| Summer 2009
Top-Down, Bottom-Up Approach Drives Pioneer’s Safety Program
By David Wylie
Some people seem destined for certain occupations. Others simply fall into their jobs somewhere along the way.
Jerry Beatty chose his career path after a personal loss inspired him to change the status quo.
“My brother was killed in a butane explosion while working in an oilfield,” said Beatty. “He was my best friend. As I sat there at his funeral and watched my family and his fiancee grieve, I told myself I would not allow this to happen again.”
So Beatty dedicated himself to making the world a safer place to work. For a quarter of a century, his passion for preventing on-the-job accidents has taken him to the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and all over Texas.
At every stop, he’s met people who believe that workplace accidents are an inevitable consequence of doing business. Beatty has made it his mission to change that mentality.
Today, he heads up safety and human resources for Pioneer Contract Services Inc., Houston’s largest commercial moving and storage company.
Installing and relocating heavy office furniture and equipment across Texas presents a range of hazards. Still, Pioneer’s 300 employees have logged 2 million work hours since their last lost-time injury.
“They are the most proactive company I’ve worked with when it comes to safety,” said Jane Houser, Texas Mutual loss prevention consultant. “Management commits the resources, and employees buy into the safety program. They’ve made safety part of everything they do.”
Left to right: Jerry Beatty, Pioneer HR/Safety Manager; Roger Fritcher, Pioneer VP; Ed Fritcher, Pioneer President
Houser is quick to clarify that Pioneer’s safety record isn’t spotless. In 2005, she and Beatty noticed a surprising number of claims related to slips and falls. Like any safety experts worth their salt, they investigated the accidents and found the root causes. Most of the injuries were tied to physical hazards, such as slick floors or dimly lit work areas.
In fact, Pioneer’s last lost-time injury happened when an employee fell on a slippery dock while making a delivery.
“Numerous people who worked at the off-site location knew about the hazard,” said Beatty, “but nobody reported it. Man, was I ticked off.”
Beatty channeled his frustration into creating Pioneer’s Hazard Recognition Program (HRP). Under the program, every Pioneer worksite is required to report at least one hazard per week. In just two years, Pioneer has uncovered and eliminated hundreds of hazards. Some of the company’s clients and vendors have even adopted the program.
So can you. Pioneer invites fellow Texas Mutual policyholders to download its HRP form at www.texasmutual.com/forms/pioneer.doc.
Last year, Texas Mutual recognized Pioneer for its model safety program. The company has also earned dividends and reduced its premium by 34 percent by preventing accidents.
If Pioneer management and staff patted themselves on the back and stopped here, their jobs would be far from finished. That’s because physical hazards like slippery docks account for only a handful of workplace accidents. The majority, most reports say 85 percent, are caused by unsafe behaviors.
That’s why Pioneer implemented the Safe Performance Self Assessment (SPSA) process.
“It’s sort of a mouthful,” laughed Beatty, “but it’s something everyone can do when they get in the car, fire up their lawnmower or use a power tool.”
Before starting a new task, every Pioneer employee asks themselves one question: What is the worst thing that could happen to me while I’m doing this job?
From there, they go through a mental job safety analysis, making sure they have the right tools, training and personal protective equipment to do the task safely. If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” Beatty expects employees to stop the task immediately.
As a matter of fact, the company has a large banner that all employees pass every day. It reads, “If It Isn’t Safe, Don’t Do It; If It Isn’t Right, Don’t Do It.”
It is no coincidence that employees drive the SPSA and HRP. They know the hazards of their jobs better than anyone. By empowering them to uncover and eliminate those hazards, Pioneer has given its employees a sense of ownership over the safety program. They take responsibility for their own safety, as well as the safety of anyone Pioneer does business with.
“We recently had a situation where a contractor pulled up to our loading dock to make a delivery,” said Ruben Martinez, a contract manager at Pioneer. “He got out of the truck and was getting ready to jump off the dock. Our guys stopped him immediately and told him that was a violation of our safety procedures.”
That is exactly the type of behavior that Pioneer encourages and rewards. Management gives cash bonuses, gift certificates and paid time off to employees who show a commitment to safety. Employees who disregard safety procedures are subject to disciplinary action.
“Management’s message is that safety is just as important as quality and production. Nobody is exempt, not even the owner,” said Martinez’s co-worker, Jeff Swenson. “When you’re getting the recognition and enforcement from the top down, it drives the safety program to constantly evolve from the bottom up.”
Constant evolution, employee empowerment and ownership – they’re the building blocks of any successful safety program. By embracing them, Pioneer has created a culture in which getting injured is unacceptable.
“Some employers think we’re too strict when it comes to safety,” said Beatty. “Knowing that our employees go home to their families every day makes it all worth while for me.”
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