Safety management

4 Safety Lessons from Leaders - Recapping Anticipate 2021

Author: Urbint

Urbint hosted its second annual Anticipate conference on October 26 and 27, 2021. The virtual event brought together leaders in utilities, telecom, oil and gas, and more to discuss advanced solutions for incident prevention.

Worker safety was a key theme throughout the conference. In keynote speeches, roundtable discussions, and one-on-one conversations, a diverse group of leaders shared their insights on how best to protect workers in a world where risk is on the rise. Here, we share just a few lessons we learned from safety leaders at Anticipate 2021.

1. Transparency is key to building trust - Dr. Yoichi Funabashi

It has been 10 years since the infamous Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, yet many factors that led to the resulting crisis are highly relevant to today’s safety leaders. Chief among them is what Dr. Funabashi called “the myth of nuclear safety” promoted by the people in charge, which essentially led the Japanese public to believe a severe accident was not possible.

“Since the public still had a strong anti-nuclear sentiment due to the traumatic experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, [the nuclear power ‘village’] did not want to admit that these nuclear plants were not zero risk,” he said. Further, “they believed that making changes to better the safety of nuclear plants would be an admission that the prior precautions and regulations were insufficient.”

Workers in high-hazard industries will always be exposed to safety risks. Failure to properly explain these risks, train workers to identify and mitigate these risks, and make improvements to your safety culture to lessen these risks can lead to catastrophic results.

Check out: 7 Characteristics of Great Safety Leaders

2. Complacency is the enemy - Capt. Richard Phillips

Captain Richard Phillips is famous for his encounter with Somali pirates on the high seas. Although utility CEOs aren’t likely to find themselves in a similar situation, Capt. Phillips shared numerous tidbits they can apply to their organizations.

For example, Capt. Phillips emphasized the importance of combating worker complacency. "When things are going well, it's easy to get complacent, what we call on ships fat, dumb, and happy,” he said. “Usually, that sense of satisfaction is a precursor to some problem we didn't see coming down the pike."

Capt. Phillips said continuous training is one way to keep workers prepared for dangerous or risky conditions. In fact, he had led his crew through a surprise pirate attack drill just days before real pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama, which may have helped keep them safe during the event.

Related: 6 Safety Protocols Workers Commonly Neglect

3. Hone in on middle management - Jesus Soto

Consistent, effective training is essential for employees at all levels. But, Jesus Soto, Chief Operating Officer of Mears Group, advised safety leaders to focus even greater attention on mid-level managers. This group has direct oversight and influence over workers and can have a tremendous impact on their attitudes and actions.

“The superintendent, the general foreman, that middle layer of the organization, that's really where the multiplication effect takes place,” Soto said. “Having the environment to fully develop their leadership competency so that they can direct the men and women of our workforce is absolutely crucial. So, our focus is let's make sure that layer right there is where we put a spotlight and put significant effort behind.”

See: Who is Responsible for Worker Safety?

4. Embrace safety technology solutions - Alfredo Vidal

Although companies in high-hazard industries have worked to improve worker safety, thousands of U.S. workers die each year due to injuries sustained on the job. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 4,551 workers died in 2009. A decade later, 5,333 workers died.

Alfredo Vidal, Director of Project Controls & Compliance Execution at National Grid, suggested a commitment toward continuous improvement—and a willingness to embrace emerging technology solutions—could help reverse this trend.

“We have a relentless pursuit for safety excellence [at National Grid]. Simply put, we want people to return home to their loved ones the same way they came into work,” Vidal said. “We believe we do a really good job. However, there is much more we can do. Finding a better way is one of our core values. We have invested heavily in continuous improvement over the past decade or so. We believe we can further enhance [what we’ve done] if we leverage technological solutions such as artificial intelligence.”

Did you miss out on Urbint Anticipate 2021? Register to watch the conference recordings now.

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