A dredge is a dangerous work environment. It is a floating platform filled with heavy moving equipment operated by two or three crews per day. Traditional thinking is that injuries are inevitable. Traditional safety programs are aimed at reducing injuries and accidents and despite an unprecedented focus on safety in recent years there continues to be a disturbing number of injuries and deaths on dredging projects.
Two dredging contractors have embraced a program that is aimed not at reducing but eliminating accidents and injuries. Other companies are looking at their success and are considering the benefits of the program.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company and Manson Construction Company are working with JMJ Associates a strategic management consulting company specializing in safety high performance projects and organizational transformation. JMJ’s client base includes companies in the petrochemical construction utility service and manufacturing sectors.
JMJ’s goal is to eliminate accidents on job sites. Their trademarked Incident and Injury Free (IIF) program brings about a change in culture throughout the company re-educating every employee to develop the attitude that each person must guard both his own and his associates’ safety as a top priority.
The company began in 1987 in San Francisco as a business development counselor helping companies like auto body shops and carpet companies grow beyond their immediate business goals. Along the way the three founders Jay Greenspan Mike Goddu and Joseph Friedman developed a relationship with the construction giant Bechtel who was intrigued by their procedures and invited them to consult on a petro-chemical plant Bechtel was building in the Houston area.
“They made a difference; they had an impact” said Bob Allbright JMJ’s Regional Marketing and Sales Manager for the Americas.
That job brought them in contact with other oil companies and they were eventually consulting with Mobil Exxon Texaco and Chevron on business development. Contact was by word of mouth and reputation with one project leading to another as contractors involved asked JMJ to consult with their own companies.
When Monsanto Chemical Company was having some safety issues in its plants they asked JMJ to submit a safety proposal in competition with several other companies. The JMJ consultants reasoned that the only logical safety goal was to eliminate injuries altogether and the proposal they came up with was designed to achieve that goal. Monsanto chose their program.
“It made a huge difference in Monsanto operations” said Allbright. Because of this success JMJ established their safety program in 1992 and 1993 and several people from Monsanto joined them. This was the beginning of IIF and they signed on several clients immediately.
The method involves addressing all the reasons the goal does not seem possible. On a dredging project some of these reasons are that dredging is dangerous work union laborers are not company employees and might not have a commitment to the company and many employees are short term.
“These are strategic issues and the organization has to take them on. This can create a huge breakthrough in safety performance” said Allbright.
The program thrives on powerful leadership – a Safety Leadership Team – whose commitment cascades down through every facet of the company. Once an employee embraces the concept he or she becomes a de facto safety leader regardless of position in the company.
“Our work is learning as opposed to training. At our workshops people learn from the video “Remember Charlie.” You learn that the horrible incident has a profound effect on everybody. You have a responsibility to your family to work safely. You may think you can take a shortcut but an accident affects all the people who care for you. You have a fundamental responsibility to your family to keep yourself safe” Allbright explained.
Eventually workers will source their actions around safety decisions and the desire to fit into the safety culture. The macho attitude says “You want to get yourself killed? Go ahead it’s not my responsibility.” In the IIF culture if a person is about to take a chance and risk injury everyone around will see themselves as responsible and stop him.
Allbright made the analogy of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) whose efforts changed the thinking about drunk driving throughout society in the U.S. and abroad. “If you’re going out drinking with a group you make sure one person is…” he prompted.
“…the designated driver” his companion said without hesitation.
“If somebody is drunk and planning to drive you…”
“… take away their keys.”
MADD shifted a mindset of an entire culture to believe that “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Applying this concept to a construction project Allbright explained that in a compliance atmosphere workers tend to be vigilant only when the safety inspectors are present. The goal is to avoid being written up or reprimanded.
The goal of the IIF program is to create a culture where a worker about to engage in unsafe behavior will be urged by his companions: “get your gloves or hard hat or ear plugs.” All workers are concerned with keeping everyone safe rather than mere compliance with regulations.
The methodology consists of three phases: the assessment phase the commitment phase and the sustaining phase.
In the assessment phase JMJ consultants use proprietary approaches and tools to discover how the organization relates.
“The enemy of ‘great’ is ‘good’” said Allbright. If a company believes they are good at safety that attitude can get in the way. They have to believe they can be great at safety.
“We ask ‘are you ready for world class safety?’” he said.
In the commitment phase the client is asked to understand what the commitment will entail and if they are ready to do everything necessary to achieve world class safety. Not everyone in the company has to agree said Allbright. Only enough to get the program started and usually everyone else will then make the commitment.
In the sustaining phase JMJ consultants are available to offer advice as the company sets up safety procedures such as pre-job safety meetings and pre-task meetings to discuss safe methodology for activities such as changing a cutter or moving an anchor. This is the most time-consuming part of the program and can take as long as 16 to 18 months until the company is able to sustain the IIF culture without input from the consultants.
There are usually two consultants assigned to a company who will spend about 100 hours on site during the 18-month process and be available by phone at other times. They visit the company as activities unfurl and help the managers and employees develop relationships where they treat each other with dignity and respect. Dignified relationships are the underpinning of safety said Allbright.
In 1992 when it evolved that most of their contracts were with the petroleum industry JMJ moved to Austin Texas from San Francisco to be near the Gulf Coast oil industry. In the past six years the company expanded from 45 to 120 half of whom are consultants and half support staff.
The consultants come from a number of disciplines including information psychology and education and many moved to JMJ from companies who had been clients. The three founders are still active in the company which is privately held and employee owned.
Testimonials on the company web site report three OSHA recordables in 13 million hours of operation by Aromax a Saudi Chevron subcontractor; 25 months (700000 hours) injury-free by Chevron Richmond; one injury over six months by a ChevronTexaco subcontractor whose previous rate had been one injury per week in their fabrication yard; and a 55 percent reduction in serious injuries by Seeboard UK a British electric utility.
Closer to home in the dredging industry Great Lakes Dredge & Dock reduced their accident rate by 30 percent in 2006 their first year in the IIF program.
Laura Pankonien JMJ Global Development and Marketing Leader can provide more information about the company at 512-485-5022.