www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/17915-ceos-who-get-it-2019
2019 CEOs Who "Get It"

2019 CEOs Who "Get It"

January 27, 2019
2019 CEOs Who
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For 15 years, the National Safety Council has selected high-performing leaders who demonstrate they not only understand what safety is all about – they make it a top priority for their organization. In short, they are CEOs Who “Get It” when it comes to running a business with safety in mind. The eight individuals selected for the honor of 2019 CEOs Who “Get It” cast long shadows and use their influence to shift their respective organization’s safety culture from reactive to proactive.

Whether cleaning up Manhattan Project sites, managing hazardous chemicals, directing complex construction or transportation projects, or building safer working environments, these CEOs make safety leadership both visible and palpable. Like Greg Gluchowski, they foster a ‘One Team, One Goal’ mentality. Like William Wulfsohn, they recognize that “no amount of profit or business success can be called a win for the organization if people are getting hurt in the process.” Like Brian DiSabatino, they make safety awareness a part of everything they do.

CEOs Who “Get It” create employee-driven safety programs, listening to employee concerns through both employee perception surveys and personal conversations. They engage in ongoing discussions with labor organizations, rank and file as well as safety leaders, to identify and address root causes of safety hazards. Like Stuart Bradie, they know that achieving a zero-harm culture means empowering all employees to address safety issues, even if “safety” isn’t necessarily part of their job title or description. Like Maree Mulvoy, when it comes to safety, they lead by example. By personally spending time in the field like Kenneth Rueter, CEOs Who “Get It” build trust and identify opportunities for improvement, seeking innovative solutions and using the latest technology.

By clearly communicating expectations of excellence, these leaders are able to simultaneously expand their ongoing operations while fostering collaboration and enhancing safety. In the case of John Fenton, this means bringing safety leadership acumen to not just one, but several organizations. They understand the value of employee wellness, and promote health and safety for employees and the community at large. They recognize that safety does not stop when an employee heads home from work. Like Anthony Tony Campbell, they implement a safety culture in a way that reminds employees that it is all about “the Reason I Go Home Tonight.”

Each of these individuals brings personal accountability into play to ensure safety is not an afterthought. Each has a powerful safety vision that others can learn from, and always keeps the big picture in mind. Learning from these leaders is just one way we can get to our goal of eliminating preventable deaths in our lifetime, at work, at home and on the road.

NSC congratulates our 2019 honorees.


Browse individual CEO profiles by clicking on a photo below or by pressing the navigation buttons at the top of each page.

  • Stuart BradieStuart Bradie
  • Anthony Anthony "Tony" Campbell
  • Brian DiSabatinoBrian DiSabatino
  • John E. FentonJohn E. Fenton
  • Greg GluchowskiGreg Gluchowski
  • Maree Russo MulvoyMaree Russo Mulvoy
  • Kenneth J. RueterKenneth J. Rueter
  • William A. WulfsohnWilliam A. Wulfsohn
  • View the article as it appears in print in the digital edition.




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Bradie

Stuart Bradie

President and CEO
KBR
Houston


Accomplishments

  • Leads the “Zero Harm” philosophy that purports any incident is intolerable, all incidents are preventable and quality investigations of incidents – as well as communication of learnings – can prevent recurrence.
  • Empowers all personnel to intervene when unsafe conditions and acts are observed via the behavior-based HSE process, which involves positive conversations to determine root causes instead of placing blame.
  • Encourages leadership to visit work locations, participate in safety meetings and conversations, and listen to employee safety concerns.

KBR is a global provider of differentiated professional services and technologies across the asset and program life cycle within the government services and hydrocarbons sectors. KBR employs about 34,000 people worldwide (including its joint ventures), with customers in more than 75 countries and operations in 40 countries, across three synergistic global businesses.

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

I’ve worked in a variety of industries and roles throughout my career, but in every position, the people are what mattered most. When I became CEO of KBR, I felt the weight of responsibility of keeping our nearly 34,000 employees safe each and every day.

Safety has been a core value for KBR since our inception, but when I joined the company in 2013, I didn’t feel that we were doing enough to get this message across. We immediately hired an HSSE professional who reports directly to me, because the safety and well-being of every employee is of the upmost importance to me. And some of the places we send our employees to work are among the harshest, most remote and dangerous places in the world. I want to keep our employees safe – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but I genuinely wish to see every employee go home to their loved ones at the end of the day in the same state that they arrived at work.

I’ve had many poignant moments that have helped cement the importance of people and safety, but one of the greatest was making a phone call that no one ever wants to make. A few years ago, there was a tragic industrial accident that resulted in multiple fatalities – and while KBR was not part of that project – we had an employee whose two sons were killed on that site. I called that employee to offer him my condolences and provide support as a company, whether it be counseling or other resources. As a father myself, it was one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever made.

A few years later, I lived through quite a different event: my first hurricane. Hurricane Harvey brought devastation to Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast region, displacing many KBR employees and impacting almost all of our Houston-area employees in one way or another. That storm was a wake-up call for many, including myself. I realized there are a lot of safety and security threats that are out of my control, but there’s a lot we can do as a company – and for our people – to prepare for natural disasters and other safety and security scenarios.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, the company’s HSSE team saw the need to create a full-time position dedicated to emergency management, crisis management and business continuity to help the company navigate natural disasters or emergency events in the future. Today, this employee spends her time training KBR teams around the world through crisis management exercises covering a range of topics. This is just one example of how we’re making safety a core part of KBR’s culture.

From our scientists who work in labs at NASA to support staff on military bases overseas to the professionals building and supporting energy facilities worldwide, it’s our responsibility to make sure our employees know and understand the tenets of our HSSE program.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Safety is a core value because our people are our greatest asset. We describe safety as a value that is inherent in every part of our operation and it is everyone’s responsibility. At KBR, we believe that zero harm is achievable and safety incidents are intolerable. If we can avoid injury or harm to our people, then we will do everything possible to keep them safe at every turn.

We also believe that safety extends to the locations and environments in which we work. As a company, we have a duty to do everything we can to achieve zero harm to the environment wherever we operate. From deserts to deep-water fields, Arctic regions to rainforests, and urban areas to nature preserves, with each project, KBR assumes a responsibility for safe and successful completion. We should be producing environmentally friendly solutions, technologies and best practices every single time. No matter the location or work performed, we aim to build a better future by leaving a positive legacy at each project site around the world.

 

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

The biggest obstacle is our vast global footprint. With customers in more than 75 countries and operations in 40 countries, it is very challenging to create a safety culture that is consistent across the organization. We have managed to overcome this challenge with specific and relevant messaging at sites and locations around the world and by placing high visibility on examples of positive safety behaviors. We have also instituted an annual “Zero Harm Day” to recognize people who have visibly embraced the courage to care, recognize projects for improved safety performance and safety-related achievements, and to highlight all the various ways that safety is a cornerstone of who we are at KBR. Our people have fully embraced this celebration at our offices and projects around the world to gather with colleagues for events, meetings, small and large group gatherings, and other occasions to reflect on the vital importance of our HSSE programs.

 

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

KBR is committed to a culture of safety in which employees feel personal ownership for their own well-being as well as the safety of others. Employees are urged to engage in “Courage to Care Conversations,” which help us achieve an incident-free workplace through observation, intervention and discussion.

We also encourage all of our employees, contractors and clients to employ stop-work authority to suspend any individual task or group operation when the control of health, safety or environmental risk is unclear.

24/7 is one of the key pillars within the KBR “Zero Harm” culture. We consistently communicate the message to take safety home with you, and we also clearly challenge everyone to choose to work safely when the only governance is their own personal choice.

 

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 majority of our metrics are focused on leading indicator initiatives, including, but are not limited to, leadership SAFE tours, safety energy walks, behavioral-based observation and interventions, and near-miss reporting. We are always striving to improve the level of engagement in our global behavioral-based observation and intervention process, which is called “Courage to Care Conversations.” As leaders within the KBR organization, we are responsible for creating a work environment in which everyone feels comfortable speaking up.

 

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?

We believe that an all-day, every-day approach is a key pillar within the KBR “Zero Harm” culture. KBR is a big supporter of personal health and wellness globally, and has recently sponsored local family days geared toward cascading “Zero Harm” principles back to the home 24/7.



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Campbell

Anthony "Tony" Campbell

President and CEO
East Kentucky Power Cooperative
Winchester, KY


Accomplishments

  • Deployed a safety culture survey with a 99 percent participation rate. Read every comment from employees about what needed fixing.
  • Created and chairs a safety committee made up of the entire executive staff, plant managers and other key personnel, including employee representatives.
  • Created a safety coin and carries gift cards to present when talking with employees about safety and to encourage safe behaviors.
  • Drove down total recordable incident rate to 0.56 from 7.0.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative is a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative providing wholesale electricity to 16 owner-member distribution cooperatives that serve 1.1 million Kentucky residents. EKPC owns and operates power plants and high-voltage transmission facilities, generating energy with coal- and natural gas-fueled power plants, as well as one of Kentucky’s largest solar farms, delivering energy via more than 2,800 miles of transmission lines. The company employs 691 workers.

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

When I came to EKPC in 2009, the organization faced a number of formidable challenges, including a lackluster safety culture. We committed to putting more emphasis on safety. Initially, I used my position as CEO to let employees know that they would be punished for safety violations. I was pleased to see an immediate drop in reported incidents. About a year into this effort, an employee bluntly told me safety incidents were still occurring, but they were not being reported because workers feared the consequences. I knew he was right. Unless I changed my approach, EKPC and its employees faced tremendous risk.

This idea was cemented for me when I attended a safety roundtable and asked peers why they had sought help for their safety programs. Their answers all included fatalities as their catalyst. We became determined to transform EKPC’s safety culture before catastrophe struck. EKPC engaged a safety consulting firm and surveyed all of the employees. We were astounded when 99 percent of employees participated in this voluntary survey and nearly half wrote comments. Clearly, employees valued safety and wanted to provide feedback. Survey results clearly showed employees indeed were not reporting incidents, and they believed safety took a back seat to affordability and reliability. EKPC had to transform its safety culture.

After reading all the survey results, I traveled to every EKPC location. I told employees I heard them, I had been wrong in my approach and I needed their help changing the culture. EKPC immediately formed a Central Safety Committee, consisting of my executive staff and other key personnel. Next, we formed five safety process improvement teams, directly engaging about 60 employees from across the organization. One team created a template for safety observations or conversations. These positive interactions between employees and managers let employees see safety as a priority for management. Employees were encouraged to report near misses and suggest improvements. We started sending employees a daily safety email and beginning every meeting with a safety moment. Safety messages were incorporated into signage, uniforms and vehicles. A short time later, Safety Week became an annual event each January, featuring programs and interactive events designed to focus employees squarely on safety.

Initially, because of the new trust level, reported incidents jumped. Then, the numbers leveled out and dropped dramatically as the new culture took hold. Just as we felt we were making real headway, a potentially fatal near miss occurred. This led to EKPC’s first-ever safety stand-down for all employees, where we discussed exactly what happened, why it happened and how to avoid it in the future. And later, when a serious injury did occur, it brought home to me the human impact. Besides the pain and suffering of the victim, these incidents directly impact co-workers, family and friends. Safety is about people, not numbers – a point we have emphasized many, many times to our workforce and to other groups.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

EKPC’s most valuable resource is our people. The safety of these people and their families is our most important objective. If we meet all of our business goals but people are injured along the way, then we have not been successful. The only truly acceptable number of employee injuries is zero.

As a bonus, safety is simply good business. Many executives fail to recognize the tremendous [return on investment] associated with a robust safety program. Employees who are focused on safety are also focused on the details of their jobs. They are thinking about how to do their jobs better and more efficiently. I truly believe that our focus on safety has led directly to a workforce that is not only safer and more content, but more productive and engaged as well.

 

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

Our biggest obstacle is complacency. No matter how few incidents EKPC has had in the past, we’re just one misstep away from an incident that can change lives forever. It is a never-ending challenge to maintain the enthusiasm and vigilance all the time. We work hard at that. We incorporate numerous communications and events to raise and maintain awareness, but I believe our best strategy is directly involving employees in safety. At any given time, about 20 percent of our workforce is serving on a safety-related process improvement team or on their site-based safety committee. About a third of our employees have served on a team at one time or another. Employees who exemplify safety leadership are nominated by co-workers and, during the annual Safety Week, are recognized and rewarded for their contributions. All of this helps employees to be actively engaged and to take a personal interest in safety.

 

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

We must walk the walk. Employees must see every manager – including executive staff – taking safety just as seriously as we expect of every front-line employee. Executives, like every supervisor, conduct monthly safety observations, and they are accountable to do so. These conversations and observations lead to not only valuable suggestions for safety improvements, but also a genuine relationship between employees and management based on their mutual desire to improve 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?

EKPC has committed to focusing on leading, rather than lagging, indicators. By measuring upstream metrics that we can control, we are better able to adjust when we see downstream metrics trending in the wrong direction. Safety observations – informal discussions about safety that occur at the jobsites between managers and employees – are a key metric.

In 2017, around 4,200 safety observations were documented at EKPC. We also track work orders for safety-related changes to our facilities, most of them generated by suggestions from employees. In 2017, over 1,000 safety-related work orders were completed. Other leading indicators include the number of near misses reported and investigated, incident investigations completed with corrective actions, job hazard analyses, safety walk-downs, safety meetings conducted/attended, and even the number of employees volunteering to serve on safety committees. The most important metric is one that is difficult to quantify: Have we prevented pain and suffering by our employees and their families? That is the true measure of success.

 

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?

Promoting safety outside of the workplace is critical. My personal goal is for every employee to feel comfortable talking about safety with their supervisor, co-workers, family, friends and even strangers on the street. Our program is branded “Safety is R.I.G.H.T.,” an acronym for the “Reason I Go Home Tonight.” We conduct an annual Family Safety Fair, where employees bring their family for a fun, prize-filled event that is focused on safety at work and at home. We hold an annual safety art contest for employees’ children and grandchildren, and winners are featured in a calendar distributed to employees. Employees receive a quarterly safety newsletter mailed to their home, which includes safety-related information for adults as well as fun games and coloring pages for kids. We encourage employees to take [personal protective equipment] home and use it. Our safety group has conducted many free training classes for employees and their families, with topics like first aid, CPR and even how to use a fire extinguisher.



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DiSabatino

Brian DiSabatino

CEO
EDiS Co.
Wilmington, DE


Accomplishments

  • Believes that neither profit nor schedule need to be sacrificed to gain a safe work environment.
  • Is a strong advocate of safety pre-planning, and brings safety into early conversations about how projects will be managed.
  • Personally conducts walk-throughs of projects to assess conditions and look for opportunities to improve best practices; follows up meetings with the project team and safety manager to discuss findings.
  • Brings the newest innovations in employee health and wellness to EDiS, including ergonomic desks and workstations, health screenings, and health management resources.

For 110 years and five generations of ownership, EDiS Co. has been building what matters in our community. EDiS provides construction management, general construction, design-build, interiors, pre-engineered solutions and BIM services on projects large and small. The company has 80 workers.

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

I have been part of our construction business my entire life. I’ve had the privilege of knowing five generations of tradespeople who have built our community. The common denominator that I learned from them is respect for the person, every person. And when you place that philosophy on a construction site, you quickly learn that getting people home at night in the same or better condition than they arrived is the priority that drives all other decisions. People matter.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Being a company that originated from immigrant roots, you quickly learn that the livelihood that comes from our trade is central to our families. It puts food on the table, it creates educational futures for our children, and it provides for our health and welfare during retirement. Therefore, protecting and enhancing the ability of our work family to come back to work in the morning, every morning, is central to our and their well-being.

 

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

There is a lot of “noise” in our business. Schedules, budgets, cranky moods, egos are all examples of “noise” that arrives at a jobsite each day. Our job is to instill safety as a subconscious thought for every decision, allowing us to compete with this noise. But we also recognize the need to constantly create conscious thought through discussion, training and audits.

 

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

Two ways. First, we establish the expectation of safety by making sure that this isn’t a cliché thought, but rather a commitment from the owners of the company and me, the CEO. We expect safe environments. Second, we provide employees with training, ongoing feedback and job security so that they are empowered to make split-second decisions that benefit the welfare of those around them and themselves.

 

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 measure formal statistics such as our lost time and incident rates. And certainly, we look to our insurance and [experience modification] rates. But we don’t use them exclusively. It sounds simplistic, but we measure safety by asking, every day, if everyone went home unharmed and if there were any near misses. We also measure it by constantly evaluating the attitudinal commitment to the topic. In this day and age of accumulating data, I would suggest that we have room for improvement by better studying industry loss rates and causation factors, and bringing those to life in our training.

 

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?

At EDiS, we believe that health and wellness need to be looked at holistically, both in and out of the office and jobsite. To that end, EDiS extends our health and safety program past work hours, and addresses employee wellness both on the job and off.

Some recent examples of employee safety and health programs targeted to off-the-job safety:

  • Flu shots
  • Medical surveillance through bloodwork
  • Winter safety tips
  • Summer safety tips
  • Holiday safety tips
  • Fire extinguisher training
  • CPR and first aid training
  • Biometric screening/wellness awareness


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Fenton

John E. Fenton

President and CEO
Patriot Rail Co. LLC
Jacksonville, FL


Accomplishments

  • MetroLink was the first railroad in the United States to receive approval by the Federal Railroad Administration for its Positive Train Control implementation plan.
  • Developed the first annual Safety Management System strategic safety approach at MetroLink.
  • Developed a beneficial partnership with the University of Southern California to establish the first industry-university partnership to standardize a rail system safety certification course.
  • Pioneered the installation of on-board, inward-facing cameras to enhance operational safety in locomotive cabs.

Patriot Rail operates 12 short-line railroads across the United States, as well as multiple rail services locations. Its Ports division (Portus and Seaonus) operates seven terminals along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and an inland cold storage facility. The company employs 850 workers.

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

One of the saddest days I can remember was when I saw the news come across about the Chatsworth incident – my heart sank. Being a professional railroader, everyone remembers where they were the day this happened. Similar to Sept. 11, 2001 – you don’t forget where you were and what you were doing. It was after that incident that I received the call to take over MetroLink operations to help make this catastrophic event into a positive and safe operation. Stepping in at that moment was simultaneously the worst and best experience of my life.

My career has consisted of freight rail, passenger rail and waste transportation as a turnaround specialist for the past 30 years. I always get superstitious when I talk about safety. I’m just that way. Many companies do a tremendous job around safety. They all have great numbers, but to take it to the next level requires focus on building a positive safety culture, which includes a quality safety system and strong safety leadership.

A leader has to think beyond the clutter and the noise, and focus on the people – this is how you build your safety performance. If you are managing safety well, the rest of the business will follow suit. Safety is a constant learning environment – you can never anticipate everything, but when you have a safety culture of alignment, standardized safety fundamentals and the engagement of the employees to partner with, now you have the basis of a successful safety program.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Safety is a foundational value and our ultimate benchmark. In our business, safe people and safe operations are mission critical. Whether your job is in transportation, mechanical, engineering, administration or management, our employees pledge to safety excellence in every task they do. It is the only way to achieve our goal of zero safety incidents and casualties.

Safety is also a cornerstone in our business plan. It provides a huge competitive advantage in today’s marketplace and is an increasingly important factor when customers look for a transportation and logistics partner. Most quality customers will pay a premium to do business with a safe, cordial and efficient company.

 

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

Our biggest obstacles are the unknowns, those who take risks by disregarding the process. We call that the “superman syndrome,” and normalization of deviance. If there are failures in either the environment or behaviors, then there are systems of management process deficiencies. Discipline to drive quality process management has to lead safety. As leaders, we cast a long shadow on our organization and must lead by example. Our employees watch what we do and they will do the same. By demonstrating to the employees how important they are, positive reinforcement, educate on the issue, be proactive instead of reactive and no shortcuts is how we work to overcome the obstacles. Employee partnering is critical to this process. Their involvement makes them feel valued, included and empowered.

 

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

Safety is a personal responsibility. We are professionals and our activities must reflect that professionalism. I expect everyone to demonstrate safety advocacy every day, regardless of their role in the company – doing so is a condition of their employment. This means everyone must hold themselves and their teammates accountable for safe conduct by following the rules and procedures, and to take pride in every task.

This responsibility also means you speak up if you do not understand how to perform a task safely, or if you think something is amiss or operational safety may be at risk. As CEO, I tell all my employees, “If a task cannot be done safely, I do not want you to do it until it can be done safely.” We need them on the job, and so does their family.

 

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

Safety success in the past doesn’t guarantee safety success in the future. There must be a leadership obsession with continuous improvement or risk stagnation. Focus on execution, pay attention to detail and keep it simple. Never trust the good news, and never dismiss an accident or injury because it was minor.

Having organizational accountability where people hold themselves accountable for the success of the organization’s mission and peer-to-peer accountability where people hold themselves accountable to deliver obligations to their peers is key. Environments that have a solid accountability system in place and have a high level of personal accountability among its employees will also have a culture of empowerment where those individuals will feel they have some (or complete) control over their destiny.

By allowing our employees to be empowered, we are engaging our workforce in what they are doing and how they can do it safely. However, merely empowering a person without any responsibility or accountability is quite useless, not to mention what a catastrophe it can be to the manager. Achieving a high level of empowerment through accountability is the cornerstone to an innovating, learning and adapting organization. It is also the foundation for high-performing teams to feel in control, motivated and inspired to greatness.

 

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

Our focus is always on safety, whether on or off the job. It is impossible to separate the overall health and safety of our employees because both are critical elements as we instill the importance of good safety habits. We encourage our employees to share with their families at home the safety processes and risk mitigation techniques they have learned at work in order to reinforce the priority of safety.

 

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

Every month we roll out a safety topic for our employees to use at home with their families when they are away from work, such as holiday weekends – make sure they have a fire extinguisher when using different cooking sources or highway safety if traveling. When we are dealing with adverse weather conditions, we want them to remember to stay hydrated and watch for heat stress or driving in fog, snow or ice. Then there are reminders of everyday items such as ladder safety, being mindful when children go back to school, or poisoning and insect bite prevention. When I send letters home to the families, I always address safety as our company value so the family members can see we care not only for the employee, but their entire family as well. To me, there can never be enough continuous messaging when it comes to safety.



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Gluchowski</

Greg Gluchowski

President and CEO
The Hillman Group
Cincinnati


Accomplishments

  • Holds executives accountable for the safety in their work environments by reviewing incidents weekly and co-facilitating a monthly Global Leadership Safety Team.
  • Refocused site safety teams to build employee engagement and create a standard method for best practice sharing.
  • Implemented sit-stand desks, security and new distribution center rack configurations to reduce ergonomic issues.
  • Developed and implemented a new corporate safety policy that is visible in all locations.

The Hillman Group’s purpose, vision and mission: delivering simple solutions to a complex world. We strive to be the leading North American provider of complete hardware solutions, delivered with industry-best customer service and sales support. The Hillman Group employs 3,500 workers.

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

Early in my professional career, I had the opportunity to work in the wire, cable and mining industries. In those industries, having a safety-first, zero-injury culture was paramount due to the severity and potential of any injury that occurred. I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best companies in business regarding best practices in safety. At the age of 32, I was awarded the Phelps Dodge Corp. Chairman’s Award for Safety due to my leadership role in turning around an operation that had a Total Recordable Incident Rate above 20 to one that worked for two years injury-free. During that time, I also learned the difference between safety programs and a safety culture, and the importance of having both in order to be able to achieve a destination of zero injuries.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Because it is a fundamental responsibility of leadership in our organization to provide a work environment that allows our team members to work safely and injury-free every day. I hold myself and my leaders accountable for the safety of all team members in our organization.

 

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

The biggest obstacle is ensuring we have 100 percent buy-in from all team members to put their personal safety and that of their team members as their first priority every day. In our organization today, we handle over 100,000 SKUs and 300,000 lines shipped every day. The nature of our business creates a significant volume of activity with a fair amount of repetition in tasks. We have to make sure that our culture is constantly reminding our team members to put safety first, and we have to design into our work practices and processes methods to eliminate the risks involved with repetitive tasks. One example of a practice we introduced is stretching. Every day across our business, with 3,500 associates, we ask our associates to stretch prior to working and, in some cases, we stretch again half-way through the day.

 

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

I do my best to walk the talk. I ensure everyone knows safety is the top priority in the organization. Every communication forum I have with our team members starts with safety. I also support investing where appropriate to show financial backing that demonstrates leadership commitment to safe operations.

 

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 measure both lagging and leading indicators. Lagging indicators are primarily TRIR and [lost time injury rate], and leading metrics are safety observations, safety talks and housekeeping audits.

 

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 comes into play on a regular basis as we encourage our team members to share materials and learnings from our business with their families at home. We also have programs that promote general wellness of our organization. An example of this is a program that we call “Healthy Hillman” – we encourage proactive management of a healthy lifestyle for our all of our associates.



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Mulvoy

Maree Russo Mulvoy

President
M R Products Inc., home of Mr. Chain
Copemish, MI


Accomplishments

  • Sets safety and health as a top priority and demonstrates commitment on a daily basis by leading by example.
  • Makes routine checks on employees throughout the day, as well as on weekends and evenings.
  • Fully commits to identifying and eliminating hazards within the workplace.
  • Focuses on being proactive instead of reactive.
  • Allocates resources for upgrading safety equipment as needed.

M R Products Inc., dba Mr. Chain, was started in 1960 by Michael T. Russo. It continues to be owned and operated by his heirs and is a certified woman-owned business. It is an innovative company that manufactures proprietary products for the safety and crowd control markets. All products are made in the United States, with the primary focus being plastic safety chain and stanchions. The company has 64 employees.

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

Much earlier in my career, I worked at a firm where we learned that “the whole person comes to work.” To me, this struck a chord and always reminds me that each employee comes to work with his or her own family issues, worries, concerns, aches and pains, hopes and dreams, etc. This realization has given me a real concern for each person and a desire to show our employees that I care about them as individuals, and that we are working together on the same team. The very least I owe each employee is to keep him or her safe and healthy at work.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

In any heavy manufacturing environment like ours, safety has to be a core value because of the very real potential for serious or even fatal injury. The difference between saying that safety is a core value and actually meaning it is all about our actual practices. When we shut down production so that a worker can perform a task more safely or to conduct safety drills, this demonstrates to all employees that safety is more important than productivity, and that people are more important than profits.

What might be unique about our company is that our core business is to develop and manufacture products that are used in the safety and crowd control industries. As we consider new products for our customers, we are always studying solutions to safety concerns in other industries and applying them here. Therefore, this focus on safety is always on our minds.

 

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

Complacency or inattentiveness are the biggest obstacles. When an employee performs the same task repeatedly for months or even years, it is easy to overlook a potential risk. In order to overcome these factors, we bring these issues up at our safety meetings. Our safety director, general foreman and plant manager walk our factory and warehouses every day looking for potential hazards, eliminating them right away.

 

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

We constantly reinforce the idea that every one of us is responsible for safety. We ask employees to identify any potential hazard and to speak up. We keep adding more visual reminders about plant safety, and if there is an incident – no matter how small – we interview the employees who were involved or observers to be sure that all procedures were followed and the best results obtained.

We also insist on preventive measures, like the proper gloves, safety glasses and other protective gear. Even trivial matters, like earbuds or long hair, can cause a problem, so we are always checking to be sure every employee can hear instructions or warnings, and that no loose clothing or hair is too close to a machine.

 

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?

As a minimum, we make sure we meet all MIOSHA standards for safety and training, but the ultimate measure is to have zero injuries. We have been fortunate that it has been many years since we have had a serious injury, but we are still focused on preventing any injury – no matter how small.

Because of our growth, we are constantly adding new employees, so it is important that their safety training takes place right away, during their first week of employment.

 

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?

For the past few years, we have focused a lot of energy and resources on employee wellness. These programs include providing employees with fire extinguishers for their homes; fire extinguisher training; healthy snacks are provided for all employees on a regular basis; a wellness board is provided with health and safety tips and information, which is changed on a biweekly basis; health risk assessments; flu shots; nutrition kitchen classes; trail bikes employees can sign out to use at home; and opportunities for exercise using a walking trail and playing basketball, horseshoes and cornhole at work during breaks. We greatly subsidize the cost of gym memberships, too. We also recognize that good health includes good mental health, so the company covers most out-of-pocket costs for counseling – all done on a confidential basis. We provide an excellent benefits package for our employees to help maintain their health.



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Rueter

Kenneth J. Rueter

President and CEO
UCOR, an AECOM-led partnership with Jacobs
Oak Ridge, TN


Accomplishments

  • Personal mantra repeatedly communicated is “Safety First – Every Task, Every Activity, Every Time.”
  • Promotes employee engagement through his presence at regularly scheduled meetings with local union safety advocates, stewards and officials.
  • Keeps employees apprised of work status, future plans and potential emerging issues.
  • Understands the value of employee wellness programs and actively engages in company and community wellness bicycling and running events.

 

UCOR is an AECOM-led partnership of Jacobs and a small business partner, RSI EnTech. The company manages the cleanup of the 2,200-acre East Tennessee Technology Park for its client, the Department of Energy. The site was contaminated with radioactive, hazardous and industrial wastes generated by more than 40 years of national defense and energy missions. UCOR also is performing cleanup work at excess contaminated federal facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN. UCOR employs 1,900 workers.

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

Throughout my career, safety has been personal for me. When I was 19, I worked at an industrial site where I had an experience that made an indelible impression about the importance of a safe work environment. I was hit in the face and eyes by a caustic fluid leaking from some overhead piping. Luckily, there was a safety shower nearby, and I was able to wash much of the fluid out of my eyes and airway. They took me to the hospital for further observation. I will never forget the sound of my mother’s audible gasp when the doctor delivered the news that there was a chance I would lose my sight. Fortunately, I didn’t lose my sight, but that experience left me with two thoughts: 1.) I was thankful that the company I worked for had the foresight to have safety showers for accidents, and 2.) the accident could have been prevented with a stronger safety culture that employed an integrated safety system. It’s one thing to address an accident when it happens, but quite another to have the right standards, procedures and engineering in place to prevent the accident in the first place. Throughout my career, I have stressed the importance of an integrated safety management system that takes a holistic look at safety and strives to make all accidents preventable.

Later, I worked at a plant where a boiler exploded. It turned out that people in the control room saw an issue developing that led to the explosion but didn’t stop work. If they had, they would have prevented the explosion and the injuries and equipment damage that resulted.

I later found myself in a similar situation, and I did stop work. I lost my job. That’s why today I appreciate the importance of any worker being able to stop work without fear of retribution. As a leader, I expect and insist on any member of our workforce to be able to stop work immediately if they see something is unsafe.

Over time, safety becomes part of your DNA. It means being a safe employee at work and carrying that safety consciousness home every single day. We regularly tell our employees that our goal is for you to go home each day in the same condition in which you came to work in the morning. That is our mantra. It is our way of reminding employees to stay alert; keep your focus on the task at hand; don’t be careless; and fight hard against ambiguity, complacency and lack of situational awareness.

I have seen firsthand the disastrous effects an industrial injury or accident can have on a worker and his or her family. Something as simple as a fall on a concrete sidewalk can cause long-lasting health issues. More serious accidents – especially in the hazardous environment we work in – can have even greater consequences. To me, nothing is more important than safety. My mantra is never make profit at the expense of the client or our people – and, most importantly, never at the expense of safety.

I personally take responsibility for initiating several key avenues of communications to enhance safety awareness. One is the President’s Accident Prevention Council. Membership comprises United Steelworkers [safety and health] representatives, Knoxville Building and Construction Trades Council safety advocates, Atomic Trades and Labor Council safety advocates, key UCOR managers and subcontractors, Local Safety Improvement Team members, union leads, and additional key personnel. The council meets monthly to review safety performance, address safety and health issues, and share project and industry lessons with the potential for safety impacts. Status on goals and actions to implement are also addressed at this forum.

I also serve on the board of directors of the national Center for Construction Research and Training, also known as CPWR, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to construction safety and health research and training, and currently serves as NIOSH’s National Construction Center. If we are going to lead on safety, I believe it is important to have an industry voice. CPWR works to reduce or eliminate occupational safety and health hazards faced by construction workers through safety and health research and the development of a broad array of training programs.

As CEO, I believe all of these activities are time well spent. They are a high priority on my schedule. I have focused on making organizations I am associated with investment-worthy learning organizations. If we perform safely and bring in projects on time and under budget, we are investment-worthy. Day-to-day work also provides ample opportunity to identify lessons learned. I insist that our project leaders take the time to identify those lessons and incorporate improvements to make our workplaces even safer.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

UCOR is an AECOM-led partnership of Jacobs and our small business partner, RSI EnTech. We are responsible for cleaning up the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, former home of the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. This is a massive cleanup project – the largest in the DOE complex – and safety is paramount to its success.

As a former uranium enrichment plant site, the East Tennessee Technology Park presents many formidable cleanup challenges. Buildings planned for demolition are laced with radioactive materials, and years of unregulated waste disposal practices have polluted the soil and groundwater. The extent of contamination was not fully known, and the unsafe, deteriorated condition of many of the structures forced many delays in demolition.

That’s why, at UCOR, our policy is “Safety First.” Period. We do not push schedules, cut corners or save money at the expense of employee safety. All employees are encouraged and expected to have a questioning attitude and stop work if they feel a job cannot be done safely or the environment is threatened. We believe that all accidents are preventable. We want every employee to go home at the end of the day in the same condition as they came to work.

 

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

Most of the obstacles we face are focused in three main areas: ambiguity, complacency and lack of situational awareness.

When a leader is ambiguous, those who follow him lack certainty. They are not sure of parameters and limits. In the absence of firm rules, they are left to make their own. The result: inconsistency, chaos and unintended – sometimes tragic – outcomes.

The same is true with complacency. Complacency leaves us in a comfortable place, oblivious to threats and hazards. Our guard is down, and the chance for accident is up.

A caring safety culture helps guard against complacency. Not only are employees encouraged and empowered to protect their own safety, but they also willingly share responsibility for the safety of their co-workers. It all stems from a management commitment to ensure every employee goes home each day in the same, safe condition they came to work.

Situational awareness means keeping your “antenna” up and tuned in to changing conditions. Changing conditions can be anything from the weather or an extended holiday break to contamination levels or structural decline in an aging facility.

We spend a lot of time talking about these three obstacles to safety and keeping them top of mind with every employee. Almost every accident that occurs can be linked back to one of these three issues.

 

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

At UCOR, our success is built on a culture of excellence. It is that culture that drives our performance and our commitment to safety. Our expectation is that each employee goes home in the same condition in which he or she came to work. Our goal is zero injuries.

At UCOR, safety is the responsibility of every employee – it is a job requirement. Ensuring a safe workplace requires all employees to be involved and to take appropriate actions to protect themselves and their fellow workers.

The ultimate credit for UCOR’s strong safety culture is a direct result of the involvement of employees, who implement new and innovative ways to incorporate safety elements in their daily activities, both at work and at home. They also look out for each other on the job.

A critical element of our program is the employee’s right to stop work without fear of reprisal if a safety issue or concern is identified. Line management has the responsibility and obligation to resolve concerns brought forth by personnel before proceeding with work tasks. Whether you call it a safety pause, a stand-down or something else, the point is to take a few minutes to refocus – to recommit to safe operations at every level of the company.

Every UCOR meeting begins with a safety share – helping to keep safety top of mind. This provides the opportunity for workers to communicate safety-related experiences.

Every year in January, all UCOR team members (including managers and craft) are encouraged to write a personal safety plan, considering how they can support the “zero accident” philosophy at work and at home.

Every major project organization in UCOR sponsors a Local Safety Improvement Team. These teams are built around employee involvement and work to increase the visibility of safety issues and provide value-added feedback to employees and management.

UCOR also has more than 230 safety-trained supervisors on staff. The certification provides a means for individuals and employers to verify safety and health knowledge important for first-line supervisors, managers and any person with safety responsibilities. Workplace safety is enhanced when employees increase their knowledge of basic safety and health practices.

We also take full advantage of state-of-the art technology. The use of drones, mobile devices and apps, wearable technologies, [radio-frequency identification] technologies, environmental monitoring, personal protection equipment/tool advancements, and virtual reality training are examples of available technologies that can yield positive measurable results. For instance, UCOR has begun using a proximity alert device, called MyZone, that alerts workers through vibrations when they are getting too close to a piece of moving equipment.

Finally, as managers, we walk the talk. Modeling safe acts in all that we do illustrates our commitment to safety. Something as simple as consistently conducting a 360-degree inspection of our vehicles or using a crosswalk models safe behavior and serves as an illustration of our commitment to safety. An important element for reinforcing the value of a strong safety culture is the presence of management in the field. There is no substitute for having management see for themselves how a questioning attitude and individual worker commitment to safety can affect performance of our mission. Workers should never doubt our commitment and our support for 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?

We rely on all the standard industry metrics to measure the effectiveness of our safety program. We are proud of the fact that, by two important measures, UCOR had its best safety performance ever in fiscal year 2018, with rates well below the Department of Energy goals for total recordable cases and days away restricted or transferred.

UCOR’s total recordable case rate was 0.58, below the DOE goal of 1.0. The days away restricted or transferred rate was 0.23, well below the DOE goal of 0.5. These averages are the lowest during the entire seven years of our contract and significantly below what is normally experienced in our industry. This kind of record makes us one of the safest sites in the entire DOE complex.

We are also a Department of Energy Voluntary Protection Program Star site, which recognizes UCOR as one of the safest worksites in America. UCOR will host the DOE VPP Evaluation Team for an onsite reassessment review in June. Our preparation for the visit brings many opportunities to assess and improve our safety culture, programs and performance.

Our safety program has also received other industry recognition. UCOR received the 2016 Medgate (now Cority) Environmental Health and Safety Impact Award and has been recognized as a Tennessee Healthier Workplace.

Another measure involves independent, third-party assessments that give us a reality check on how we’re doing. An independent evaluation of UCOR’s safety culture was conducted by Oak Ridge Associated Universities to identify strengths and weaknesses, and help focus future safety-related improvement initiatives.

Data collection methods included a written survey, focus groups and management interviews. A total of 588 employees – or more than 50 percent of the UCOR workforce – participated in the written survey. More than 100 people participated in the focus groups and interviews.

The study conclusion: The UCOR safety culture has a solid foundation based on a high degree of personal accountability, firm management support and a strong questioning attitude. As a learning organization, we also rely on self-identifying safety trends, addressing them and sharing lessons learned throughout our organization and beyond.

 

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 lifestyle – a way of living and doing work. It needs to be second nature – ingrained in every employee – so safe actions are the norm, not the exception. That means safety awareness does not end at the plant gate – it must be part of our life at home too.

Just as each employee prepares a personal safety action plan at the beginning of each year, we encourage employees to prepare a similar family safety plan at home. We ask them to think through all the things they do at home that pose safety hazards – from working on a ladder to heavy lifting to taking preventive measures to protect against fire hazards, exposure to household chemicals and the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Each season also brings safety challenges – heat stress in the summer, slick leaves in the fall and icy sidewalks in the winter. Keeping safe at home is a constant topic of concern for our employees. Every employee receives a quarterly issue of Family Safety & Health magazine, which contains in-depth articles and reminders about safety hazards.



2019 CEOs Who Get it
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Wulfsohn

William A. Wulfsohn

Chairman and CEO
Ashland
Covington, KY


Accomplishments

  • Demonstrates the highest commitment to responding to employee ideas and concerns regarding EHS.
  • Created a culture among the executive team, managers, supervisors and individual contributors that EHS may not be in everyone’s job title but is part of every employee’s job.
  • Efforts reflect the drive to ensure every employee goes home in the same or better condition than when he or she arrived at work.
  • Works to engage every discipline in one consistent philosophy: “Zero Incident Culture.”

Ashland is a premier global specialty chemicals company serving customers in a wide range of consumer and industrial markets, including adhesives, architectural coatings, automotive, construction, energy, food and beverage, nutraceuticals, personal care, and pharmaceutical. The company employs 6,000 workers.

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

Early in my career, I was a technical representative selling metal pretreatment chemicals. As I traveled from one customer plant to another, I saw stark contrasts in terms of customer focus on safety. I felt that as part of my role, I needed to educate the operators as to the hazards associated with our chemicals. I found that in customer locations where safety was not a high priority, operators were just as concerned about their safety as in other, more safety-focused operations. To me, the difference in safety culture and results, not surprisingly, came down to leadership. This early experience also made me realize that safety is not a number (e.g., incident rate), but instead about the individuals whose lives were impacted by safety events. I realized that taking a strong role in driving a safe culture was a personal responsibility that would need to be central in my role as a leader.

As my career progressed, I realized that front-line employees often received mixed messages. While in theory safety was the first priority, messages from supervisors and management were sometimes more focused on productivity, quality, etc. As a result, I believe many incidents were the result of risky actions individuals took in an attempt to “help the company” meet its goals. From this realization, it became clear to me that we must make sure that safety truly comes first, above all other objectives for the company. Furthermore, when driving for increased productivity, quality, etc., it is essential to always highlight explicitly that these objectives are only to be achieved if possible in a safe manner.

As my responsibilities grew, it became increasingly clear that, beyond compliance, it was essential to be a responsible and positive force in the communities we operate. Often, industrial and chemical manufacturing sites are located in communities in need. Our role in this context needs to be constructive, engaging and supportive of positive change.

In the end, there is nothing worth doing if it comes at the cost of safety and compliance. We have made safe and responsible operations the core foundation of the Ashland blueprint. Each year, I work with the leadership team to establish three pillar priorities. The first is improving our safety performance. It’s our first objective because it is our most important priority, above all others.

 

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

At Ashland, our goal is to be the premier specialty chemicals company. With that in mind, it is critical that we achieve the highest safety standards and continue to hold safety as a core value and priority each day. We make it clear that safety and responsible operations must come before all other objectives. Our employees take pride in their work and, most importantly, go home to enjoy their family, friends and personal pursuits the way they came in. Ashland employees deserve a safe work environment, our customers want responsible partners and our investors trust us to make our products safely.

 

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

The biggest obstacle is keeping people engaged and focused on how they control the safety outcome of their work. We have many helpful programs, procedures, processes, training and campaigns to ensure our employees are equipped with the right tools, resources and knowledge to safely execute their work. Creating and sustaining a culture where people choose to make the safest decision every time requires ongoing reinforcement.

Every Ashland team member is a leader, a safety leader. We make zero incidents our goal by teaching every individual in our manufacturing sites, laboratories and offices that safety first is good business. All members of the team are trained to approach every task with a strong focus on risk awareness and commitment to eliminate risk tolerance.

 

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

By empowering every employee to make decisions and stop any unsafe job, we are creating a culture of safety-focused solvers capable of anticipating errors and preventing incidents. To reinforce this, we celebrate individuals and teams for making safe decisions. Culture is the key to making sure that every member of our team has the same understanding that working safely is another competitive advantage for us.

 

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 measure and evaluate a lot of leading and lagging indicators through many different lenses. There are global metrics in the traditional balanced scorecard approach, and metrics at the business unit, region and site level. We try to make these measures very transparent to all of our stakeholders and to ensure our team understands how they can contribute to the success of the company. A measure that has been key to us over the past few years is our switch to measuring “good catches.” For years we measured near hits, but there were a lot of limitations and variations in the definitions globally. We moved to the idea that any near hit, substandard condition or behavior, suggestion or idea is simply a good catch. It is an opportunity for us to improve, learn and adjust our actions to be proactive instead of reacting or debating the categorization of an opportunity.

Another key measurement has been the environmental, health and safety strategic and tactical planning process. Every Ashland facility globally creates its own culture improvement road map with a specific focus on our “Zero Incident Culture” cornerstones of leadership, employee engagement, risk reduction and performance measurement. This plan is our culture scorecard used throughout the year to ensure we maintain our focus and stay on track with activities to drive continuous improvement through our “Responsible Care” management system.

 

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?

We recognize that a culture of safety does not start or end at Ashland’s fence line. Many of our programs and communications directly address safety outside of the workplace, such as our annual focus on Fire Safety Week in October, when our campus locations provide educational materials for employees and their families, as well as replacement batteries for smoke alarms.

Year-round programming includes on-the-job and off-the-job safety tips, videos and communication. For example, our safe driver training program was selected, in part, because every employee also receives a free training license for a family member. From safety communications covering issues affecting employees outside of work to providing safety glasses and gloves for off-the-job projects, we are committed to helping our employees stay safe at work and beyond.