www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/15148-ceos-who-get-it

The 2017 CEOs Who 'Get It'

January 29, 2017
2017 CEOs Who
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Deborah A. P. Hersman
President and CEO
National Safety Council

A culture of safety and well-being is one that takes time, dedication, a thoughtful approach and a CEO who “gets it.” The 2017 CEOs Who “Get It” are leaders who not only understand how to run a great business, but also know deep down that safety is paramount for their employees, their clients and their families.

Whether running a construction services company like Raymond Brown, an electric cooperative like Joe Slater or managing safety for the U.S. Air Force like Maj. Gen. Andrew Mueller, safety cannot be an afterthought. Doing a job right means doing it safely – every time – and safety starts at the top. The best leaders lead by example, and so we salute the 2017 CEOs Who “Get It” for going above and beyond in creating a culture of safety by focusing on what matters most.

I hope that reading the Q&As with our 2017 CEOs Who “Get It” will not only inspire you, but also give you an added appreciation for what passion for safety is all about. We can all learn best practices from each other, and it’s one way we can get to our goal of eliminating preventable deaths in our lifetime. I believe if every employee had a CEO who “gets it” in every industry, we would be a lot closer to that goal.

Congratulations to our 2017 honorees and thank you for your dedication.

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


Browse CEO Q&As by clicking on a photo below or by clicking the arrows at the top of each page.

  • Ray BrownRay Brown
  • Timothy J. GassmannTimothy J. Gassmann
  • Larry HoganLarry Hogan
  • Maj. Gen. Andrew M. MuellerMaj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller
  • Tim MurrayTim Murray
  • Ryan NilesRyan Niles
  • Joe SlaterJoe Slater
  • View the article as it appears in print in the digital edition.




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Ray Brown

Ray Brown

CEO
ESCO Group
Marion, IA


Accomplishments

  • Implemented a top-down “learning organization” concept that increased employee safety involvement
  • Travels with the ESCO Group Safety Department and attends crew and team safety meetings on a regular basis to ensure all employees are receiving the same message
  • Employs a “do the right thing” approach and invests in the latest technology

ESCO Group is a versatile company that provides electrical construction, electrical engineering, plant automation, arc flash analysis and electrical safety training services to a wide variety of commercial and industrial clients, primarily within the food and beverage, manufacturing, agriculture, and municipal markets. By empowering people, providing exceptional services and delivering on promises, ESCO, which has 225 employees, is known for responsible and reliable support and excellent, custom-made solutions.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

At our core, what makes ESCO successful is our people. Empowering people, providing exceptional services and delivering on promises makes up our commitment to our ESCO families. Each day, we strive to keep our promise that every ESCO family member will make it home safely. Without our exceptional electricians, engineers and support groups, what we do in providing services to our markets would be impossible. Our focus must be on our people because they represent everything that ESCO is today, tomorrow and in our years to come.


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

My journey and first experiences began more than 45 years ago being the youngest brother of five boys and learning to have the keen instinct to look out for each other. That family-oriented instinct continues today in my CEO role in that I want to look out for our employees.

I started at ESCO shortly after our founder and CEO at the time, Wayne Engle, was one of the very first in the electrical industry to recognize the impact of safety by hiring our first ESCO safety director. This was unprecedented at the time, and set the stage for ESCO to become the safety learning organization it is today.

In my earlier years, I reported to our second CEO, Dave Engle, who was my mentor for more than 20 years until his passing just a few years ago. Dave had the same commitment to safety as Wayne did. Dave put me in charge of our Risk Management Platform and 15 years ago we made the decision to invest in ourselves in joining a self-insured captive called the Heartland Group. At the time we felt we were an extremely proactive, safety-minded company making a great investment. That turned out to be completely false. What we found out is that our company – although very safety conscious – was simply getting lucky. Unfortunately, that luck ran out with a series of very serious accidents, including shutting down some industrial processes and sadly, losing one of our own family members in an electrocution accident that was completely avoidable. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of Chris and his family – that constant reminder will always be with me and will influence my decisions regarding safety for our employees.

Since then, we have completely rebuilt our safety leadership, focusing on learning and not complacency. Today, we have empowered three full-time, exceptional safety directors who focus on creating a learning safety environment and who make a difference for ESCO every day. Today, ESCO tracks certifications and training, and we share near misses and best practices. We try to engineer the risk out of task and activities before the task or activity begins. One thing is certain: Accidents will happen, but we can never become complacent. We must always keep learning and we must always look out for one another.


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

Our biggest safety obstacle is convincing new employees that safety is truly part of the ESCO way. Many new employees come to ESCO with a poor perception of safety due to previous employers making safety promises and commitments, only to throw them out when production demands and client deadline expectations are increased.

ESCO has to continuously prove their commitment to safety to new and existing employees through our actions – whether it’s through the continuous training process or the daily interaction with the safety department. ESCO is committed to keeping their employees in the safety mindset, and we know employees will work safely as long as the environment that they are placed in is conducive with safe work practices. Over the years, we have learned to empower the correct supervision that has safety instilled into their DNA. That is the keystone to our supervision structure.


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

Our safety professionals do a great job in keeping it fresh. Safety is about learning and making connections to what is most important in our lives – generally our families. Currently we are promoting our “Get Awkward” Safety Program. This program is asking our employees to think of safety by putting a picture of a loved one in their safety helmet or doing/saying something unique before we start our day – either individually or as a team. We are doing things that may seem awkward to allow us to refocus before we begin working. Like anything, we must continue to reinvent ourselves, and this program is about learning, connecting and growing.


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?

We created a safety dashboard to track several indicators such as loss ratio, recordable incident rate, etc. The most profound leading indicator we track is the safety events rate (SER), or near misses. We created our own SER looking at the number of events and annualized total hours worked. In 2014 and 2015, our SER was 24.85 and 24.50, respectively – it has slowly increased to 35.06 YTD in 2016, indicating to us that we are communicating effectively. We encourage this communication by sharing our near misses with our entire company each week.


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?

Most of our off-the-job safety is handled through our health insurance programs – either IBEW Health and Welfare, or our professional services United Health Care. As a company, we actively promote both of these initiatives through our wellness programs. Just this past year, I had the privilege to co-chair the Especially Blue Zones for Marion, IA. Blue Zones is part of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative focusing on creating healthy environments to live longer and better. Both the city of Marion, and ESCO Group became Blue Zones Certified in 2015.

Outside of wellness for the heart, body and soul, our next focus was in the area of distracted and drowsy driving. This has been said to be more dangerous than drunk driving, with 60 percent of Americans having driven drowsy this past year and 13 percent of American drivers have actually fallen asleep briefly. ESCO decided that these statistics needed to be addressed with our employees, so we hosted a speaker from the Iowa State Patrol, Trooper Conrad, who focused his presentation on this specific issue.



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Timothy J. Gassmann

Timothy J. Gassmann

President
Millhiser Smith
Cedar Rapids, IA


Accomplishments

  • Established a mission not to control loss, but to prevent the loss from ever occurring
  • Implemented the Millhiser Smith Risk Improvement Team, which supplies safety and injury prevention services to commercial clients and non-clients of the organization.

Millhiser Smith is a full-service risk management and insurance agency that has been around since 1928. Our specialty is reducing risk and providing insurance solutions for our commercial and personal lines clients throughout the eastern Iowa area. We employ 39 workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Because safety is what we instill in our clients, it needs to be paramount within our organization. We train all of our employees with regard to any safety issues and emphasize that when any employee is off-site, others in the agency should know of their whereabouts. We do annual testing of our Emergency Action Plan to make sure it is solid and employees understand it. All of our employees are knowledgeable on OSHA topics to not only keep them safe, but also to be able to communicate with our clients on relevant safety issues.


Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

Over the last 25 years, I have seen the financial impact that workplace injuries have on businesses. It has forced us to become more proactive in our analysis of safety standards instead of being reactive, which is common in the insurance environment. Maintaining proactive measures helps our clients improve their bottom line by reducing their overall cost of insurance.


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

Our biggest obstacle is safety complacency. Because we do not work in a high-hazard industry, sometimes we forget about the everyday situations we are in. Things like fleet safety and ergonomics need to be at the forefront of our minds in our daily working environment. Another obstacle is sometimes working with our clients. They are busy running their business, making sure sales are up, producing new clients, etc. It is very easy for them to focus on those important aspects of the business, but through our proprietary Millhiser Smith DISCOVERisk Process we get them to focus on the safety aspects as well.


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

We provide quarterly safety training to all of our employees on different OSHA topics. We provide pertinent safety information through fliers, emails or toolbox talks on a weekly basis. The agency has embarked on building a culture of success through organizational values – which includes everyday safety – to help our employees and our clients become healthier, safer and more profitable.


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?

Through the ongoing efforts of our Risk Improvement Team, we help our clients prevent and reduce workplace injuries through relevant, customized onsite safety training, OSHA compliance and other loss-control activities. When an injury does occur, we work diligently to reduce the impact of it to the client’s bottom line through accident investigation, root cause analysis, return-to-work programming and claims management. We then use indicators to measure effectiveness through incident rate (TRIR and DART) benchmarking and experience modification rating for workers’ compensation insurance, among others. The insurance environment is constantly changing. Challenges that we need to continually keep abreast of include new exposures at client facilities and changes made by regulatory agencies such as OSHA.


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?

The agency has a philosophy of wanting our employees and our clients’ employees to be able to go home in the same condition as they arrived at work so they can take care of all of the family duties they have. We provide our employees with a wellness program that consists of monthly challenges, reimbursement for gym membership and weight management classes. We feel that in order to keep our employees safe they also need to stay healthy. Millhiser Smith has also provided a free CPR class, fire extinguisher training and a self-defense class to anyone interested in learning how to protect themselves.



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Larry Hogan

Larry Hogan

President
H+M Industrial EPC
Pasadena, TX


Accomplishments

  • Personally performs an EHS audit each quarter and requires the leadership team to conduct quarterly EHS audits
  • Launched mandatory monthly corporate and construction EHS meetings to align departmental goals/
initiatives and allow open communication to address areas for improvement
  • Implemented a Project EHS Checklist to be completed by all project supervisors and reviewed by EHS for every new project
  • Invests significant resources and time into the organization’s safety incentive program

H+M Industrial EPC provides industrial design and design/build services to the chemical, petrochemical, and oil and gas industries. The company has serviced the Texas Gulf Coast for more than 25 years. H+M Industrial EPC employs 225 workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

H+M Industrial EPC is committed to the goal of ensuring “continuous improvement” in all aspects of health, safety, and environment. In order to achieve this goal, the safety and health of all employees, contractors, customers, the environment and the public must receive primary consideration in the planning, scheduling and execution of work. Safety is a consistent part of how we do business. Our HSE culture is measured by our behaviors and actions, modeled by our leaders, and internalized by our team members. H+M implements several safety process elements to reduce risk to employees. All of the safety process elements are designed to work as a checks-and-balance system to ensure the closure of gaps that can occur while dealing with the diversity of the work scope, environment and human behavior. Integrating safety processes into all business functions and structures results in safety becoming embedded in the way an organization conducts business. By consistently measuring the effectiveness of our strategy, plans and standards, we will provide the foundation for continuous improvement.


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

My personal journey to becoming a safety champion is continuously evolving every day. While I was formally trained in the engineering/design/construction profession, my knowledge of the safety profession was less extensive. This as a profession has grown on me, and I had to learn through my own observations and experiences throughout the years. In experiencing so many things and learning from many people over the 36 years I have worked in the industrial sector, I discovered a truth: Doing something safely requires much more than knowing the basics of how to do something – it requires a knowledge about the items and people encountered, a mindful attitude toward the task at hand, and vigilance of yourself and your surroundings that does not waver. Twenty-five years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for companies to go out and look at a job simply from a competitive cost-focused standpoint. Today, we do not bid on any job without considering if the job can be executed safely and our plan for ensuring it is executed safely.


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

Growth and the costs associated with it. It wasn’t long ago when H+M did not have a full-time HSE representative, much less a department of three to four safety professionals. It was a pretty big jump to go from a small budget to a budget that covered an entire department, including the equipment and supplies.

To overcome this initial shock, we had to change our mindset and come to terms as to what the real costs would be if someone gets hurt or we have multiple safety incidents because we did not provide the necessary funding to cover the safety budget.

Over the course of several years, we have successfully changed our culture by truly putting safety first.

We do understand that there are associated costs to work safely, but they are required regardless of what it takes, and the cost is so much greater if we allow our workers in the field to take on risks they should not be taking. As our business grew, our safety awareness grew, and we began to understand that striving to maintain a heathy and safe workforce was not only the right thing to do because we were good owners, it was also the economically smart thing to do. We must ensure we hold fast to what we learn. It is difficult to draft a cell phone policy or a policy dealing with a particular construction hazard. It is more difficult to hold true to those principles we believe in when “under the gun” to get a project done in adverse conditions or coaxed by our own conscience to let things slide a time or two. It is possible to get away with some things some of the time, but all unsafe things will carry a penalty at some point or another.

Every step is necessary and well worth the wait because I know that it is a step closer to making sure everyone goes home in one piece. What I do affects you, and what you do surely affects me.


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

At H+M, we promote a culture of safety awareness and employee engagement. Every employee has the authority to stop any job that might cause harm to themselves, the environment or the public. We all have a responsibility to take ownership of our personal safety as well as the shared responsibility of the safety of others. Safety is a team effort and we strive to expand safety awareness with a “brother’s keeper” attitude. I do my best to lead by example and keep my employees out of harm’s way. Everyone deserves to go home safe to his or her family at the end of the day and in one piece. We have implemented the TIP behavior-based safety process to identify and correct at-risk behaviors to aid in the prevention of accidents. Corporate office suggestions, supervisor suggestions and craft suggestions provide a three-cylinder approach to the identification and elimination of hazards throughout the company. Additionally, we have a safety incentive program that encourages individuals to become more engaged and positive toward safety. This program targets the workforce, who is most exposed to risks and is focused on proactive initiatives and behaviors and not on incidents. One of the incentive program elements recognizes a safety champion on a quarterly basis for their personal HSE commitment that empowers and embodies a positive HSE culture.


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?

Leading indicators will transform your safety culture from reactive to proactive by encouraging all levels of employees to actively participate in identifying and solving problems, reducing complacency and embodying the spirit of continuous improvement, and increasing overall safety awareness. The challenge is to engage your employees in a manner where they become empowered to complete and communicate a quality JSA or be an active participant in the company behavior-based safety process. The basics of hazard identification are a critical component to creating a safe workplace. Managing risk requires the understanding of potential hazards from design through construction. To ensure resources are available for targeted improvement, our leadership team critically reviews all HSE process elements. In order to assess these processes effectively, our whole leadership team conducts quarterly HSE field inspections in which the findings and recommendations are discussed at our monthly meetings. This hands-on involvement provides my team with the ability to make decisions (processes, procedures, initiatives, training needs, etc.) with a much more specific knowledge of how the job actually works and how it affects things on the front line.


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?

Safety is a mindset that should be used at work, but should also be taken home with you, too. It is not a concept that expires or loses relevance through the ages. It does not lose strength (unless ignored or abused), and it is nearly transparent if integrated into our work programs. At H+M, we sponsor teams for various fun runs, participate in Texas Adopt-A-Beach cleanup and distribute “safety training alerts” that discuss various off-the-job safety tips (back to school, holiday, summer, etc.).

We also have several health and wellness initiatives to encourage our employees to take control of their health by rewarding healthy lifestyle choices with gift cards and reduced health insurance costs, among other company recognitions.



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Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller

Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller

Air Force Chief of Safety
Headquarters U.S. Air Force
Washington, DC


Accomplishments

  • Led the way in support of OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down – Prevent Falls in Construction – for back-to-back years
  • Fully embraced and implemented the Safety Management System
  • Advanced space safety worldwide by interfacing with the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety, a body on the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

As Air Force Chief of Safety, Maj. Gen. Andrew Mueller also serves as commander of the Air Force Safety Center, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, in Albuquerque, NM. The center’s staff has approximately 150 military members, federal civilian employees and contractors who develop, implement, execute and evaluate all Air Force aviation, occupational, weapons, space and system mishap prevention, and nuclear surety programs and policy to preserve Air Force combat capability.

Why is safety a core value in the U.S. Air Force?

Simply put, a strong safety mindset ensures the ability of our Air Force to accomplish the mission. Sound, proactive safety practices safeguard the Airmen and protect the resources that comprise the Air Force. Safety is inherent in everything we do to preserve the combat readiness of our Air Force.


Describe your personal journey to becoming a safety leader who “gets it.”

In many respects, my foundation in safety was built from a safety culture that has existed in the Air Force for 70 years. Watching and learning sound safety practices from experienced aviators at the squadron level instilled in me respect for the hazards associated with aviation and a strong confidence in the procedures and equipment to protect myself and my crew from these hazards. I learned early on that aviation is terribly unforgiving and even the smallest of mistakes can translate into fatal or catastrophic mishaps. Unfortunately, sometimes these lessons came with the price of losing a fellow Airman, something that really strengthens the goal of not letting anyone repeat these fatal mistakes. This early experience instilled in me the importance of a heathy organizational safety culture and has enabled me to become an informed leader in the arena of safety. As I teach and lead the safety programs in the Air Force today, I do so with the goal of not letting Airmen repeat the mistakes that led to mishaps in the past and sustaining the safety culture that fosters open communication about safety with the goal of preventing mishaps across all disciplines in the Air Force.


What is the biggest obstacle to safety in the U.S. Air Force, and how do you work to overcome it?

With the high demand for Air Force capabilities worldwide, talented, skilled and enthusiastic Airmen face the challenge of sustaining operational requirements with limited resources. This can make operations susceptible to shortcuts and workarounds – all done with the good intent of meeting the operational demands, but exposing the operation to the very hazards the process or procedure not being followed was designed to prevent. Non-compliance or worse, complacency, needlessly accepts additional risk. If this non-compliance or complacency becomes habit, the individual or organization has now normalized a deviation, making a process, which is actually wrong, appear as normal.

Overcoming this “normalization of a deviation” requires every Airman to accept personal responsibility for the mission and their safety while accomplishing the mission. Within this responsibility is the requirement to use real-time risk management skills, asking “What are the potential consequences of taking shortcuts or using workarounds?” If the potential consequence seems too high, Airmen need to report the problem to ensure risk decisions are made at the right level and they should always take the time to do the task right. At times, it is difficult to get people to accept personal responsibility for their own safety. Non-compliance and poor risk management in particular continue to rate high as contributing factors in mishaps.


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

Safety awareness, education and training starts when an Airman enters the Air Force and continues throughout their career. Key to this process is direct involvement and engagement of leaders at every level. This is essential to a successful Air Force safety program.

A proactive safety culture is maintained through leaders who are committed to providing the requisite resources, training and tools to enable these Airmen to operate with sound safety practices. In addition, these leaders emphasize personal accountability to ensure every Airman respects the known hazards with service in the military and, equally important, respects the processes and procedures in place to protect them from those hazards.

An aggressive strategy to promote and educate every member of the Air Force on safety helps ensure employee participation and buy-in within the safety program. Employees are entitled to question processes and procedures that may present an unsafe work condition, creating a confidence that their personal safety matters. It also ensures timely, relevant safety information reaches the entire organization. There is no one solution to delivering safety information so this is a constant effort through a variety of means. The message must be fresh and relevant to capture the attention of people across the organization.

As the Chief of Safety for the Air Force, I see myself as an enabler of activities to sustain a safety-conscious culture across the Air Force. If we get it right, 99 percent of our activities and efforts in safety will be before a mishap ever happens, giving Airmen the ability to routinely operate in a high-risk environment with a high degree of confidence in their safety.


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?

The temptation is to measure safety effectiveness through mishaps rates. But we can’t wait for mishaps to measure safety. Therefore, the Air Force has organized the proactive safety activities under four pillars of a Safety Management System. These pillars allow the organization to measure what is being done proactively – before mishaps – giving leaders confidence in knowing the unit is safe.

The four pillars are policy, assurance, risk management and promotion/training/education.

Policy starts with the Air Force Chief of Staff endorsing the Air Force safety program, which is crafted and codified by subordinate levels including the Air Force Safety Center. It must be comprehensive and current in nature to define the program construct and execution process. A simple metric here is measuring the comprehensiveness and currency of our policies.

Assurance is oversight and validation that the safety program conformance and performance are acceptable. Evaluations, assessments and inspections are activities we use to measure safety.

In addition, all accidents, or mishaps, are investigated and reported to include a review process to validate the recommendations are on target to prevent similar mishaps.

Surveys provide extremely useful insight to the safety culture and attitudes of an organization. Our safety culture surveys give commanders findings and recommendations that have direct application to the safety climate, culture, leadership and supervision of their organizations. Safety culture survey results indicate that mishap rates are lower when workers feel more positive about their work environment and are more productive, which then leads to higher morale, further increasing productivity and strengthening a safe and healthy culture across the Air Force.

Risk management is the heart of a safety program. It requires trained personnel at all levels to be able to identify and manage risk and have formal processes and procedures to this end. It involves a constant review of areas where leaders knowingly accept higher than normal risk due to the nature of our military mission. Looking at the number of authorized waivers to established policies is a telling metric in this area.

Finally, promoting safety through education and training is the most important proactive safety measure of the Air Force SMS. Knowing our level of employee participation in safety training programs or how many employee hazard reports are received are useful indicators for safety.

In the Air Force SMS, we focus considerable efforts on proactive safety – identifying the mishap precursors and indicators to prevent the next mishap. Research and analyses show us that near misses and non-standard behavior are leading indicators and point us to the areas where we need to focus more attention. We look at how to detect those often-hidden leading indicators of mishaps, and how we can leverage technology and new thinking to proactively detect otherwise masked hazards. Hard data provided by our proactive safety reporting programs allow us to find those outliers in behavior, near misses and trends and fix them before they become our next serious mishap.


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?

Keeping Airmen and their families safe off duty is an integral part of the Air Force Safety program because whether their injury or death occurs on or off duty, we have lost their contributions to our mission. Sadly, each year the Air Force loses the preponderance of our Airmen during off-duty activities – most through motor vehicle accidents on local streets and highways.

The goal of our off-duty safety program is to translate the sound safety practices learned on duty or through on-duty activities to off-duty activities as well. At times, I am surprised by the level of risk an Airman is willing to accept during off-duty recreational activities, a level of risk that would be unacceptable while on duty.

We offer driver training and motorcycle operator training courses to improve the driving skills of our younger Airmen. We sponsor recreational activities and facilities through the local Morale, Welfare and Recreation organization to provide Airmen and their dependents a structured umbrella to engage in high-risk activities such as general aviation flying, scuba diving, indoor/outdoor sports. We use these occasions to underscore the importance of a good work-life balance. It’s a powerful opportunity to strengthen morale of our professionals as well as drive home to family members the same safety messages we give our workforce. We want all Airmen and their families to know safety as a habit and to make safety a habit for life.



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Tim Murray

Tim Murray

CEO
Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C.
Askar, Kingdom of Bahrain


Accomplishments

  • Brought safety, health and environment into the CEO group, ensuring direct involvement in all matters related to safety and health
  • Identified three safety principles: ownership of safety is everyone’s responsibility; working safely is a condition of employment; and all work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable
  • Initiated face-to-face campaigns so executives and management meet with shop floor employees as well as contractors about safely being a priority
  • Established a near-miss reporting system so potential EHS problems are scanned and detected instead of awaiting an incident

Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (Alba) is one of the leading aluminum smelters in the world. Alba produces more than 960,000 metric tons per annum of the highest-grade aluminum, with products such as standard and T-ingots, extrusion billets, rolling slab and molten aluminum. Alba employs approximately 2,700 people, a majority of which are nationals.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

At Alba, we believe that a successful safety culture is linked to the financial performance of the company. A good and healthy safety culture impacts the lives of our employees and all other stakeholders of Alba. We want people to focus on safety in every part of their lives, and with that intention, we organize safety campaigns throughout the year. Our campaigns are based on Alba’s core safety values or ZERO Accident Principles:

  1. Ownership of safety is everyone’s responsibility.
  2. Working safely is a condition of employment.
  3. All work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable.

Ownership of safety comes from the heart and attaining zero injuries at the workplace is a journey that requires teamwork. The more support we receive from our people, the more we can embrace the changes and the more we make an impact on our lives. The targeted safety campaigns and messages have had a positive impact on safety and health 
at our workplace, which is evident from the reduced lost time injuries, as well as overall safety performance. This has been accomplished only through the extraordinary support of our employees in embracing the change of better safety and health environment.


Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

Two months before I was appointed CEO, Alba had its fifth fatality in less than three years. It was a horrifying experience. Our safety performance was not good.

Safety was my biggest concern as the CEO. This was a big challenge to me because I came from a financial background. I had general experience in operations but none in safety specifically. I knew we had to start over with safety, as I refused to let the situation continue as it was.

I feel personally responsible for safety. For many years, we relied on a consultant to help manage our safety. I did not want a consultant’s view of safety. I wanted safety to be a daily core function of all our operations and thus, we took over the safety operations from the consultant.

You cannot outsource safety! You have to own it, you have to believe it. That is why our first safety principle, “Ownership of safety is everyone’s responsibility,” is the most important one. If and only if you believe in something will you do it.

We also introduced colors to our safety principles – white, yellow and pink, which got visual attention from our employees.

You can say we overhauled safety. The whole idea about safety is that it is about the people, our people … and not a PR exercise.

My aim is to have a Zero Accident Work Environment. I want our people to come to work safely, work safely, go home safely and be safe at home. You are here to work for your children, we want you to go home to your children. We don’t want you not to come back from work.

I would say that my No. 1 achievement as CEO is that we have had no fatalities while I’ve been CEO. By touching the heart, we can change the mind and that’s how I would think of safety. Seeing is believing!


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

Taking the ownership of safety also brings in risks … ones that I was willing to take on.

This is an industrial plant. It is tough . . . there is molten metal, there is heavy equipment moving around. What we do is dangerous and it will never get any easier.

Historically, the mindset here was more that of compliance; thus, shortcuts and poor safety behavior. It’s not just that you have the policies and procedures, you need to be aware.

The Arab culture is warm, welcoming and friendly. While it is excellent, people also tend to be very friendly and polite with safety issues. I tell people “On safety, it’s not okay to be polite. I want you to challenge any unsafe act. I would rather give a warning than a death certificate.”

The fundamental shift was to get people to believe because change starts with belief. We had to drive the ownership of safety to the shop floor. We decentralized safety; we brought in day-to-day safety coordinators allocated to every department of the plant. I spent two-thirds of my time on the shop floor, communicating directly with our people. It is easier to cut through the layers of communication with basic shop floor visits. They needed to see and feel that I believed in it.

In terms of contractors, we had to push big toward changing the safety attitude. I believe that the contractors, once in our plant, are our employees. So we involved them as well in everything we did.

Teamwork was and remains one of the key issues in achieving our ultimate objective of ZERO accidents. I shall quote Patrick Lencioni, “Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

And teamwork comes from trust. Trust is fundamental to safety culture; if your people do not trust you, then how anything can be achieved?


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

We want people to be proactive in terms of safety. That is the behavioral change that we intend to achieve.

Every new joiner has to undergo safety orientation. Safety induction and safety trainings are a part of our operational activities.

All the campaigns we do are a way to keep the momentum on safety. We also want to make safety fun – we come up with interesting ideas, for instance we had a blizzard campaign during summer. The themes and campaigns are very powerful to unite everyone under the idea.

Safety, when driven by the company’s management, sends out a strong message to all employees.

Visibility of the executives and senior management at work, especially the shop floor, is one of the main elements that we focus on. Safety campaigns involving executives and senior management helps to better convey messages. After all, seeing is believing.

We also push safety strongly during the summer months, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. Hot work environment combined with hot weather conditions and fasting: All these are dangerous conditions to work in. We take extra effort to support the workers during these challenging times, and conduct visits during various hours. While we may not be able to physically help the workers, we can surely help to boost their morale and ensure they work safely.

We also rely heavily on social media as a great tool for mass communication. Our PR team actively posts all our safety messages and campaigns on our own accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This helps to send our message across to employees who do not have email access, as well as tell the world out there what we do in here.


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?

We have in place typical reactive measures, such as number of fatalities, injuries and lost time injuries and accidents.

In terms of being proactive, we still have a long way to go. We have departmental key performance indicators where factors such as number of attendees for health and safety trainings, number of inspections performed, number of safety visits and interaction with the employees on the shop floor, behavioral observations captured into the e-Behavioral Observation system and number of near misses reported are measured.

One of the leading safety indicators for our organization is the near-miss reporting system. This allows us to identify incidents and happenings, which have a potential cause of injury or accident, and thereby implementing measures to mitigate the causes of the near miss.

We are currently improving on the near-miss reporting system to include a detailed follow-up on the near misses. We are also seeking to indulge more resources to work closely with the departments on the near misses.


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?

With the company, we conduct post-working safety visits, visits during weekends or night shifts, and visits that are performed during special occasions such as Eid al-Fitr where most of our employees are available on-site.

Going beyond the gates of Alba, we actively educate the communities on safety matters of daily life through targeted campaigns such as the child booster seat campaign as well as impart safety trainings to our clients. As a leading organization in the Kingdom of Bahrain, we view this as one of our ways to give back to the society.

Moving away from the business, Alba takes a keen interest in hosting and sponsoring social and recreational activities such as industrial football and basketball leagues, reputed national annual horse races, golf tournaments and similar events held in the Kingdom. This sense of appreciation and gratitude toward the employees as productive members of the society is also evident in a number of employee-based social programs held during occasions such as the annual Ramadan Sports Season, Alba Family Day Festival and the Celebration of the National Day of the Kingdom of Bahrain.



2017 CEOs Who Get it
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Ryan Niles

Ryan Niles

CEO
Niles Industrial Coatings LLC
Fenton, MI


Accomplishments

  • Regularly checks and conducts safety audits on project sites
  • Meets weekly with the employees located at the largest project site to discuss safety concerns and to stress safety is the top priority
  • Invests in safety training from the top down, including continued safety training for safety professionals

Niles Industrial Coatings LLC is a contractor organization with 275 employees. It specializes in industrial painting, linings, sandblasting, lead abatement and fireproofing. Niles strives to build a highly qualified team of dedicated professionals who embrace a culture focused on creating value for its customers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Here at Niles, we say safety isn’t one thing – it’s everything. We start and end every meeting with safety. Our first and most important asset is our people. One model that we follow every day is “CTH – Care, Trust, Help.” We have to take the time to CARE about one another; if we do that, we develop TRUST and once we have trust, we can HELP one another. That is intertwined with our strong culture of safety and is something that has continuously been a core value in our company. It is a key component to our success.

I would say that safety is something that was originally instilled in me by my father. One thing about my father I am fond of sharing, when he would hire a new employee he would visit them on a jobsite and ask “What’s your job?” The employee’s first response would usually be “I am a painter.” My father would say, “No, no you’re not. First, you are a safety person, then you are a painter.” He is one of the main reasons why safety is one of our main core values. Safety starts even before any task. It is involved at every level of what we do.


Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

I was very fortunate growing up in the business, seeing how important safety was to my father. He tells a story from the late ’80s about the development of our safety program. They hired a consultant to put the program together and when it was completed they had a beautiful safety manual. Later on, during an audit, the safety manager came in and told them that they had a beautiful safety manual, but asked if they actually cared to physically and mentally follow it. He told them they seem more like book publishers than anything. This really disturbed my father and made him realize that the values were not lined up and they were just checking the boxes. That was when our culture started to change.

Safety has always been a deep part of our culture. I have a responsibility to take it to the next level. I take that responsibility very seriously. I have always said that I don’t want to be a company that just checks the box for safety. I want to make sure everything we do adds value and uses people’s time wisely; people should be learning and growing. If we are not an organization that is growing in size, knowledge and experience, then we aren’t doing it right.


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

One of the biggest obstacles in the past has been customers who don’t share our strong culture of safety. Fortunately, we have strategically picked customers who value safety as much as we do. In the past, we have worked with customers that said safety was important, but their actions were different than what was printed on their walls or in their mission statements. With that said, we have partnered with many organizations that believe safety is important. We overcome this obstacle primarily by being good enough to pick our customers. We aren’t forced to work with anybody that doesn’t prioritize safety. We are diversified by customer, by industry and by service type.

Also, related to our customers, about five years ago, we started working primarily owner-direct and not through general contractors or other third-party management companies. This has helped us to have a direct relationship with the customer and has allowed us to add much more value. In the past, historically, we would be adding a lot of value that would be diminished by the customer as our sophistication was in excess or exceeded some of the customers we worked for. Now, that sophistication and experience is passed on directly to the customer, which allows us to add value. This is something not only in safety but in operations and other efficiencies.


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

We don’t want employees to ever feel like they are being policed. This is something that has to be taken into the culture. They have to look out for one another. This goes back to the CTH – Care, Trust, Help. I always tell people, “We are humans and we make mistakes.” If we have a family environment and look out for one another, hopefully that mistake – such as forgetting to put your safety glasses on] – their partner or co-worker will remind them to put their safety glasses on. If we focus on the little mistakes, we will never have a big mistake. We instill safety in our employees by teamwork, family and working together. We put the ownership on the employees, not on the management or supervision, but instilling it where it starts, at the employee level.


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?

We track near misses at a very detailed level. Many companies often say “don’t sweat the small stuff.” We have the opposite mindset – if we spend time on the little stuff, the big stuff is less likely to happen. Therefore, we spend a lot of energy on the little things. For example, safety glasses, driving, cell phone policy … those types of things help us avoid the larger concerns that could potentially happen. We track the statistics and all of the standard performance indicators like most companies, but we really strive to go deeper and look at daily safety performance at every level.

Where we see room for improvement is getting the employees exposed to our culture as soon as possible. Often, when a new employee is hired, they will be sent through training, but until they attend one of our retreats or educational events, they do not truly experience our culture and the true family environment that is our company. We need to improve on how we integrate new employees into our culture.


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 just as important as on-the-job safety for two main reasons. One, I do not think you can be wired to be safe at work and be unsafe at home. We focus on our employees taking safety home, like when they are sitting in their tree stand hunting – are they tied off? Are they wearing the right equipment or PPE? When they are at home working on a project are they using the right ladder? Are they wearing the correct footwear? All those kinds of things. We are a family organization and if an employee is in need of equipment or tools at home, we loan it to them or make the necessary items available to them. On-the-job safety and off-the-job safety is one in the same.

As far as the safety plan, we remind our employees that safety is everything, but they have to continually grow themselves in safety and in knowledge of their trade. I think at the end of the day the most valuable thing is a continued education.



2017 CEOs Who Get it
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Joe Slater

Joe Slater

President and CEO
Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative
Hughesville, MD


Accomplishments

  • Attends and presents at employee safety meetings
  • Personally wear-tested an approved flame-resistant company uniform while performing maintenance activities at his home to assess the comfort of the garment
  • Opened a campus gym, allowing employees to exercise at no cost and at times that are convenient for their schedule
  • Opened a campus family health center that allows retirees, employees and family members access to urgent and routine medical care
  • Implemented a smoke-free policy for company vehicles and worksites

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative is a not-for-profit electric cooperative that provides electricity to more than 160,000 accounts in southern Maryland. SMECO’s mission is to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric service while assisting its communities and enhancing the quality of life in southern Maryland. SMECO employs 530 workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Safety is a core value at SMECO because our success is directly tied to keeping our employees – in particular our linemen – healthy and safe, especially as they perform work in hazardous conditions. It is essential that our employees place the highest value on safety, as there is no room for error while making direct contact with high-voltage electrical lines.

My concern also extends to the dozens of men and women who travel our highways each day to do routine maintenance, inspect our infrastructure, meet with our customers and numerous other daily activities that we can easily take for granted.

Stressing safety for all of our employees has to be an inclusive process to ensure it’s part of our culture and not just something that is talked about at monthly meetings and forgotten.

I realize our culture starts with me, and I take every opportunity to be a leader of our safety initiatives. I faithfully attend our employee safety meetings and present information when warranted to show support for upcoming campaigns. I personally wear-tested an approved flame-resistant company uniform while performing maintenance activities at my home to assess the comfort of the garment, ensuring the company uniform was not only safe and durable, but also comfortable.

I take pride in the fact that our organization feels like a family, and I truly care about everyone’s well-being.


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

I came to work at SMECO, and the utility industry, on July 2, 1979. Later that year, on Oct. 10, our organization suffered the tragic loss of two linemen to electrocution during power restoration efforts following a snowstorm. That preventable loss was due to failure to wear PPE and not following established work practices. Those shortcuts cost two men their lives. For me, it was an experience that forged a “never again” promise and mindset. And we have made good on that pledge.

I have been in the electric utility industry now for almost four decades. Safety has and will always be my top priority. Through my former consulting career and as a CEO at two different utilities, I’ve traveled around the country and visited rural electric cooperatives in 38 states, including Hawaii, Alaska and Florida, and almost everywhere in between. Additionally, traveling overseas to India on a USAID-funded project, I provided consultation to several of that country’s state electrical boards. Through these experiences, I learned firsthand from those who were doing it right and doing it wrong.

One of my primary missions when I became CEO of SMECO in 2002 was to give our employees the best training, tools and equipment to do their jobs as safely and efficiently as possible. We upgraded to a state-of-the-art outage management system and robust IT infrastructure that I would be proud to hold up against any system used by another utility. We continuously upgrade fleet vehicles and have launched an automated vehicle location system. We continually invest in ergonomically engineered tools to assist in utility construction and offer industry leading personal protective equipment to ensure worker safety and comfort. I opened a new technical training facility, which exemplifies my belief in the dynamic relationship between effective training, safety and efficient operational performance. Our latest investment was to institute an analytics-based safety platform that helps us better track safety incident data, spot trends, communicate events and respond to be proactive rather than reactive. All of these actions were my commitment, actually my obligation, to our employees to prepare them to be successful.


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

Driving. In 2016, 24 percent of our total incidents resulted from motor vehicle collisions.

Regardless of our driver preparation, external factors such as other driver inattention, distraction or reckless driving are making our crowded roadways dangerous.

We monitor our vehicle incident rates and I meet personally with all SMECO employees involved in an accident.

I learned long ago that if the CEO pays lip service to a project or cause, then the employees will follow suit. Through my personal commitment and leadership, I provide my fellow co-op employees with the educational materials and other tools to help prevent the preventable.


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

Attitudes are the manifestation of beliefs, experiences and values. We strive to shape employees’ views of following our safety protocol as something both very important and very true to their personal and professional success. I want it to be part of their DNA. Basic compliance with our rules represents the absolute minimum level of acceptance by our organization; however, as important as it is, it is only the starting point. As employees mature beyond fundamental compliance, we see their attitudes change and they become stewards of our safety program. Achievement of this level of commitment is very motivating to me, as I know of all the good that will come from this “Aha!” moment: It acts as a domino as other employees who work around them will also come to this realization. As you have honored me as a CEO who “gets it,” we like to honor our many employees who “get it.”

The challenge we face is determining effective means to instill this high sense of safety in employees as a routine function but not to the degree in which it becomes stale. The most important tool we use to combat this is communication. At the beginning of every meeting, our employees “Commit a Minute for Safety,” which is a safety initiative in which the first few minutes of each meeting are used to discuss a safety topic. Miniature traffic safety cones have been placed on all meeting tables as a reminder of this expectation. This is also done by our board of directors before their monthly meetings. Our safety team regularly briefs me on current incidents and initiatives they propose to reduce risk. I meet regularly with our employees to stress their value to the organization and that their safety is extremely important to me. We hold a safety stand-down event each year in which employees focus solely on elements of our safety program for the entire day. We introduce as much hands-on and simulation training as possible to ensure the training is both retained and enjoyed. Further, we use a keynote speaker who really touches the hearts and minds of our employees, energizing their continued commitment to safety. Ultimately, safety is just clear, legitimate and constant communication between people. It is a portfolio of creative and impactful measures.


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?

We gauge our safety performance on a healthy balance of both leading and lagging indicators. We value the awareness that leading indicators provide us; however, the direct comparisons we can make based upon our lagging indicators are verifiable of our actual safety performance. The leading indicators we currently track are timeliness of injury reporting; attendance at employee safety meetings; safety observations performed, including peer-to-peer; and participation and completion of technical training assignments. Our dynamic metrics allow us to constantly revise and evaluate to get a true measure of our safety performance with a high degree of confidence. Our current weighting balance is 60 percent leading and 40 percent lagging. We also change indicators to match our current corporate culture and initiatives. Our safety metrics are truly in line with the pulse of our organization. One area we would like to improve revolves around information-sharing – we greatly need more leading-indicator data from our industry against which we could benchmark these data points.


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?

Our organization has already adopted off-the-job safety as a key responsibility in being the electric utility for our communities. Employees are educated to become ambassadors of SMECO and share the critical lifesaving actions to take if people or equipment contact our high-voltage distribution system within their communities. Many of the safety tips that we provide daily in meetings and during our monthly awareness meetings are easily transferred to our everyday lives. We know that its successful when we hear stories of employees sharing information with their families and neighbors that they learned while at work.

I also encourage our employees to practice a healthy lifestyle. During my time as CEO, we have implemented a smoke-free policy for company vehicles and worksites, opened a fitness center that is open 24/7, opened a campus family health center to encourage our employees to have regular checkups and physicals to keep a good handle on their health, created an employee wellness magazine that is sent to home addresses, and provide CPR and first aid classes for family members.