Creating a safety culture

20 March 2008

Bennett International's Phil Hibbs, speaking at SC&RA Transportation symposium in March 2007 in

Bennett International's Phil Hibbs, speaking at SC&RA Transportation symposium in March 2007 in

For the crane, rigging and transportation industry, the general concept of safety is critical to success. But how does a company take safety from a “concept” to a living, breathing part of its culture?

This is the very question that “Safety Guru” Phil Hibbs has asked and answered time and again over 30 years working in the safety sector of the transportation industry. At the SC&RA Specialized Transportation Symposium in March 2007 in Orlando, FL, Hibbs, vice president of Georgia-based Bennett International Group, discussed the importance of creating a safety culture and offered participants hands-on strategies for taking their safety programs to a new level.

“It's all about the people,” says Hibbs. “It is our professional and moral obligation to the motoring public to put safe drivers out there on the road, and we each play a part.”

Hibbs’ sincerity, dedication and passion for infusing safety initiatives into corporate culture have paid off for Bennett International Group. Bennett has twice received the SC&RA's Transportation Group Safety award and Over 50 Million Miles award. But for Hibbs, creating safety success for Bennett is not enough.

Recognition and investigation

“The responsibility of safety extends well beyond me, or Bennett or any one company or individual,” says Hibbs. “A true safety culture is everyone's responsibility - everyone who has any opportunity to interact with a driver or drivers themselves have a role to play in safety. Th at role starts with recognition and investigation.”

Statistics validate Hibbs’ assertion that unsafe behaviors and conditions will most likely lead to a claim. “The DOT requires that motor carriers audit logs, hours of service and equipment,” says Hibbs. “But we know that there are other behaviors that exist in a driver's profile that indicate his or her proneness to have an accident. Drivers who are repeatedly out of service at the scales, consistently deliver late loads or receive consecutive public reports of unsafe driving behaviors will most likely have a claim sometime in the near future.”

Hibbs continues: “If we teach our folks to recognize and investigate the unsafe behaviors and conditions that typically lead to claims, we can severely minimize the number of accidents that occur on our roads, and ultimately, save lives.”

Hibbs says that safety managers must ask the hard questions:

• Do your dispatchers and supervisors perform unsafe acts like putting fatigued drivers or employees on the road?

• Do they know of a driver or employee who may be distracted by a personal problem?

“If they don't know the answers to these questions, they should, because if a driver's mind is somewhere else, it's not on the road and that's how accidents happen,” says Hibbs. “If you see unsafe acts, but say nothing, then you are sending a loud message that unsafe acts are okay. In this case, silence is not golden. It can in fact be deadly.”

Educate and motivate

According to Hibbs, the next step in creating a safety culture is to educate and motivate. “Companies need to be certain that every employee and driver understands the organizational stance on safety,” he explains. “Introduce your new people to your safety culture beliefs just as you would orient them to your values and your mission statement. Have key personnel candidly discuss the company's views on unsafe acts and behaviors.”

Hibbs also suggests holding regular safety meetings involving drivers and employees such as dispatchers, customer service representatives and operations managers. “Once your entire team has a collective understanding of what safety means to the organization then you can begin to motivate those individuals by rewarding them for performance that is consistent with those safety based values,” he says.

Another suggestion from Hibbs is bonus programs, not only for safe miles driven by drivers, but also for dispatchers who maintain accident-free fieets or project managers who manage claim free projects. “Safety is everybody's game. It's about teaching people what to look for and exciting them about the possibilities of a company that maintains peak safety performance.”

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