Air Force Safety Center is a Field Operating Agency headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM. Its mission is to safeguard airmen, protect resources and preserve combat readiness.
The safety objective: Over the past decade, new mission requirements, declining numbers of Airmen and a quickening operations tempo threatened to undermine the Air Force's long history of operating effectively and safely. The objective was to perform near real-time evaluations of safety culture, from the lowest- to the highest-level worker, with the theory that a strong safety culture reduces mishaps.
The result: Losses were compared 18 months before and after the assessments. Total mishaps fell by 29%, and the average cost of mishaps was reduced by $600,000 per installation. One major command with 15,000 assigned personnel experienced a 90% reduction in fatalities and went from 4 to 0 manned aircraft lost. Feedback was enthusiastic, and the survey tools are now being expanded into other areas of the USAF.
Advice to others: The same culture assessment tools could be used in a corporate environment with minor changes to questions and rollout. The initial barriers of survey resistance and scarce resources would have to be overcome, but these were found to be less and less challenging with each new success and feedback from commanders and senior leaders.
FINALIST: Aqueos Corporation
Aqueos Corporation, based in Louisiana, is a
"World Class Subsea Service Provider" offering marine construction, commercial diving, remote operated vehicles and vessel contracting services.
The safety objective: Aqueos addressed a long-standing issue in the industry: Vessel encroachment on diving projects. To make the industry safer for diving operations and decrease the incidents of vessel encroachment, Aqueos worked with government entities, operators, oil and gas personnel, commercial supply companies, recreational boaters and the commercial fishing fleet. The biggest obstacle was to get everyone together to discuss the issue. The objective was to profile the problem and establish an overall metric baseline to measure the effectiveness of long-term countermeasures.
The result: Aqueos measured the occurrences of vessel encroachment after making changes and increasing awareness by presenting to the various parties involved. As a result of this initiative, there have been fewer vessel encroachments on diving spreads.
Advice to others: When severe injury or death can be caused by companies outside of your control, it's important to demonstrate the hazards and come together to find a solution. Do not be afraid to reach out and find people in other industries to affect change. Change can take time – it's a marathon, not a sprint – but don't fall back into the "this is just the way it is" thought pattern.
FINALIST: United Technologies Corporation
United Technologies Corporation provides high-technology systems and services for the aerospace and building industries.
The safety objective: To improve quality of life for employees by eliminating excessive noise and hazardous substances in the workplace, and to transition the organization from a focus on lagging indicators to leading indicators. UTC established sustainability goals spanning 2010-2015, known internally as "Quiet, Clean & Tobacco-free."
The result: The goals, though challenging, were feasible and actionable, and in many cases involved relatively easy-to-implement solutions that may not have been identified without the focus generated by establishing the goals. The quiet goal resulted in 289 projects that reduced noise levels to below 85 dBA and impact about 6,700 employees. The clean goal resulted in 118 projects that achieve chemical exposure levels below the occupational exposure limit and impact about 2,300 employees. The tobacco-free goal resulted in the UTC Tobacco-Free Workplace Policy at more than 3,300 UTC sites.
Advice to others: These goals can be replicated by any company or industry. The process involves an evaluation of risk assessment or injury data, determining the most impactful areas on which to focus and setting a reduction goal. In doing so, a culture of employee engagement is fostered and employees contribute to the solutions. The long-term impacts on employees make the investment worthwhile.
All finalists answered questions about the safety problems they addressed, the results of their objective and advice they would give to others. Their responses have been edited for space.