Safety culture Performance measurement Leadership

2014 CEOs Who 'Get It'

The National Safety Council recognizes 10 leaders who demonstrate a personal commitment to worker safety and health

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Michael W. Rencheck

President and CEO


  • Believes that a safer company results not from rhetoric but because all workers have agreed to be part of something important – the habit of safety excellence
  • Stresses reporting of near-miss incidents, unsafe conditions and other leading safety indicator data, resulting in thousands of corrective action entries, an indicator of proactive employee involvement in eliminating accident precursors
  • Experienced significant reduction in injury rates and resulting positive improvement in cash flow and operating performance

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

As a forward-looking energy company, AREVA recognizes that our commitment to safety is the foundation for building and maintaining trust and public confidence. It protects the community, our customers and our people. It’s part of being a good citizen, a good neighbor and a good partner. Safety drives our commitment to operational excellence and delivering clean energy solutions for a better tomorrow.

Safety is the critical success factor for our people, products and services. It defines who we are and plays a central role in everything we do. By instilling a culture with a focus on safety, we are empowering all of our employees to focus on the details and to do what’s right the first time. This leads to improved performance and reliable, consistent and predictable delivery of our high-quality products and services to our customers. At AREVA, we place safety first and strive for excellence in all that we do.

Describe your journey to becoming a CEO who understands the importance of worker safety.

An organization is made up of people. We achieve results when our people take action and deliver positive outcomes. We all have different roles to play, but everyone contributes to those outcomes. Our people are the most important aspect of our business and maintaining a proper focus on safety is our top priority. We come to work each day expecting to go home in the same or even better condition having learned something new.

I’ve had many roles and jobs throughout my career, including grass cutter, farm hand, store shelf stocker, gas station attendant, carpenter, tutor, engineer, outage manager, systems engineering director, plant manager, and president and CEO. While these positions vary greatly, they all have at least one thing in common – a focus on safety.

As I continued in my career and took responsibility for the leadership of an organization, I achieved a greater understanding of the need for safety as a core value. Leadership is a privilege that is entrusted to you by others. Safety is a fundamental cornerstone of this trust and must be valued by everyone, regardless of their role.

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

It is our responsibility to demonstrate that safety is our fundamental priority. When it comes to safety, we never take our eye off the ball and we work to ensure we don’t become complacent. Our management regularly walks our worksites, emphasizing good housekeeping and safety to our teams. Each member routinely performs peer-to-peer observations of good work practices and, when appropriate, makes recommendations for improvement or acknowledges good work. We work toward prevention, emphasizing that all injuries are avoidable and everyone is personally responsible for their safety, as well as the safety of their co-workers. In fact, every meeting at AREVA starts with a safety briefing, whether it’s a meeting at headquarters or a meeting at any of our 41 facilities across North America. We’re constantly reinforcing our standards, which keeps safety at the top of mind for everyone.

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

We build a culture of safety throughout the organization, and employees are encouraged to take personal responsibility for both their safety and that of their co-workers. We urge employees to speak up or immediately correct unsafe conditions if they see something unsafe, and coach their fellow employees about actions or behaviors that may compromise safety. Each and every employee can stop any activity on the spot if he or she observes an unsafe condition. Across the company, we empower employees to maintain a questioning attitude and report any safety concerns, including all injuries, near misses and unsafe conditions.

Management also is constantly engaged in setting and reinforcing safety standards. Managers observe activities in the field, and mentor and coach employees on safety issues. We also set common policies and standards for all AREVA businesses across the United States, and make sure safety communications and metrics are clearly visible in all locations.

The employee-led U.S. Region Safety Steering Team regularly shares best practices and lessons learned. We’re also constantly evaluating our standards and benchmarking them against best-in-class U.S. manufacturing and service companies.

How does your organization measure safety?

We perform thousands of employee observations each year. We track and trend what these observations are telling us, and use this information in daily briefings to ensure we share good practices, and discuss and correct potential issues.

We report and track any unsafe conditions, near misses and injuries, and report regional safety performance to executive management on a monthly basis. We also develop safety improvement plans for each major facility and management tracks their progress.

If we do experience a significant event or track negative trends in our safety reporting efforts, management review boards develop actions and lessons learned to prevent them in the future. In addition, we evaluate our facilities’ OSHA-recordable injury trends against a goal of experiencing zero OSHA-recordable injuries by the end of 2015. Notably, AREVA’s total OSHA incident rate has improved from 0.70 to 0.23 injuries per 100 employees between 2007 and 2013. Further, we’ve reduced our workers’ compensation costs by 70 percent between 2009 and 2012.

AREVA, based in Charlotte, NC, provides its customers with clean energy solutions for power generation. As the leader in nuclear energy and a significant, growing player in the renewable energies sector, AREVA combines U.S. and Canadian leadership, access to worldwide expertise, and a proven track record of performance. Sustainable development is a core component of AREVA’s strategy. Its nearly 5,000 U.S. and Canadian employees work every day to make AREVA a responsible industrial player helping to supply ever cleaner, safer and more economical energy to the greatest number of people. Its people create and supply innovative, forward-looking energy.