To have and maintain a low incident rate and high employee morale, creating a strong safety culture has to be a priority. That’s where INNOVATOR Vice President of Operations Stu Hough focuses a great deal of his attention.
“One of the functions of my job is to find gaps in our processes, develop new policies and procedures, and implement them to fill the gaps,” Hough says. “When I came on, safety was — and still is — our highest priority. I think that’s why [President] Don [Cooper] hired me: He had a true desire to make sure INNOVATOR is leading the industry in our safety practices and culture.”
With Hough’s help, the INNOVATOR crew is making good on that desire.
While it may sound simple, having a true safety culture is difficult to achieve in practice. Hough highlights six steps that have made it a reality for INNOVATOR professionals.
- Create accountability. It’s imperative to have someone who oversees company processes and takes charge of implementing safety procedures. At INNOVATOR, this falls on the shoulders of the Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Manager. However, it’s equally important to have buy-in from upper management when introducing new processes. As Hough points out, when management members show they take safety seriously, that accountability filters throughout the organization.
“We want to create a culture intolerant of unsafe behavior or equipment, and it’s our job to make sure that message is heard from everyone in the company — from me, from Don, and from the managers,” he says. “When we take the time to carry that message to the field, it impacts our workers positively and shows we truly believe what we say.”
- Make safety procedures official. Include safety procedures in standard operating procedures (SOPs) and daily operations to underscore their importance. Even better, implement detailed procedures for every role; INNOVATOR professionals have safety processes for each individual service line to ensure employees have processes to fall back on — regardless of the work they’re doing.
- Implement a reporting system. It’s difficult to get employees to buy into a safety program if the people who create it aren’t visible and don’t provide feedback. That’s why it’s valuable to develop a reporting system that incorporates insights from those doing the work.
“The information we get back from our crews in the field tells us where we could possibly be at risk and what we should focus on,” Hough says. “We are then able to give feedback and reporting using the workers’ own information, thus giving them a direct impact and visibility on the safety of their site.”
- Require active participation. As Hough points out, reports should never be optional.
“We still expect feedback, even if everything is perfect,” he says. “Even if it’s menial or seemingly unimportant — it could be anything from an overflowing garbage can to loose gravel — by recording that stuff, it gets everybody in a frame of mind where they’re looking for things rather than looking past them. We tell them, ‘The more information we have, the safer your job is.’”
- Follow up. Show crew members that their observations and safety matter by taking their reports seriously. INNOVATOR leaders conduct in-person audits and have managers address any concerns directly.
- Stay proactive. Whether it’s through field reports, behavior-focused audits, or management observation, be willing to use valuable feedback to introduce new policies or processes that better support safety procedures. Once rules are in place, measure their effectiveness regularly and adjust them as necessary.
All these steps work together to make a workplace culture that prioritizes safety, and the greater your safety culture, the greater participation and compliance you can expect to see.
“We’re getting to a point now where the culture is there,” Hough says. “You get recognition for being safe, not being the most productive. The culture shift is happening at INNOVATOR.”
And the best part? As Hough mentions, INNOVATOR professionals are not only more safety-minded employees but they also have the safety record to back it up.
“Our recordable incident rate for the past three years is zero,” Hough says.
Yes, it is, and it’s just another way INNOVATOR experts are leading the industry to a safer, more innovative future.