An excerpt from the No Accident podcast series
Nowadays you hear a lot about culture. There’s local culture. Social culture. Sub-culture. Counterculture. And of course, company culture. And there are a lot of companies that talk about their safety culture. But is there such a thing? And what does it look like?
For Robert Schindler, Vice President of Safety at Arch-Con Construction in Houston, Texas, defining your company as having a safety culture is saying it’s something different from who you are as a company. “That’s one of the things that really frustrates me when it comes to safety and construction,” Schindler confessed when talking about construction companies that tout their safety culture. “It’s safety. It’s not something separate. It’s not a separate thought but built into our processes. It’s built into how we conduct business day to day,” Schindler says on this episode of No Accident.
So how do you define safety?
“I look at safety as being as efficient as possible, so I focus more on how can we be more efficient? When you’re efficient, the by-product of that is safety, quality and production all rolled into one.”
How is a safety culture tied to efficiency?
“At the end of the day, we want to be able to produce a product at a certain dollar point in a certain timeframe. That’s how as a company, we make money.” Robert Schindler explains that when the safety function puts in a lot of rules and systems that ultimately slow things down, the company is going to miss their targets. “You’re not being efficient, which then doesn’t allow you to make schedule, which doesn’t allow you to finish a project on time. It costs you money in the long run.” Schindler describes how his goal is to ensure that the workers in the field have all the tools and resources they need to execute their work safely before they even start. That way, when they go to execute the plan, they’re being more efficient and more productive.
How do you create the balance between what operations needs to do a job and what is required to do that job safely and efficiently?
Safety and operational leadership “go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. You’ve never had a successful job that had injuries.” As Robert Schindler explains, “If you put the time and effort in on the front side, it pays off in dividends on the back.”
Arch-Con has been nationally recognized for its award-winning safety program. Was achieving that level of recognition a goal the company set out to achieve?
So, is there really such a thing as a safety culture?
“If you make safety part of who you are and don’t try to keep it separated, you’ll get more out of it.”
It’s said that culture is something that you do, while identity is something that you are. At Arch-Con, safety culture isn’t viewed as something separate and distinct. It’s built into their work processes and it’s just how they conduct business each and every day. Safety isn’t part of their culture. It’s just who they are.