Some company leaders prioritize profit above all else, but forward-thinking leaders focus their attention on worker safety first. These executives understand the safety initiatives they put in place are a matter of life and death, so they invest serious time, effort, and resources into the well-being of their team.
Here’s a look at what several prominent leaders in high-hazard industries have done to reduce job accidents, so you can improve your company’s safety initiatives.
Worker safety ideas from leaders who get it
1. Create a ‘culture of caring’
Keryn James, who helms London-based ERM, introduced a “Culture of Caring” at her company. Driven by the five pillars of the company’s safety program—active leadership, training and competency, emphasizing positive behaviors, risk management, and maintaining balance—she strives to improve and communicate top metrics that will support the well-being of her entire team.
In an interview with Safety+Health Magazine, James said the company’s “Culture of Caring” serves as a framework to engage workers and celebrate safety management initiatives. Some of these include a safety induction process, safety shares and moments during every meeting, development of a library of safety alerts to share knowledge, recognition of safety performance via a quarterly awards program, hosting a Global Safety Day, and conducting regular training.
Check out: How to Create a Safety-First Culture
2. Track progress with a weekly scorecard
Limbach Facility Services LLC CEO Charles A. Bacon III rolled out the “Hearts and Minds Commitment to Safety Program,” which includes measuring safety using a weekly scorecard for management, safety professionals, and foremen. This involves recording the number of huddles, observations, corrective actions, and trainings completed. Additionally, claims filed within a timeline, return-to-duty status, safety committee meetings, vehicle inspections, the customer outreach program, and professional training by safety department members are also measured.
Bacon said each of these programs are in place to help management review leading indicators—i.e., proactive and preventive measures that can highlight the effectiveness of a health and safety program. Using this method to measure safety allows the company to see where there’s room for improvement before a safety incident occurs.
Safety Leading and Lagging Indicators: What’s the Difference?
3. Make routine checks on employees
As the president of M R Products Inc., Maree Russo Mulvoy is committed to incident prevention. She regularly checks in on her team throughout the day and on weekends and evenings, when necessary.
She told Safety+Health magazine “complacency or inattentiveness” are the biggest obstacle to safety at her company. In addition to checking in on employees regularly, she said company leadership brings these issues up at safety meetings and walks their factory and warehouse daily looking for potential safety hazards.
4. Institute a ‘management in action process’
Committed to worker safety, Daniel M. Evans, president and CEO of Fluor Federal Petroleum Operations established a “Management in Action” process to help keep his team safe. This practice was designed to encourage conversations among managers, supervisors, and workers about safety issues and controls and to identify ways to improve.
Evans said results from the program provide the company with valuable safety data. As part of the process, supervisors, managers, and executives “walk the site” and talk to employees, allowing them to identify opportunities for improvement. Data from these visits are compiled, and the company uses it to seek root causes and trends.
Discover: Who is Responsible for Worker Safety?
5. Personally test PPE at home
He’s since retired, but Joe Slater served as the president and CEO of the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative for 17 years—and during this time, he took utility worker safety to the next level. He revealed that he’d personally wear-tested an approved flame-resistant company uniform while performing maintenance at his home to gauge the garment’s safety and durability, as well as comfort level.
Slater said the company’s safety culture starts with him, so he gets involved with safety incident prevention measures as much as possible. For example, in addition to personally testing uniforms, he also dutifully attended employee safety meetings and took it upon himself to present information to show support for upcoming campaigns.
Read: 7 Ways to Be More Proactive About Worker Safety
6. Make zero workplace injuries a company motto
Paul O’Neill was the chairman and CEO of Alcoa from 1987 to 1999—he retired as chairman at the end of 2000—but his safety leadership is still legendary. The former Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush passed away in 2020, and was largely remembered for his commitment to making zero workplace injuries a company motto.
When he was first introduced to investors and analysts in 1987, he raised eyebrows by talking about worker safety instead of profits. Back then, this was unheard of, but by the time he retired in 2000, Alcoa’s market value surged $27.53 billion from $3 billion in 1986, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Additionally, net income swelled to $1.48 billion from $200 million during the same time period.
Most importantly, during his tenure, the number of lost work days due to workplace injury or illness per 100 employees tumbled from 1.86 to 0.2, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was even featured in Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit” for turning Alcoa into one of the safest companies in the world, while increasing profits.
The last thing you want is a fatal injury on your watch—especially one that could’ve been easily prevented. The CEOs noted above put safety risk assessment first because they know there’s nothing more important than the health and safety of their workers.
Implementing some of these worker safety initiatives—or worker safety ideas of your own—at your company can help improve the well-being of your team. When it comes to utility worker safety, you can never be too prudent, so use your position to guide positive change that will make a difference.
Up next: Why Utilities Should Hold Mental Health Safety Stand Downs