The best safety programs within the best companies are ones that are run by management, not run by a safety department.
FMI had the pleasure of speaking with Dale Dhooge, senior risk engineer at Zurich Construction, N.A., about how important it is for contractors to have a great safety record and solid reputation in order to get work.
Chisholm: How does a company incorporate risk management and safety into its marketing efforts?
Dhooge: If you look at things from the owners’ perspectives, companies want to hire contractors and subcontractors that do not have safety issues and have a good reputation in the community. There is no faster way for a contractor to tarnish its public image than to have safety issues within the community, whether it is with the media, regulatory agencies or by word of mouth.
Chisholm: Let’s say a company does have safety issues. How does it go about repairing its reputation?
Dhooge: First off, I think the management of the company must recognize that it needs to improve, and this starts first and foremost with senior leaders understanding that they need to enable the change to happen. Essentially, the management team must create a clear and visible expectation of safety. Reinforcement of the importance of safety throughout the organization is only achieved through personal accountability, commitment and involvement. The leaders of the organization must take part in the creation of the strategies, systems and methods for achieving high performance in safety. Visible engagement with the workforce is crucial.
All measurements, such as accidents, losses, experience modification rates (EMRs), etc., are outputs of a safety process. Management enables things to occur and targets areas to improve. Upper managers should ensure they define safety responsibilities of their line and middle management, measure the results of those responsibilities, and reward them for doing the right things. An advance level of safety will not happen without appropriate motivation. This includes an annual evaluation as part of the performance appraisal, reward and recognition systems, and applicable disciplinary actions if safety rules are violated or unsafe acts are not corrected quickly. Appropriate motivation must drive continuous improvement. An effective safety management system will result in visible improvement.
Chisholm: Who is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the safety system?
Dhooge: Line management is responsible and accountable for the implementation of the safety system on a day-to-day basis. These individuals must set the example and communicate expectations to all employees that safety is an essential value. Line management must deliver the goals, expectations and improvement plans to the employees, with appropriate feedback mechanisms and employee involvement to ensure that results are achieved.
Training individuals who work within the organization is an integral component in the safety management system. This includes skills training, functional training, management awareness, basic safety awareness and injury/incident investigation. Each individual within the organization must know his or her role and responsibilities and how to undertake specific duties in order to ensure that the safety system runs effectively and efficiently.
Chisholm: How does Zurich help companies achieve this?
Dhooge: From the risk management perspective, we work with companies to help them understand opportunities they may have and get management onboard in leading the improvement process. We try to engage them upfront, because to change a company, management must understand and recognize that that change needs to occur.
We help managers understand that they need to have a safety dashboard that tells them if they are in or out of control on every project, just as they do with scheduling, budget and everything else. They need to manage it the same way as the other critical functions in their organization.
Chisholm: How does Zurich go about using risk management to promote its marketing?
Dhooge: We have a group of risk engineers and tools available to help bring the top level of safety to the companies that we work with. These risk engineers will work to put in place the safety processes and systems.
Chisholm: Can you go into more specifics about some of the tools that you use?
Dhooge: We look at the management processes involved. Whether we use Zurich’s X-Ray or other similar safety management process assessments, we have products that dissect the management function and the safety process when it comes to the risk management processes of a company. Zurich Hazard Analysis is the ideal process for identifying, analyzing and addressing hazards and thus to reveal your risk exposure.
Zurich has tools that look at all of a company’s processes and define what the hazards are in order to minimize those hazards and bring down the risk profile. We offer training classes and have many different programs we can put in place to help reduce the risks. The management of the company must embrace the need to improve. Zurich then can give them the tools that make it easy for managers to have the information to be involved in their safety system.
Chisholm: What is the Zurich Hazard Analysis?
Dhooge: The Zurich Hazard Analysis is a powerful methodology to systematically identify, address and manage all types of hazards or vulnerabilities and to address and manage the corresponding risks. We have been successfully applying and using it within our own company and with our customers for more than 20 years in various industries, commercial enterprises and, more recently, in the financial services industry as well as in public entities.
Chisholm: How long does the hazard analysis take?
Dhooge: It highly depends on the scope of the analysis. If we want to look at a simple overview of the management process, we have some assessments that would take about a day. This is an interview-type process where we talk to different levels of the organization to get an understanding of what their perceptions are of management involvement and progressive motivations. It’s amazing when you have these simple conversations with people and you understand that, well, management may think that they’re held responsible, but the people that are actually out there in the field don’t even realize that they have some of these responsibilities.
Chisholm: Once you do the analysis, what is the next step?
Dhooge: We produce a report that gives examples of areas that you have opportunities to improve upon, with very specific outputs. If you do what is recommended, you are going to minimize this risk or improve this area within your safety system. Much of it is around communication, expectation setting, management involvement and, most importantly, a progressive motivation or accountability process in a company.
For example, if you measure proactive activities of supervisors, such as holding meetings, doing inspections and performing training — the whole idea is that they are going to do them more often, and their actions change the culture within the organization. It’s not the words — it’s the actions that are observed by employees that change the culture. You are moving the culture of the company by defining specific activities, measuring those activities and holding people responsible to do them.
Chisholm: During the recession, with the reduction of the infrastructure and staff, did you see an increase in safety incidents and accidents?
Dhooge: My opinion is the best safety programs within the best companies are ones that are run by management, not run by a safety department. They may be supported by the safety department, which makes it easy for management to be involved.
I think most companies kept their best employees and I believe the projects and safety have gotten better because they have had their “A-Team” employees in charge and understand how important it is to have safety run from the management of the company. Any time you go through growth, you need to have a plan for involvement of the organization. I believe companies are going to begin to hire more and more people now, and getting people ingrained in that process and up to speed is always a challenge, and it takes some additional infrastructure to do that.
Chisholm: In addition to getting management onboard, what are some other things you need to do to ingrain safety into one’s culture?
Dhooge: Each level in the organization should understand its two or three specific items that need to be done for safety that week, that month. Leadership, from senior management to the line supervision, should not have trouble answering the question, “What is your role in the safety process?” Whether leaders are talking to a project manager, superintendent, middle manager, director or VP, if they cannot answer, “A, B and C,” there is a huge opportunity for them to start doing some very specific things to promote a safety culture.
For example, if you’re a vice president, maybe you speak for a few minutes at a safety meeting, have lunch with some of the subs and ask how safety’s going on their project. Then, as you get closer to the project, that is where the superintendent or foreman might do the actual audits or inspections. However, everybody should have defined two or three things he or she does to show involvement in the safety process. If you measure those two or three things, that’s where you can start having more leading indicators, activity-based indicators, again versus those lagging results, which essentially is the output of a process.
Chisholm: With Zurich being a global company, is there a different approach to safety from North America to other parts of the world?
Dhooge: I think we still want to influence management to be involved and do the right things. There are certainly some different tools we may use, depending on the cultures that we’re working in. But our overall process and mindset is continuous improvement from the risk management perspective, which starts with getting the enablement of management in a company — that they need to recognize that they need to improve. We give management the tools to understand that there is opportunity for improvement, whether it is through benchmarking, doing an audit or assessment, or defining some actions. The first thing is to make management realize that they can enable that change to happen. Again, results are an output of a process. To enable change, management needs to be involved and understand it, and then we can start moving to that phase of improvement.
Chisholm: Do you see where any language differences make a difference, specifically in the United States?
Dhooge: Depending on the types of work being done, I think there is certainly opportunity to have miscommunication, but I think similar things apply: Just showing the involvement and that management cares makes it important. It doesn’t take long when you’re in an organization to understand what people really care about, and that’s why it’s so important to get management engaged in this process. So it’s not a safety group or a risk management group that’s running it; it’s the people that run the operations that have a vested interest in and show the actions to the whole organization. As far as the communication goes, that obviously has to occur, and we have to have the right tools in place so people understand the communication.
Chisholm: What kind of changes have you seen in the industry since you started, in regards to safety? Has technology played a part?
Dhooge: Yes, I think it really has. It’s making the communication and the collection of the information much easier. Before, if people were doing certain types of processes, they would be collecting them on cards or papers. Now there are many online methods — on smartphones or other types of tools — that collect that information. So the collection of the information is just easier for the companies that are using that technology.
Chisholm: Thank you for your insights on creating a safety culture in one’s firm. Owners want to hire contractors that do not have safety issues. To establish a companywide safety culture, top management must lead the way and be proactive in its approach to safety.
MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY AND BEHAVIOR CREATES A SAFETY CULTURE FOR EMPLOYEES
Management accountability drives managers to take proactive actions daily. This behavior creates a culture where “safety is so important, that all managers must do something about it every day.” When employees witness management’s behavior, their behaviors will follow.
Management Accountability. The term “accountability” means defining specific, activity-based objectives that must be met, measuring performance to determine if the objectives are being met and rewarding performance for meeting the objectives.
Two tools are used to measure safety performance: (1) activity measurements and (2) results measurements. Activity measures are used to determine what management is doing to prevent accidents from occurring. Results measures are used to assess the outcomes of the manager’s actions (leading and lagging indicators).
Management Behavior. If management values and believes in safety, its actions will demonstrate it. Some examples of management behavior include:
- What does management pay attention to? Does it give as much attention to safety as it does to quality, production and schedule? Does it review safety indicators?
- Does management ignore poor housekeeping? Does it allow witnessed, unsafe work practices to continue without addressing? Is safety mentioned in organizational meetings?
- How is management measured? Is production more important than employee safety in the evaluation process?
Safety Culture. Once management exhibits its commitment to safety, the cultural boundaries for safety are formed. Changes in safety culture that exhibit management commitment include a paradigm shift:
- From top-down control to bottom-up involvement
- From failure-oriented to achievement-oriented
- From fault-finding to fact-finding
- From lagging indicators to leading indicators
The safety culture is an ever-evolving and changing environment, dependent upon both management and employee behavior. If management behavior does not actively demonstrate that it values the health and safety of its employees, the cycle will be broken and unsafe employee behavior will follow.
Employee Behavior. Once employees truly believe that management is committed to safety and is held accountable for the provision of a safe workplace, employee behavior will change.
- Employees feel responsible for safety and do something about it on a daily basis.
- Employees go beyond the call to identify unsafe conditions and unsafe behaviors, and they intervene to correct them.
- Managers and peers support safe employee behavior with rewarding feedback.
- Employees feel responsible for the safety of their co-workers as well as themselves.
Kelley Chisholm is editor of FMI Quarterly. She can be reached at 919.782.9215 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.