2016 CEOs Who "Get It"

2016 CEOs Who 'Get It'

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

January 24, 2016

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Deborah A.P. Hersman
President and CEO
National Safety Council

Every year, I look forward to honoring our CEOs Who “Get It” because they embody what it means to build a culture of safety. It takes an unrelenting dedication to safety that requires courage, conviction and commitment. These men and women care deeply about the safety and health of all of their workers and are setting their organizations up for success. On the following pages, you’ll find Q&As with each of our 2016 CEOs Who “Get It.” Reading through the nomination forms, it was clear to me that each honoree deserved this recognition. Here is a sampling of what a few of the nominators had to say, illustrating how deeply these leaders touch others’ lives.

Gerry Anderson has a high degree of focus to assure we stay on track to become the safest energy company in North America. It’s not a slogan. It’s not a belief. It is purposeful action. It is the way Gerry leads our company, every single day.” – Lynette D., DTE Energy

Andrea [Bertone] is not someone who simply talks about safety, but rather, she transforms her words into action. Biannually she rolls up her sleeves and spends the day working alongside plant operators. This hands-on program allows her to fully understand the hazards that exist in DEI’s operations while forming personal connections with frontline workers.” – Michael B., Duke Energy International

Colonel Farrell’s belief is safety is not an expense, but a long-term investment. The results of Colonel Farrell’s safety acumen and leadership have earned the District distinction among peers as one of the most forward-thinking and supporting safety departments in the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”– Shawn C., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District


Does your CEO 'get it'?

The National Safety Council looks to recognize leaders whose actions demonstrate a personal commitment to worker safety and health. It doesn't matter if your organization has 50 employees or 50,000. If you believe your CEO should be recognized, submit a form telling us why.

As you can see, these leaders do more than just “walk the talk” – their passion for safety comes from within. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many such CEOs over the past two decades, and those who “get it” truly transform the culture of their organization.

I hope you will share this article with your leadership. Regardless of where your organization is on the Journey to Safety Excellence, focusing on what matters most – the safety and well-being of your workers – can have infinite benefits.

Congratulations once again to each of this year’s CEOs Who “Get It.” You are building a legacy that will positively impact lives for many years to come.

Deborah A.P. Hersman
President & CEO
National Safety Council

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Gerard Anderson

Chairman and CEO
DTE Energy
Detroit, MI


  • Added safety as a standing agenda item and created a deeper and more robust discussion about the strategic direction of the organization’s safety system
  • Engages in routine dialogue with union leadership to create true partnership in advancing the safety culture
  • Holds Tri-Annual Labor-Management meetings with senior executives and labor leaders to discuss actions, challenges and progress within safety system

DTE ENERGY is a diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. The company employs 10,000 workers.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a leader who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

Early in my career, I understood the importance of safety on an intellectual level, and this was not sufficient to make safety rise above all of the other competing priorities for me. At times, an event can cause our thinking to shift. Shortly after I joined DTE Energy, one of our employees was fatally injured on the job. As I watched the employee’s wife and child walk down the aisle during his funeral, it suddenly hit me on an emotional level that the child would grow up without his father, and the wife would be without her husband forever.

At that moment, I realized a much deeper understanding of the importance of safety, and I shifted from an intellectual understanding that supported a safety plan, to an emotional commitment and personal responsibility for safety. This event pushed safety to the top of my priority list, and has continued to be the driving force behind my safety focus.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

We built DTE Energy’s values around the ideas and behaviors that we feel most strongly connected to. The first of our company’s seven values is: “We put the health and safety of people first … and know this responsibility rests with each of us.”

We used those words because of the inherently dangerous nature of our work producing and distributing electricity and natural gas. The word “people” applies to both employees and the public, who we protect from hazards in our electric and gas distribution systems. The second part of our safety value makes every employee responsible for their own safety and responsible for the safety of those around them. I believe that including every employee is essential in establishing a strong safety culture.

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

We have come to see “incremental rationalization” as our greatest obstacle to safety. Our employees are tremendously talented and dedicated to excellence in their daily work. At times, however, our human nature allows us to gradually rationalize risky behaviors into accepted practice in our daily routines. A common example of this is not wearing proper gloves or other personal protective equipment. Although it is a risky behavior, if an employee completes a job without getting hurt, he or she may repeat the risk on the next job as well.

We use the concept of “200% accountability” to overcome incremental rationalization. It means that employees are 100% accountable for their own safety and 100% accountable for the safety of those around them. This concept creates a supportive environment that gives every employee the ability – and the responsibility – to address unsafe situations or behaviors.

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

To make our safety culture sustainable, we have embedded safety into our daily work processes. We require pre-job briefs before any work starts, we incorporate safety tools into our standard work instructions and processes, and we systematically conduct safe worker observations.

Keeping safety top-of-mind for employees also requires presenting fresh ideas and insights. For example, last year we realized that our frequency of injuries was not closely correlated to the severity of injuries. In response, we created and deployed our “Life Critical” safety initiative, which included an awareness campaign and updated standards for our most dangerous types of work. This renewed focus enabled employees to approach their work with a fresh perspective and focused their process improvement efforts where they would have the most impact on preventing life-changing injuries.

How does your organization measure safety?

The DTE Energy Health and Safety Dashboard brings visibility into our health and safety performance at the enterprise and business unit levels. The dashboard shows our progress toward our targets across leading and lagging indicators. Leading indicators include the number and quality of safe worker observations, near-miss reporting, training qualifications, and National Safety Council survey results.

In addition, we developed and implemented a systematic annual process to assess the safety maturity of each of our business units. These assessments enable our businesses to share best practices and develop customized action plans to improve their safety processes and culture. We track safety maturity scores on our health and safety dashboard as another leading performance indicator.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program?

Statistically, we know most injuries happen outside of work. Through our efforts to work safely on the job, we know injures can be prevented with awareness, education and taking time to evaluate a situation. We encourage employees to bring the safety mindset they have at work into their personal life by applying the principles they practice each day at work.

Our safety commitment applies to employees and their families, and also to the public that we serve with our natural gas and electricity. Our infrastructure – poles, wires, transformers and pipelines – provides essential services to every home and business in our region. The heart of our public safety program is to protect the public from potentially fatal hazards associated with our infrastructure, including downed power lines and gas leaks. In addition to the daily work of our field employees, during catastrophic storms we deploy many of our office employees to guard downed wires until they can be repaired.

What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

DTE’s “Energize Your Life” program empowers employees, retirees and family members to live safe and have high energy, good health and passion for life through programs that include personal health coaches, bike sharing, walking routes and exercise rooms to increase physical activity.

Recently, we partnered with the National Safety Council to deliver its quarterly magazine, Family Safety & Health, to every employee’s home. The magazine includes articles for all ages on safety and wellness at home and in the community. Another small way that we emphasize the value of safety at home is by using safety items like vehicle emergency kits as prizes for employee recognition programs.

That said, we know we can do more to help our employees and their families be healthier and safer at home. Implementing a more robust strategy for improving safety at home is a key focus area for us in 2016.

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Andrea E. Bertone

Duke Energy International
Houston, TX


  • Implemented a “360 Degree” safety behavior feedback process for all executives, operations directors and plant managers
  • Requires senior executives to join her – biannually – in physically working at a DEI facility
  • Launched the Perfect Safety Day Program, which strives to make each day a “perfect” day where hazards are proactively identified and mitigated by employees

DUKE ENERGY INTERNATIONAL, a wholly owned subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., is the fourth largest private generator of electricity in Central and South America based on net capacity of approximately 4,400 MW. DEI owns, operates and manages power generation facilities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru. The organization employs 1,178 workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

We believe that the success and future of our organization depends on our employees and their safety. Safety affects everything – the well-being of each person, the interests of their families, the diverse communities in which we operate and the ability to meet our commitments to our customers. Safety is a DEI core value because we care for our people and it is the right thing to do – anything else would be unacceptable. As a core value, we establish and promote safety expectations, manage our business and operate to achieve these expectations, and monitor our safety performance to sustain a safety culture where everyone – from senior executives to front-line employees to contractors – has a personal responsibility to proactively look out for each other at all times.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a leader who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

Professionally, I came from a non-technical, legal background without any direct experience in leading or managing safety. However, as a result of a near-tragic family event, I came to realize that safety has a direct human impact. When I assumed the role of DEI President six years ago, I quickly noticed that our organization focused a lot on measuring injury rates. Some leaders in our organization had a tendency to view injuries as simply unfortunate events rather than human beings who had experienced a potentially life-changing event. It wasn’t so much a tolerance for injuries, but an apparent lack of compassion around the personal impact of an injury. I knew we had to make a transformation to humanize safety while critically examining our safety processes. So, working closely with my talented staff in our Environmental, Health and Safety Department, I visited each of our facilities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru to personally listen to employees and our management teams about how to improve our safety culture. This helped tremendously to validate my belief about the human side of safety, and led me to get away from just looking at injury rates.

To sum up my personal safety journey, I discovered that safety is about people – not just injury rates – and the overriding need to challenge everyone to do their best to ensure a proactive safety culture.

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

One of the biggest obstacles to safety within our organization was that we had many historical, in-country cultures, which were varied and highly hierarchical. Safety was being practiced and managed in many different ways. Together with my DEI-Corporate EHS Department staff, we worked to standardize our safety practices, including incident and near-miss reporting, through safety procedures and provided training to all levels of the organization to ensure consistent implementation. This reduced variations, eliminated confusion and inconsistency, and, at the same time, allowed us to recognize internal best practices. We also established a central Safety and Sustainability Committee composed of the top 10 leaders within DEI. This team helps me ensure consistent implementation and compliance with our vision, strategy and goals. Additionally, committee members drive specific risk reduction initiatives, translating them to fit each country’s needs. They also help us in the corporate office to better understand their needs, so that we can improve the way we communicate, promote and ensure the success of future initiatives.

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

Actions, not words, are what build credibility – this is how I believe you lead safety. Executives shouldn’t simply talk about safety but demonstrate their commitment through their own personal actions. For example, following DEI’s 2013 acquisition of the Yungay Power Plant in Chile, I ordered a 48-hour delay prior to initiating start-up operation, what we called a “Safety Stand Down.” Despite this delay costing the company days of dispatch, it allowed time for all of our new plant personnel to receive the required DEI safety training. I feel that this type of action showed real, personal commitment by the leadership team to carry out our safety expectations, despite impacts to earnings. Because we are unable to put a dollar value on the life of a team member, safety will always be more important than financial results. The lessons learned from this experience were so rewarding and impactful that we now require proactive safety stand downs annually at every facility. These events reinforce the importance we place on our safety culture and encourage employees to provide feedback to continually improve our safety performance. We never want to lose sight of safety, even in a changing and dynamic business environment.

As a result of my initial plant visits, we developed a new program that requires my executives to join me and actually roll up our sleeves to work at a production job at least once each year. By doing this, we have come to understand the realities and hazards that our employees and contractors face every day, and it allows us to directly interface and understand their concerns. We found that this helped break down the barriers that existed between management and employees and facilitated two-way communication of concerns, suggestions and feedback on ways to improve safety. We want our leadership team to understand and support the same core values and to preserve an environment in which everyone has a shared vision.

The lessons learned from these visits and interactions with employees were needed to clearly state our safety expectations, increase personal motivation and commitment, and build trust between management and employees so that we can change things together.

One valuable lesson learned from this experience was that people wanted to do the “right thing” but often didn’t have a good understanding of what that “thing” was. I subsequently commissioned the development and implementation of DEI’s Safety Behavior Standards to clearly define our expectations to all DEI employees. These standards set specific behavioral leadership expectations for all employees, no matter what position they had within the company. We subsequently measured our maturity against these standards at every DEI-operated facility throughout Latin America. This provided us with even more detailed insights on culture gaps, and we continue these behavioral assessments to this day.

We conduct a Safety and Sustainability Conference for the top 85 leaders of DEI annually. We communicate and discuss new or changing standards and initiatives to DEI leadership and the positive impacts that they should have. The conference also provides a vehicle for DEI leaders to discuss the successes they have had and to learn from others on ways to improve their own safety programs.

How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?

DEI is the international business unit of Duke Energy Corp., the USA’s largest utility. As such, we decided to use US-OSHA definitions in the international arena to be consistent across the enterprise. We required each in-country business unit to define injuries according to the local definition, for regulatory compliance purposes, as well as the definitions used by OSHA to compare our performance to other Duke Energy business units.

As a result of the great work and programs that have been implemented by our employees, we reduced our employee Total Incident Case Rate by 84 percent during the last six years. Our 2014 TICR was 0.14, and our 2015 year-to-date results are 0.07. While this represents only one employee injury for the entire year, we were not satisfied. Two years ago, we launched a five-year 2018 Year Zero Safety Strategy. The goal is to have an entire calendar year without an employee recordable injury in or before 2018.

In addition to these lagging metrics, we also utilize four to five leading metrics. The specific requirements of each leading metric may change over the years, but they are typically identified as a result of historical injuries and near misses. We recognize that leading metrics are based on past performance, so we want to improve this process by establishing a more dynamic and real-time method to update leading metrics based on changing risks and international benchmarking.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program?

As a native of Brazil, I intimately understand that family is the core of Latin American life. We want DEI to be a part of, and involved in, the overall family experience. Therefore, we sponsor “Family Day” events where employees and their families come together to boost camaraderie and share safety practices. These events help families understand their role in safety and how to be supportive of family members working at our company. DEI has a wellness program to promote healthy lifestyles for our employees at work and at home. As an example, our Central America operations had healthy cooking classes for the employees as part of this program.

During DEI’s Latin American Women Entrepreneurs Program, a DEI Corporate Social Responsibility Program, which encourages women to participate in their family’s economic success, I have seized every opportunity to share the key to running a successful business – prioritizing safety.

In 2014, our Central America operations were impacted by a sudden outbreak of the new highly aggressive mosquito-borne virus known as Chikungunya. Approximately half of our employees and over 150 contractors were infected by the virus, resulting in a direct impact on our operations. The leadership team immediately implemented a proactive mosquito control program around our plants; initiated training for our employees, contractors and their families on how to reduce mosquito associated risks; and donated mosquito netting and other protective supplies for use at their homes. As a result of these efforts, the infection rate was reduced and a solid bond was formed with our immediate community and employees.

Traditionally, it has been a challenge to find safe, qualified contractors in developing countries. DEI’s approach has been to proactively share our safety processes and to qualify the contractors ourselves. This strategy has allowed us to hold routine meetings with all contractors to train them on our programs and set stringent safety expectations. As a result, contractor professionalism and work quality have soared and their incident rates have decreased. DEI’s contractor training programs have enhanced contractor safety practices and allowed them to qualify for work with other multinationals that also value safe operations.

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Col. Michael Farrell

Commander, Sacramento District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Sacramento, CA


  • Invested significant resources into executing the employee ergonomics and traffic safety programs
  • Believes safety is not an expense, but a long-term investment that serves as the pillar for reducing mishaps and injuries to people
  • Chairs the Executive Safety Council, which serves as a catalyst to facilitate engaged discussions concerning district-wide hazard trend analysis, among other issues

The U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS is a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world’s largest public engineering, design and construction management agencies. The Sacramento District has more than 900 employees.

Why is safety a core value with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?

Safety is an integral part of everything USACE does and is deeply rooted in our processes. From construction projects to recreation to disaster recovery, our work comes with inherent risk – for our employees, our contractors and the public. The more than 900 men and women of the Corps’ Sacramento District manage some of the largest and most complex civil works and military construction projects in the United States. Without an aggressive and robust safety program in place, we would not be able to carry out our vital work for the Army and the Nation. As our division motto reminds us, we are “Building Strong AND Taking Care of People.” I must ensure our employees have the proper resources to perform their jobs safely and are working in an environment free of recognized hazards, and that we are doing everything we can to safeguard the public.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

Serving in the U.S. military throughout my adult life is certainly a large factor; what we do every day must be grounded in a fundamental understanding of safety to demonstrate our country cares about the men and women we ask to undertake dangerous missions. For me, an explosive training accident 20 years ago is what connected me personally to understanding a leader’s responsibility to do absolutely everything we can. Most of the organizations I have served in are focused on serving others – building facilities for the public, members of the Armed Forces or defending our country abroad. I have always believed part of my role was to ensure we didn’t forget to also care about ourselves. Americans are fortunate to enjoy a culture in which human life is held dearly, so taking the time to communicate how that value translates on a personal level to wearing protective gear, following best practices and remaining vigilant can often be the difference in building a successful organization’s safety culture.

What is your biggest obstacle to safety, and how do you work to overcome it?

The greatest safety challenge facing the Sacramento District is ensuring a positive safety culture exists across a wide span of missions and very large area of operations. Our district covers 290,000 square miles encompassing all or parts of eight western states, which makes us one of the largest districts in USACE.

Our operations include large-scale construction projects, management of water resources infrastructure and recreation areas, munitions cleanup and environmental restoration, natural resources conservation, and so much more. The types of activities that our employees – and the contractors working on our sites – undertake every day are diverse and high-risk. We are also responsible for ensuring public safety in the 13 recreation sites we operate and around our construction sites.

As Commander, I promote a culture that enables the workforce to have a safe and healthy workplace; ensuring safety is integrated into every aspect of what we do. Whether working in an office setting, operating government vehicles, serving on a construction project, being positioned at a dam or levee, or serving the public at one of our recreation areas, equipping employees with the right tools and empowering them to prevent or stop unsafe acts fosters a sense of ownership in our safety program. I use our safety awards program as a platform to publicly recognize project offices and individuals for safety achievement, which stimulates worker engagement in safety practices on a continual basis.

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

With a large workload and many senior employees eligible for retirement, we have hired a number of new employees over the past few years. I use each New Employee Orientation as an opportunity to personally convey my safety philosophy, expressing how much I value employee health and well-being, and, most importantly, assuring our new team members there is no job the district performs that requires workers to put themselves or their co-workers in a position to risk life or limb. Expectations are set through the district safety policy letter, which requires all employees to implement risk management principles. I also chair a quarterly safety council where I receive updates to initiatives, programs and problematic situations that may need my attention or direction. Furthermore, the district also facilitates an employee council that serves as a venue to voice safety and occupational health challenges, craft abatement recommendations, and partner with my leadership team to implement best courses of action.

How do you measure safety?

The Safety and Occupational Health Office develops annual objectives as part of the organization’s Safety Management Action Plan. These objectives are derived from areas within our SOH program requiring enhancement or modification, as well as new initiatives that are in the best interest of the enterprise. Target dates are set and progress reports briefed during safety councils. Additionally, our team of gifted safety professionals and industrial hygienists conduct safety and medical surveillance assessments at each worksite using in-depth inspection checklists to measure the effectiveness of our safety program. Deficiencies identified are documented and placed in an abatement database until closed. I’m very proud that our Days Away, Restricted, and Transfer case rate and Total Case Incident Rate are below industry levels.

Internally, one area for improvement is instilling safe motor vehicle operation by workers to reduce the number of speeding violation reports when employees are operating government vehicles. I want to ensure our employees are good stewards on roadways by driving safely. The logistics department partners with the Chief of Safety to track traffic violations and motor vehicle accidents, and division chiefs are provided monthly results for corrective action.

Externally, recreational water safety is a top priority across USACE, and we were challenged by our Commanding General to reduce public fatalities by 50 percent this year. The Sacramento District exceeded this goal and reduced fatalities by 66 percent. Much of this success is owed to strategies implemented by our local water safety council, including an aggressive marketing campaign, a life jacket loaner program and our strong partnership with the State of California to replace unserviceable life jackets for free. However, we cannot rest on our laurels, as water-related emergencies can happen at a moment’s notice.

In addition to water safety, we ensure our park rangers are trained and certified in CPR and first aid, playground safety inspection, and other skills they need to keep themselves and the public safe.

What role does off-the-job safety play in USACE’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs do you offer?

I value balancing work and home life and have instituted several health and welfare programs during my tenure as Commander. With the support of my Public Affairs Office, I promote participation in local recreational events to boost morale and camaraderie. As an avid runner, we established a biweekly running club to go on group runs or partake in organized mud runs and local team races. Additionally, I sponsor quarterly recreational events hosted by one of our 13 parks, including fishing tournaments and family campouts. In addition, my Chief of Safety oversees the wellness program, which provides smoking cessation classes, a walking club, weight-loss program, an annual team weight loss challenge, and discount rates at local fitness clubs for our employees and their family members.

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Carol Johnson

President and CEO
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions
Aiken, SC


  • Established an official ‘Standard of Excellence’ – marrying fundamental safety behaviors into a company expectation
  • Expects transparent communication – initiated bimonthly safety video-messages and emails
  • Ensured open lines of communication by creating an “Ask Carol” email account so employees can speak openly with the Office of the President, and conducts monthly roundtable meetings with workers

SAVANNAH RIVER NUCLEAR SOLUTIONS manages and operates the Savannah River Site in Aiken, SC. A key facility in the U.S. Department of Energy complex, SRS is dedicated to environmental stewardship, supporting the nuclear weapons stockpile and nuclear materials management and storage. SRNS employs 5,000 workers.

Mentioned in Congress: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) announced Carol Johnson's "CEOs Who 'Get It'" recognition Feb. 3 on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

The Savannah River Site is steeped in a half-century-old culture of excellence in the nuclear industry. We solve some of the world’s most challenging – and pressing – nuclear challenges each and every day. To do this, we operate as a highly diverse and technical team. But more importantly, safety is a core value because we care about each other, our community and our country. At SRNS we believe that our work makes the world safer, and we are only successful at achieving this when safety is the foundation in all that we do, both on the job and off.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

Very early in my career I worked for DuPont. The DuPont safety culture and safety programs taught me the basics of why safety must be integrated into everything we do every day. Processes, procedures and human behavior require constant vigilance and periodic refresh. I learned the value of employee engagement and willingness to listen and respond to workers’ suggestions and issues. These are the people who are actually tasked with performing the important work of the company. The training and coaching from very experienced co-workers and supervisors many years ago gave me the indoctrination I needed relative to safety as I advanced in my career. I never forget and constantly remind myself of the grassroots worker involvement necessary for a strong safety culture.

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

I think the biggest challenge that SRNS faces is complacency. SRNS employs a highly skilled and technical workforce. As such, many employees are seasoned veterans with decades of experience in the nuclear industry. Although that is a positive attribute for any company, it also brings with it a unique challenge: ensuring employees stay engaged in the routine and possibly mundane requirements that are designed to keep us safe. We combat this challenge in multiple ways. First, we take a very deliberate approach to communications. Challenges are never overcome by denying their existence. Therefore, we openly discuss complacency with our workforce on a routine basis. Second, we utilize a robust continuous improvement program to inspire employees to help identify new and innovative ways to conduct business. This helps keep seasoned employees engaged, and leverages their experience to help SRNS achieve its missions in a safe and cost-effective manner. Lastly, we employ safety programs like behavior-based safety and the Integrated Safety Management System methodology to empower employees to speak up when safety is called to question. The success of these programs in combating complacency is largely driven by strong expectations set forth by senior leadership, as well as a healthy recognition program that is specifically designed to encourage employees to identify hazards that may lead to safety incidents.

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

Safety and security are engrained in everything that we do, from front-line workers to senior vice presidents – there is not a single SRNS employee who is not touched with a safety message every day. These fundamental values are visible from the moment employees enter the 310-square-mile site, where they are greeted daily by a robust communications campaign that reinforces our branded safety culture through multiple avenues. We also instill our safety culture into every employee through training, mentoring, leadership development and a team approach to safety success. This cultural expectation is reinforced each and every day by incorporating safety discussions before every work package is started. Safety is not just a condition of employment for SRNS employees; it is a way of life. Because of our safety culture legacy and indoctrination approach, employees take safety very personally and look for creative ways to continuously improve safety culture and systems at SRS.

How does your organization measure safety?

Leading indicators serve as our safety compass at SRNS. We utilize a spectrum of indicators that are both formal and informal to keep a pulse on the health of our safety performance. From monthly safety culture surveys to behavior-based safety observations, management field observations and a robust safety reporting system, we are able to monitor safety performance at all levels of the organization. Additionally, just trusting our intuition when we feel trouble is on the horizon. I am a firm believer that intuition is a powerful leading indicator and we often brush it off because there may not be the hard data to support our gut feelings.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

Off-the-job safety is a wonderful indicator of overall safety culture. If employees are safe at home and in the community, then they have safety engrained in them as a personal value. Safety is really all about what you feel inside – it has to be internalized and in your heart. Every meeting at SRNS kicks off with a “safety share.” A great deal of these safety shares are personal experiences encountered after-hours or on weekends. But to bolster off-the-job safety, SRNS has included off-the-job observations in our behavior-based safety observation system. This helps keep continuity in safety focus and performance at work and at home. We also have implemented several wellness programs to inspire employees to take control of their health by rewarding healthy lifestyle choices through health insurance incentives.

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Bill Koziel

President and CEO
SAC Wireless
Schaumburg, IL


  • Ensures that all field employees complete three full weeks of training before they are allowed in the field
  • Knows what it takes to maintain compliance through strong, effective processes and procedures and oversight in the field through safety audits and compliance assessments
  • Sets the expectation that employee safety is paramount in everything

Founded in 1996, SAC WIRELESS develops and implements network infrastructure for telecom companies throughout the United States. SAC offers a complete portfolio of self-performing services to support major network builds, 4G LTE upgrades and indoor/outdoor small cell and Distributed Antenna Systems. The company employs 700 full-time workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Safety is a core value because our people are who we are. We value each and every associate as one of our own family. Our first core value is “Hire and Develop Great People.” The first step to achieve this is to ensure that safety is our primary core competency and that all our employees know the value we hold to make certain that they all return home safely to their families each and every day.

As a nationwide tower services company, our two biggest risks are driving and fall hazards at the jobsite. While we train for all hazards our employees may face, we concentrate heavily on these two hazards and ensure our personnel have the best advantages we can give them. Safety is absolutely a core value in this company and I cannot overstress its significance.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

I learned early on in my construction/project management career that if you do not personally emphasize the importance of safety and diligently enforce it on any project, you are not effectively managing the project. Although we are required to manage schedules and budgets, the ramifications of one unfortunate incident not only can stop a project, but – most importantly from a basic conscientious and human standpoint – it can have disastrous consequences on a person’s life.

The nature of the wireless industry requires us to realize that if you are going to be successful in the business, you must be safe first. The inherent hazards are just too great.

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

Growth. As a constantly evolving company, we must grow, and growth requires the hiring of new talent into our organization. With that come aspects of safety culture from other companies whose values may not align with ours or that, dare I say, have no safety culture at all.

Our first core competency is “Make a personal commitment to safety every day,” and this is the daily credo that I and my entire organization live by.

Youth and inexperience are also a concern. Many of the tower climbers we hire are young. This necessitates establishing the safety culture from the ground up (pardon the pun). Each and every new employee, experienced or not, receives a minimum of two to three weeks of training based on position. During this time we instill our values and culture into them and continue with a vibrant weekly safety meeting process, daily job safety analysis and weekly inspections of all equipment.

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

The safety process does not end after the initial training period. We continue the process by having weekly safety topics that go to all personnel in the company. We also hold weekly crew meetings to address and discuss the issues that our personnel are managing as well as the safety topic. We further continue this process by having monthly meetings with all field personnel and their superiors to address and emphasize issues that we believe are important to maintain our safety culture. We then schedule specific upcoming training sessions and events to make certain that personnel understand the serious nature of this company’s commitment to safety.

We reinforce this process so every employee feels empowered to stop work if they have any safety concerns and is confident that their decision will be respected and the issue will be addressed.

How does your organization measure safety?

We utilize both lagging and leading indicators. The lagging indicators are our incident metrics and the leading indicators are derived from our site safety audits. We share these results with our construction teams and contractors/vendors by demonstrating where they are excelling and where we may need to concentrate our efforts. I am a firm believer in improvement, so we never stop trying to get better at what we do – and safety is key.

We plan to expand our Site Safety Audit Program in the coming year, asking our personnel for even more intense involvement in the safety process to increase their ownership in safety while creating a successful end product.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program?

As a services-based company, our people are our greatest asset. We strive to ensure our personnel stay healthy and fit. We offer a wide range of wellness plans, including well-discounted gym memberships, diet plans and personal care services. We also provide a series of programs to help improve well-being and the quality, cost and transparency of health care by promoting prevention and early detection. The program includes resources to help subscribers manage weight, control stress and stop smoking.

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Edward J. Sheehan Jr.

President and CEO
Concurrent Technologies Corp.
Johnstown, PA


  • Emails “Good Morning CTC” messages on a periodic basis, emphasizing the importance of safety-related months or to raise awareness on safety topics
  • Walks around facility and talks to employees to show visible support for safety and health
  • Supports all safety and health training for employees

CONCURRENT TECHNOLOGIES CORP. is an independent, nonprofit, applied scientific research and development professional services organization employing about 800 workers. Together with its affiliates, CTC leverages research, development, test and evaluation work to provide transformative, full lifecycle solutions.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

We genuinely care about our employees’ health and well-being. At CTC, our employees are our most important resource. That’s first and foremost. In addition, environment, safety and health is one of our key areas of expertise. We help other organizations implement safety, environmental health and wellness programs.

For instance, CTC operates the Department of Defense Safety Management Center of Excellence (DoD SMCX), which deploys safety management systems and programs that help Defense installations and agencies implement safety management systems with the goal of significantly reducing occupational injuries and illnesses. Many of these sites have achieved OSHA Voluntary Protection Programs STAR recognition.

OSHA VPP STAR sites enjoy the highest safety designation granted by OSHA to a worksite. VPP STAR sites have exemplary safety performance records, and they can achieve up to a 150 percent return on investment. In addition to helping other entities earn STAR status, CTC has applied for and earned VPP STAR recognition at our two largest facilities.

Through the DoD SMCX, CTC’s team has conducted more than 400 safety management system evaluations and performed more than 100 industrial hygiene assessments at the U.S. Army Public Health Command and U.S. Navy. Going above and beyond safety and health compliance is the foundation of any evaluation or assessment we do, and continues to be an ongoing focus at CTC.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

First, I want to emphasize that this recognition is a result of the commitment of the entire team who create and sustain a safe working environment at CTC. Our leadership team is committed to employee safety, and our employees are actively involved at all levels. Our proactive wellness programs have contributed to our overall success as well.

Early in my career I learned that mere safety compliance was not good enough. Going above and beyond regulatory compliance is necessary to achieving safety and occupational health performance. In addition, this performance-driven approach has contributed to the productivity, innovation and financial health of the organization. I also realized that above all, you have to have a positive safety culture. CTC employees are knowledgeable, empowered and committed to employee safety and health excellence.

Because CTC is fully vested in teaching other organizations about environmental health, safety and wellness, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best safety experts in the country. Our safety and occupational health professionals do great work, and I’m honored that one of them nominated me for this recognition.

In her nomination, Lori Schroth, a senior safety and industrial professional, humbled me by remembering the ways she saw me promote our safety culture. For instance, she wrote that I integrate safety into all my correspondences. I walk through work areas and talk with employees and promote safety. Lori recalled that I encourage activities like Safety Days, Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Days, and am actively involved with environmental health issues on an as-needed basis. She concluded, “He was a supporter for OSHA VPP, and we couldn’t have achieved that recognition or sustained it without him.” Leadership commitment is one of the pillars to a successful safety management system and VPP Star recognition. Hearing that felt as good as winning this award!

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

I am proud to say that we do not have any obstacles at CTC when it comes to safety. Living the CTC brand means that we look out for each other, and we do what is right. We go above and beyond regulatory requirements to ensure our employees return to their families after each workday is complete. With that said, we do have areas where we have more potential for mishaps than others.

When I think about CTC’s need for performance-based safety protocols, I immediately think about our high bay where advanced metalworking technologies, friction stir welding, advanced laser robotics coatings removal, and other scientific and engineering work is performed. Research and development and new technology may introduce new hazards to our employees. CTC’s proven processes ensure that all environmental, safety and occupational health hazards are mitigated.

Additionally, we have extensive travel within CTC to support our clients all over the world. Our winters can be on the extreme side and, ensuring our employees can enter and exit our facilities safely is paramount.

How do we overcome any safety obstacles? We are committed to our safety management system approach and the four pillars of VPP: leadership commitment and employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and safety and health training. Leadership is engaged at all levels. Employees are involved in safety self-inspections, EHS committees, job safety analysis development and near-miss reporting. We have dedicated safety, environmental and training professionals that provide compliance support, coaching and mentorship. Our robust ESOH program, policies and procedures ensure that safety is addressed not only at the corporate level, but is driven down to the project level as well. All policies and procedures are reviewed annually to ensure they are performing at a level needed to proactively prevent employee mishaps. Near misses are investigated and policies and procedures can be updated at that time to ensure any new hazards are identified and mitigated immediately.

Finally, as President and CEO of CTC, it is my responsibility to ensure that safety and health is fully resourced based on regulatory requirements and our commitment to OSHA VPP.

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

At CTC, safety is part of our brand DNA. From the very first day of employment, new employees receive orientation on safety, our VPP recognition program and how safety is a core value of our organization.

Safety is promoted through our employee website, and special safety considerations are discussed at the beginning of all meetings. Visitors to the organization are briefed on our safety requirements and evacuation procedures should an emergency occur. Our EHS committee is led by employees outside of the safety office to ensure the program is truly employee driven.

Additionally, our employees who do the work are also involved in identifying the hazards and mitigation through our job safety analysis program. Our employee safety committee is also very active and visible through a quarterly newsletter and regular online articles on multiple safety topics.

During National Safety Month each June, we conduct safety days with fun activities – hands-on training, demonstrations, contests and prizes – that keep people thinking about safety awareness. Employees at offsite locations can participate through our unique virtual booth. I set aside time to attend each year because I think it’s important personally to stay on top of safety issues, and it’s important to let employees know that I make safety a priority. Talking with employees, knowing their names and what they do at CTC, and sharing a laugh with them as I miss a golf putt, ring toss or something like that keeps everything relevant and in perspective!

How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?

Over the past year, CTC had two separate streaks of five consecutive months without a recordable injury and achieved rates that were more than 50 percent below the national industry average. Because there is always room for improvement, our program involves as many employees as possible through a safety self-inspection component. Last year, our employees completed 865 safety self-inspections and submitted 130 safety suggestions.

In March 2015, our employees were recognized by the National Safety Council for two milestone achievements. CTC was presented with the Perfect Record Award for working 3,273,475 hours between March 4, 2013, and Dec. 12, 2014, without a lost-time accident. In addition, the National Safety Council presented CTC with the Million Work Hours Award for the same period and total hours.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

Each year, CTC hosts an annual hazardous waste collection day in one of our Johnstown parking lots. This year, we collected 13.4 tons of hazardous waste in one day, for an 11-year total of more than 130 tons.

We offer free American Red Cross Adult First Aid/Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation/Automated External Defibrillator classes to employees, and right now nearly 10 percent of all of our employees are certified. They’re acknowledged on our intranet, and through an in-house article we have thanked them for their willingness to help others in need.

Each and every month our EHS professionals provide safety tips that include off-the-job topics to keep our employees safe while at home or at play. Our wellness programs provide discounts to fitness centers along with a variety of programs to keep employees safe and healthy. We ensure that flu shots are available to all employees free of charge, and dependents at a reduced rate, right here in our facilities. Our employees are priority No. 1 whether they are at work or off the job.

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Phil Washington

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Los Angeles, CA


  • Made commitment that Metro will embark on an ambitious training initiative involving the direct, regular delivery of safety training to more than 5,000 operating employees within a 12-month period
  • Announced safety and security is the No. 1 priority
  • Had 10 Metro employees trained to be defensive driving course instructors within 30 days of starting at Metro

The LOS ANGELES COUNTY METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY operates the third largest public transportation system in the United States by ridership with a 1,433-square-mile operating area and 2,000 peak-hour buses on the street on any given business day. LA Metro employs more than 10,000 workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

When I first arrived at Metro, I circulated my vision statement throughout the organization and stated clearly that safety and security are our No. 1 priority. Part of that is remembering that we are in the service business and that all our customers deserve a safe environment. To that end, Metro has added new technologies and methods to keep our passengers and employees safe. We moved aggressively to install steel and polycarbonate barriers on our new buses to protect operators from assault. We are also committed to installing CCTV monitors on our buses that allow the passenger to see themselves boarding and then seated in the bus. The concept is that if a person sees themselves on a monitor, he or she knows that there is video recording and he or she is less likely to commit a crime. Metro used State of California grants to provide extra security at many of our high-volume parking lots by deploying the SkyWatch Tower that elevates to 24 feet and provides a video or personal platform for surveillance. Keeping commuters’ cars safe in Metro parking lots is part of providing an excellent transit experience. Metro is also an industry leader in cracking down on sexual harassment on the bus and rail system. Our campaign called “It’s Off Limits” was successful in reducing reported incidents of sexual harassment from 22 percent to 19 percent between December 2014 and May 2015.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a leader who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

My journey began with my childhood growing up in public housing in the South Side of Chicago. I found direction and a career with the United States Army and rose to the level of Command Sergeant Major before retiring from active duty to join the Regional Transportation District in Denver. I believe in focusing on the basics such as curbs, sidewalks and first/last mile, even as Metro is embarking on one of the largest public works building efforts in the world.

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

Safety is a result of a culture, and I was lucky enough to join an organization that already had a strong culture of safety. In any organization, all components are interconnected and are designed to work together to accomplish the goal of providing excellence in service and support. Communication between departments is important to achieving that goal, so we stress the importance of breaking down silos. I also want to say that partnership with our union leadership is instrumental in maintaining a culture of safety.

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

Training is important. Metro is pilot testing a program called Transit Ambassador, which is a customer service program that also contains elements to help our operators deal with stress on the job and at home. Also, it helps operators deal with potentially dangerous situations in the field. Additionally, since May 2015, we have been using the National Safety Council Defensive Driving Course Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving program based on Choice Theory for operators. If an operator fails to stop for red lights, they must attend a nine-hour class. Since May we have trained 274 operators and only five have a repeated violation. Our success rate is 98.7 percent to date.

How does your organization measure safety?

Metro measures employee safety by evaluating both leading and lagging indicators. Some of the leading indicators that we review are unsafe behaviors, agency rules and policy violations, near-miss incidents, and reported workplace hazards. We also benchmark our design standards and practices against our peers and regulatory requirements to proactively identify and eliminate – to the greatest extent practicable – potential risks.

In many cases, we exceed the minimum standards rather than simply meeting them. Metro also reviews lagging indicators such as incidents, injuries and claims data that provide valuable information that is used to improve safety performance. Areas that we are currently working on improving are related to enhanced training for our employees, improving our maintenance practices, increasing our capital investment to maintain our existing assets in a state of good repair and enhancing our capabilities in the area of emergency management.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

Metro continually strives to stress the importance of being safe – not only on the job but also at home – with the realization that such a philosophy promotes a healthy safety culture. For example, Metro’s training programs such as CPR/AED, first aid, emergency preparedness, and Metro’s labor-supported wellness programs benefit employees at work and at home. These programs, along with periodic health fairs that are conducted at various Metro facilities, are designed to educate employees about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, nutrition and strategies to improve their overall health.