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      NSC HOME > Safety at Work > Leadership > Robert E. McGough      
Robert E. McGough
Robert E. McGough
President & CEO
DynMcDermott Petroleum Operations Co.
DynMcDermott Petroleum Operations Co. was created to provide management and operating services to the Department of Energy on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve project to store crude oil to reduce the adverse economic impact of a major petroleum supply interruption to the United States. As the M&O contractor, DM provides all of the resources needed to operate the four SPR crude oil storage facilities, the corporate organization and a warehouse in Mississippi. Headquartered in New Orleans, DM has 520 employees.

Why is safety a core value at your company?

DynMcDermott has always held safety as a core value and an integral part of our strategic planning because we believe safety, health and environmental responsibility are the morally right thing to do. As an added bonus, the SH&E responsibility, when fully embraced, has the benefit of adding much more to the bottom line than the cost. DynMcDermott’s greatest assets are its people, and we believe foremost we have a duty of care for our employees, their families and their communities. We also believe that by creating an organizational culture that reflects this belief, we substantially benefit our client, the Department of Energy.

How do you instill a sense of safety in your employees on an ongoing basis?

We have consciously created a culture where safety permeates our business and operating systems. We involve our employees with a 12+-year-old behavioral safety process and active participation in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs through their leadership of the committees that manage the operation of those programs. Our employees have ownership in the safety process, which has created their buy-in. All of our employees recently discussed with their direct line supervisors the application of our seven-point commitment to safety to their work area and activities. Afterward, each employee and supervisor signed the commitment as recognition of their partnership in maintaining a safe workplace. Then the SH&E director and I each signed one, personally documenting our companywide commitment to their safety and the safety of their co-workers. I also try to demonstrate a strong personal safety ethic in my daily behavior and expect the same of my senior staff.

What is the biggest obstacle to safety in your workplace, and how do you work to overcome it?

The obstacles have changed as our safety management systems have evolved. When DynMcDermott first started managing the reserve, our biggest obstacle could probably be summed up in one sentence: “We’ve always done it that way.” That obstacle has been overcome. Our biggest obstacle currently is perception of risk and even-handed implementation of change. Senior management may recognize a risk and implement changes designed to mitigate or remove it, but the corrective actions or improvements may not appear to be implemented equally throughout all of the organization or they may trickle down at different speeds because someone doesn’t recognize or fully understand the risk. A large part of resolving this rests on communication, and we are working hard to improve communication at all levels of the organization. Often it’s first-level management that seems to be left out, which is why we are working to reinforce the safety partnership between co-workers and their supervisors.

How does safety “pay” at your company?

Safety pays in the obvious ways, through lower workers’ compensation costs, no costs for non-compliance or regulatory violations, and lower health care insurance costs. Also, a substantial part of our award fee, which is our total profit, is based on SH&E performance – more than 30 percent. So, the better our safety performance, the more profit we earn. Performing safely also pays in human value – less suffering, no broken families, a loyal workforce and a productive work environment.

In the broader picture, I believe the cultural change in safety, which began with the adoption of the behavioral safety process, initiated a much broader cultural shift in our management systems that eventually led to our winning the national Baldrige Award and the international Robert W. Campbell Award. Employee involvement in our safety programs has led to a caring culture where employees not only look out for each other at work, but also have carried this knowledge and culture home to their family, friends and community, broadening its positive impact.

How do you measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe you are, and where do you see room for improvement?

We monitor the standard lagging indicators, total recordable case rate and days away/restricted rate, as an indicator of our progress. However, when we talk about this performance it is about the individuals. It is the individuals for whom we seek to create a safe and healthy workplace that we hope they carry to their homes. We also use leading indicators such as the number of close calls reported, the number of behavioral observations, the observation rate, the percentage of safe and at-risk observations, the number of vehicle accidents resulting in more than $1,000 of damage, the number of nonroutine and notable occurrence reports, the number of workstation evaluations that identify ergonomic problems, all of our exposure monitoring, the number of safety tripartite meetings (executives of company, client executives and line workers), the safety summits held, and completion of safety action plans on time.

As for improvement, while we have been able to achieve zero recordable accidents at our individual facilities for multiple years at a time, we haven’t yet reached zero work-related accidents resulting in injury or illness for the entire corporation for a complete year. Our journey toward that goal includes continued improvement to our safety management processes in any way we can, and after achievement of that goal we will continue to expand the goal into the future seeking to prevent even the most minor of injuries, regardless of recordability. As an example of how this journey has progressed, a few years ago we focused on improving our ergonomic processes and, as a result, we have reduced the number of carpal tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries to a very few, but we continue to seek ergonomic improvements. Right now, we’re working on ways to respond proactively to the aging of our workforce.

How important is off-the-job safety to your company’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety programs does your company offer to employees?

Off-the-job safety is not just about employees, as I mentioned above – it is about their families, friends and community. We seek to be responsible corporate citizens and, as such, have embraced this holistic view of safety and health, encouraging the use of safe practices and company-provided personal protective equipment outside of our fence line as well as within. At home, employee injuries and even those close to them directly affect those workers and, therefore, their performance on the job; an emotionally upset or sick employee is much more likely to make errors while at work. Errors can lead to accidents.

We offer a spectrum of wellness-related services, encouraging our employees to maintain (or attain) a healthy lifestyle. We recently started a campaign to educate employees on issues such as distracted driving (our policy on company vehicles bans cell phone use while the vehicle is moving), falls and their potential consequences to older adults, and seasonal topics appropriate to each holiday. We also have educated our employees on the potential for a flu pandemic (already holding two exercises to validate and improve our pandemic continuity of operations plan). Pandemic education advises employees on how they should respond should one occur, and how the company will accommodate their need to take care of their loved ones should they become ill. We also seek to slow or prevent the spread of such illness by providing free flu shots at work for our employees and establishing hand sanitization stations throughout all of our facilities.

Within the past four years, our employees have survived hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike with zero accidents and injuries during shutdown, evacuation, recovery and startup despite extreme conditions and extensive damage following each event. We have done and continue to do a great deal of education on our off-the-job response to those types of natural disasters and on what our response as a company will be. As an example, our employees know that DynMcDermott will continue to pay them their regular salaries even if they have to evacuate and cannot report to their facilities. As a result, our employees have demonstrated extraordinary loyalty and commitment. In all three hurricanes, only one employee didn’t report within three days or offer to return to work. These were employees who didn’t know the extent of their personal loss – homes, belongings, friends and family – but reported in, ready to work, anyway. Because of their loyalty and culture, DynMcDermott has been able to meet our commitment to be drawdown ready in 13 days despite the hurricanes and has re-entered disaster-stricken facilities three times without a recordable injury.

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