Corporate Executives: Safety Leads to Job Satisfaction, Quality Products

"If you take care of the small stuff the big stuff won't happen," Anil Mathur, CEO of the Alaska Tanker Company of Beaverton, Oregon, told close to 2,000 audience members during the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) executive summit Thursday at the 47th annual professional development conference (PDC) and exposition held in Las Vegas. "We focus on the near misses."

The executive summit held annually at the ASSE PDC is a panel of corporate executives that discuss how safety is an important component of their organization, the challenges they face and how occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals can increase their relationships with corporate management in an effort to increase on-the-job safety, communicate the overall benefits of SH&E for employees, the community, quality products and the bottom line.

In addition to Mathur, participating in the panel were Chairman and CEO of Black and Veatch Construction Company Len Rodman, Overland, Kansas; Kraft Foods Vice President of Shared Services Diane Wolf, Northfield, IL; and MGM Mirage Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Alan Feldman, Las Vegas, NV.
Overall the group agreed that without effective SH&E programs a company's reputation and overall business could be shattered.

"We are seeing an unprecedented growth of construction projects worldwide which leads to a major increase in employees worldwide," Rodman said. "This growth is challenging for our worldwide management system and is addressed every day. We look at the challenges, review programs and solutions before the managers get to their new sites and provide them with the tools they need to address any safety and health and behavioral issues they may be faced with worldwide."

Mathur noted that the Alaska Tanker Company has gone years without a loss time injury. "It is our responsibility, that of corporate management, to set the safety mindset," Mathur noted. :"At Alaska Tanker we have gone 12 million hours or six years without a loss time injury."

"I totally agree. And the challenges are always changing. Especially in light of the fact that in different parts of the world there is a different value on life," Rodman said. "We bring our values with us which includes valuing every life. Safety is part of our company culture."

Each of the panelists agreed that employee job satisfaction, quality products and community safety were all a major part of their occupational safety, health and environmental efforts.

"If you don't provide a safe and healthy work environment you will lose employees to other employers and it will be harder to recruit employees. This is bad for business since the cost of turnover is extremely high and more importantly if you provide a safe work environment employees are happier. For us that translates into providing a greater guest experience," Feldman, of MGM, said. " I don't understand those businesses who don't provide good workplace safety and health systems. Why take the risk? It just seems ridiculous if you look at the consequences in this 24/7 instant news world. If it is not part of their business plan then there is something fundamentally wrong with that company." MGM has 80,000 guests and 10,000 customers visiting daily and 60,000 employees.

"We have found that the manufacturing plants with the safest records have the best product quality and employee moral," Wolf, of Kraft Foods, said. "At Kraft we make sure our food products are safe for consumers, that our employees are safe as well as the community we operate in. So it's product, people, plant and community."

As for measuring safety success. "One can measure and analyze everything and understand nothing," Mathur noted. "Safety is personal. It is unacceptable to not care about your employees' safety, especially for those pushing profit over safety. Safe behaviors bring lower costs and increase quality."

The panelists agreed that occupational safety, health and environmental professionals were an integral part of a company's operation. "We live on the edge every day and safety is extremely important from a business perspective," Rodman said. "We look to you to take us beyond the expected when it comes to safety to explore and present new ways to increase workplace safety in this day of globalization. We need and are working with different cultures, languages and environments and look to you the safety professional to help us increase safety for all of our employees worldwide."

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