Ask risk manager William Young about safety, and the conversation quickly turns to D&E Communications CEO James Morozzi. “We've always had a good safety program,” says Young, “but since Mr. Morozzi's arrival in 2005, we've taken it to the next level.”
As an integrated communications provider, the Ephrata, Pa.-based company supplies telephone and Internet/voice/data network system integration services within central Pennsylvania. Numerous hazards loom - from above (high-voltage cables) and below (excavation, trenching, confined spaces) - and risk often is amplified by inclement weather and time constraints.
D&E's climb to the “next level” is evidenced by a lost-time injury rate that dropped from 1.0 to 0.3 over 5 years. But Young recalls that a genuine transformation was apparent during the earliest days of Morozzi's tenure, when he attended his first monthly Health and Safety Committee meeting - something he's continued to do ever since. “Committee members were quick to notice his ‘atypical CEO behavior.’ Mr. Morozzi doesn't sit in a corner, working on his laptop. He's an active participant in every way.”
Morozzi was a young engineer in the electric utility industry when another CEO opened his eyes by making safety paramount. Today, Morozzi “pays it forward” at D&E, noting that dismissing or expecting accidents is a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Employees will be neither happy nor motivated unless they see a strong commitment to their well-being.” To that end, D&E focuses on employee involvement, increased awareness, constant communication and continuing education, and has adopted six principles of safety:
- Safety is a core value.
- Injuries are preventable.
- Working safely is a condition of employment.
- Everyone shares in the responsibility for the safety of others.
- Injury-prevention is good business.
- Off-the-job safety is promoted.
“If workers are ‘beat up’ for small mistakes, near-misses won't be reported, safety tracking won't be accurate and major accidents will be more likely,” Morozzi stresses. For this reason, he strives to create a culture that facilitates, reinforces and rewards open communication.
Not surprisingly, D&E draws on its telecommunications expertise to proactively identify hazards, seek employee input and get the message out with an internal “Safety@D&E” Web site; quarterly Web casts for employees; and an online close-call reporting program.
And the message is getting through. Since 2002, more than 800 employees have been recognized “on the spot” for working safely and for reporting unsafe conditions/acts. The “Safety Pays” golden dollar is only a token, says Morozzi. “It's the recognition that counts.”
D&E began footing the bill for PPE long before OSHA's 2008 mandate. The company also provides items such as safety glasses, sweat bands and rain gear, which are not covered by the OSHA standard. The company even supplies batteries for employee's home smoke alarms. “Our exemplary safety record is an investment in our employees, and gives us an edge in a highly competitive market,” Young explains.
D&E's workers' compensation experience modification rate has decreased 14 percent over the past 3 years, and is one of Pennsylvania's lowest for the industry. A 63 percent reduction in injury frequency has produced a 76 percent drop in the number of workers' compensation claims since 2003. As a result, D&E's safety performance has been rewarded with a $570,000 reduction in risk insurance premiums since 2002.
CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION
The sea change in the telecommunications industry since D&E was founded in 1911 poses a unique and evolving set of risks. But, with challenge comes opportunity, and 2008 has turned out to be a year for celebration.
In April, D&E celebrated the safety achievements of its fleet drivers, several of whom boast 35 years of accident-free driving. The company also takes great pride in being one of the first two communications companies to be recognized as among the America's Safest Companies, their 10th safety award since 2001.
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