within the organization and how comfortable we feel speaking up and identifying issues without fear of reprisal – has an enormous effect on our physical safety. A passionate advocate for transportation industry safety, Ryan I. Daniel of St. Cloud Metro Bus established a program aimed at improving worker well-being, morale and camaraderie. And Les Hiscoe of Shawmut Design and Construction has prioritized Total Worker Health at his organization with trainings on mindfulness and inclusive management.
A good safety leader understands that safety is a dialogue between workers and management. They listen to their workers’ ideas and concerns and embrace their views when refining their organization’s safety culture. Look at Ali Al-Baqali of Aluminium Bahrain, who shook up the organization’s top-down safety strategy when he named every worker a safety manager and created a task force dedicated to out-of-the-box worker ideas. At S&C Electric Co., Anders Sjoelin built a safety culture so strong and worker-focused that 95% of workers surveyed said they feel they have a voice or ownership role in their safety program.
Finally, a CEO who “gets it” never stops looking for ways to improve the safety of their workers. Brian Cox of Stack Infrastructure has continued to grow his safety team, adding nearly a dozen full-time safety workers; a vice president of environment, health and safety; and safety consultants to ensure safety always remains top of mind.
Each of these seven extraordinary individuals has shown their workers, organizations and communities that nothing should matter more to an employer than safety and health. Their dedication to finding new solutions, creating stronger cultures and engaging workers more deeply in the work of saving lives is truly inspiring.
On behalf of the National Safety Council, congratulations to all of the 2023 honorees.