Crowley Maritime Corp. has found success in safety preparedness by taking a holistic approach.
Crowley Maritime Corp., a domestic and international marine solutions, transportation and logistics company headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., takes a holistic approach when it comes to safety.
“Everything we do as employees at this company we reflect on safety before we act,” says Amelia Smith, Crowley’s senior editor of corporate and marketing communications. When the company put its safety program in place, she says, “It was truly about our employees and making sure they went home every day to their families without injury and that our equipment and the environment are protected as well.”
Smith says Crowley has valued safety for many years and, therefore, feels it has a strong platform.
The crew of Crowley’s tugboat, Guard, recently went beyond the call of duty when when it rescued a man close to the waters of San Francisco Bay. In a press release detailing a rescue, Ranger Shannon Jay of the National Park Service at Golden Gate National Parks says, “In the 20-plus years of my career, I have never seen such a professional rescue by non-professional rescuers.”
Jay, who is assisting the San Francisco Police Department in the investigation of the incident, says the rescue was “a tribute to the training they received and also to the crew for quickly and diligently using their training. They are true heroes.”
Smith and Suz Michel, vice president of safety and learning for Crowley, offer their advice for keeping safety at the forefront of employees’ minds and share some of the steps Crowley has taken to develop a strong safety training program.
Seize Every Opportunity
One way Crowley has managed to keep safety on everyone’s minds is to incorporate it into the company’s daily culture. Anytime a few employees are gathered together is the perfect time to discuss safety, the company has found.
Michel says, “We have a cultural habit of starting every meeting with a safety moment. Once a week on our intranet, we post examples of safety moments, which are tiny sound bites of educational pieces of information that you can share prior to a meeting.”
Safety moments create the opportunity to have a short discussion that helps to keep safety in the front of everyone’s minds. Safety moments also are included in newsletters, company publications and on the company’s website, and employees discuss them informally. Regular information sharing in a variety of different ways “helps shape your mind when you start your job every day,” Smith says.
Smith adds that it is important to reinforce acceptable behaviors when trying to change someone’s mindset.
Good safety practices cannot be discarded at the end of the work day.
Michel says, “We want safety to be practiced at work and at home. A lot of the safety moments are about the household as well.” She adds that Crowley has found people tend to think about safety at home first. If employees are thinking about safety at home, they often will bring that same attention to work.
“It’s very self-motivating for people to care about it at home; so, if you can cross both sides of it, it just becomes a habit and a way of life,” Michel says.
For fire safety week, for example, the company invited Grainger, Lake Forest, Ill., to set up a booth where Crowley employees could purchase safety equipment at a reduced rate in addition to attending fire safety classes. Michel says many of the company’s employees took the opportunity to bring items such as fire extinguishers home to their spouses and children and to share what they had just learned about fire safety.
Employees have responded well to the company’s additional efforts to influence safety training in new and fun ways. Recently, Crowley hosted a safety day on the West Coast and invited employees’ families to participate. “We also want the families to know that we care about safety.”
Michel says, “As far as the culture goes, it is our belief that employees rise to what is modeled by their leadership.” She adds that it also is important that a company provides the resources necessary to make safety a priority. “Whatever it is that they need, whether it is time, personal protective equipment (PPE), a different work environment, those kinds of things take time and money, so employees do rise to the occasion when they are in that kind of environment.”
Michel recommends investing resources in helping leadership understand the difference between influencing behavior and enforcing behavior.
Crowley emphasizes three levels of culture its safety model. The first one is compliance. The next is goals and metrics, and the third is goals and learning.
“All of our programs are designed to put positive pressure on all three of those areas, and we think we influence behavior when we do those three things,” Michel says. “There may be fire safety training on a compliance piece, and then we might have a goal for the operations or metrics to have practical and useful procedures at every local level by the end of the year. Then, we want to influence certain beliefs around that, so we drill and we practice,” he adds.
Employees are then instructed to ask themselves the beliefs the drill is designed to reinforce. As an example, Michel says, “One of our beliefs might be that you exit the area without saving equipment, so life comes first.”
Additionally, Crowley recommends giving employees the tools to help them influence their own safety practices. One way the company does this is through its stop-work safety authority card. The card, the idea for which came from company President and CEO Tom Crowley, gives employees permission to stop work if they feel unsafe. Crews routinely review possible situations in which they may feel the need to use their stop-work authority cards.
Smith says the practice of reviewing and reinforcing basic safety procedures and tools has had a great impact.
A Custom Design
Additionally, safety training programs often are not one size fits all. The more technical the training is—which could include procedures such as lockout/ tagout and working in confined spaces—the more localized it needs to be in order to be effective.
“We work hard to make training specific to a location,” Michel says. “It’s important when learning safety training and starting a safety program that it is tailored to the work environment that someone is working in. You can put some through a generic forklift class, which is great, but there is nothing like getting on site in that forklift to learn the specific hazards of that specific location.”
Thoroughly investing in safety does more than benefit employees, it also is good for business. Michel adds, “Customers need us to be a safe organization, and we get business because we are safe.”
As companies being their safety programs, it is large investment upfront, but as Crowley and many other companies have found, “you simply save more money than you will ever spend.”
The author is assistant editor for Waterways Today and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.