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May 25, 2016 | by Steve Lawrence

Safety Beyond Compliance

Investing in people, performance, and a moral imperative

They explained the vital importance of leadership walk-arounds. “When the CEO is on the floor talking safety, checking operations, that is impressive,” said Joe Galasso, corporate director of health, safety and environment at Samuel Plate Stoney Creek.

They talked about safety as an important indicator of a well-run business. “Health, safety and financial performance, it all goes hand in hand,” said Bill Chisholm, president and CEO at Samuel, Son & Co., Limited.

Chisholm and Galasso, were part of a keynote panel, moderated by Bob Weidner, at MSCI’s annual Safety Conference. Along with Jeff Adams, director of safety at CMC Steel of South Carolina, and Tracy Porter, president of CMC Americas Division, each of them offered lessons learned, best practices, and an eye-opening view on how top health and safety programs are run today.

“The dollars you invest in safety bring a huge return,” said Adams. “When an employer has a strong safety culture, inevitably it is strong elsewhere too. A good safe place to work will have high morale, low turnover and excellent productivity.”

The group emphasized that a well-run company must never lose its focus on the most important thing: the people who work there and the moral obligation to keep them safe. “It shows how we value life,” said Porter. “We ask our people to ask themselves: ‘Is this a place where I would want my wife or children to work?’”

“Everybody does incident reports, and we investigate them very carefully,” said Galasso, “but it’s the near-miss reports that can be the key indicator. We’ve found that paying close attention to them lowers our incident report rates.”

“We’ve found that strong observation-based programs are extremely effective,” said Adams. “That means leadership walk-arounds, but also training supervisors and each employee to be alert to how jobs are done and where safety can be improved. Consistency is key,” he added. “You have to constantly show your employees that you do what you say you’re going to do.”

“Communication, as always, is very important here,” said Chisholm. “Our culture is such that we notify the entire senior leadership team about any incidents, and everyone on that team is required to do safety audits.”

“Our audits include far more than just compliance,” Adams said. “Our standards are tougher.”

It’s developing a culture in which everyone is alert and focused on safety. “When you start believing you’re good, that’s when you get bad,” said Adams. “I try to convey that in my walk-arounds,” said Porter, “I will stop a forklift driver, for instance, and ask him for the safety checklist, when the brakes were last checked, when is the next scheduled maintenance.” The objective is constructive surprise and keeping people aware that serious injury is always one unfocused second away.

It’s an “it starts with me” culture where everyone is attentive all the time, and that has unexpected benefits as well. “We look at the younger people applying for some of these jobs,” said Chisholm. “We are finding that they want to work in a place with strong values, and we emphasize our safety programs as part of that.”

“Finally, we have to always remember that we are talking about people’s lives and families,” Chisholm said. “Health and safety is a moral responsibility.”

Porter agreed: “Companies can recover from even a serious incident, but families cannot.”

Learn more about this year's safety conference.