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Close to 2,000 attendees of the 48th annual American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Professional Development Conference (PDC) and Exposition gathered to hear corporate executives discuss why safety and health is key for their company’s success at this morning’s “Executive Summit”. The summit featured M+ W Zander US Operations President Rick Whitney, a full service architecture, engineering and construction services firm; L.L. Bean senior vice president and CEO Bob Peixoto; DynMcDermott Petroleum Operations Company CEO and president Robert W. McGough,, a privately held company that holds the maintenance and operations contract for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve of the Department of Energy; and Clean Harbors Environmental Services senior vice president Phillip G. Retallick, a provider of environmental and hazardous waste management services.
“Our customers value us because we are trustworthy and we operate with integrity,” Peixoto said. “The safety, health and environmental profession is a noble profession. You as safety professionals are in a position to reposition your company so you should ask yourself ‘what am I doing for this organization as a whole and why am I happy to be doing my job here.’ You need to study your company’s values and determine how your job can help your company move forward and improve. We expect everyone at LL Bean to be the safety pros, but we look to our staff safety professional to have the knowhow, the technical skills and much, much more to help build and implement our safety programs. We urge safety professionals not to be the safety police, don’t own safety, but consider yourself as part of the team, the decision makers.”
Peixoto noted that in the five weeks leading up to Christmas they do two-thirds of their business and double their employees. “You may think Santa’s work shop is at the North Pole, but it’s really in Freeport, Maine,” Peixoto said. “We are always focused on safety and during this peak time we have seen a great improvement in preventing injuries.”
“There must be precise communications among all employees when we go on a corporate site,” Clean Harbors’ Retallick said. “We handle 10 million pounds of hazardous waste per day in the U.S. so we need to be clear of all operations and safety before we start and during the job.”
“When we are working in other countries the stress on our employees is great,” M+W Zander Operations’ Whitney said. “People are working 60 to 70 hours per week, and many miss their families. We address this every day and make sure they get the support they need and we also mandate that they take at least a month off from the job. We’re also finding from our employees that as we work around the world we cannot continue to be the ‘local contractor’, but we must be the ‘best in class.’ We have to continue to be the best no matter where the job is located, despite the country’s culture. As each of our jobs is different, from the beginning we do safety by design and I mean we work with our safety professionals and design safety from the start.”
DynMcDermott’s McGough said employee morale is very important to them and they often survey their employees. “A recent survey found 98 percent of our employees feel they can report or stop an unsafe act at any time,” McGough said. “That was great news for us. We encourage employee empowerment. We have a mature workforce with the average age being 58 and most have been with us for an average of 18 years. In our business we have high turnover so it is important to continue to retain our workers and safety is a major part of it. I was recently in Taiwan. They are 20 years behind us in safety. While there I heard a great quote which illustrates our philosophy as well when it comes to safety – ‘we don’t do something because we have to; we do it because we want to’.”
The executive summit held annually at the ASSE PDC features a panel of corporate executives discussing the role safety and health plays in keeping competitive, the challenges they face and how occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals can work with corporate management to increase on-the-job safety.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, Ill.-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. The ASSE PDC and Exposition – Safety 2009 -- in San Antonio that ran from June 28-July 1 drew about 3600 attendees.