Safety Is on the Front Line at Wood Group Power Plant Services

Nov. 1, 2009
In a high hazard work environment, great safety performance means continued business success.

The 416 employees of Wood Group Power Plant Services provide two primary services to the energy industry: long-term, third-party operations and maintenance services to power generation facilities and short-term power plant maintenance activities, including major and minor maintenance projects.

“Power generation facilities pose almost every type of safety risk imaginable,” says Vincent Skreba, ASP, QHSE director of health and safety for Wood Group. “Hearing protection, chemical management, working at heights, electrical safety, material handling, confined spaces, hot work, heat and cold stress and machine safety are only a few examples of the many hazards employees encounter on a daily basis.”

Despite the fact that this is a high hazard industry, the company's injury rate is 82 percent below the industry's average. The company, headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., works with 27 contracted power plant facilities, which creates its own set of challenges, says Skreba.

“We may enter into a contract to operate a facility that is brand new or an existing facility that was previously staffed and operated. Under the second scenario, our general practice is to hire the existing staff and make them our employees,” he says. “We are constantly introducing new employees — most of whom have been doing safety a certain way for a long period of time — to the ‘Wood Group Way.’ It is challenging for us to foster a company-wide safety culture under this scenario.”

The company solicits input from and hosts EHS indoctrination meetings with all new employees; maintains a 24/7 open door policy for safety concerns; allows facility level personnel to participate in the committee for annual procedure reviews; shares safety performance information with all personnel; encourages facility-to-facility communication; and maintains a constant safety campaign designed to increase safety marketing and communication.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Wood Group's safety process is a program called Frontline Focus. Under this initiative, all senior management personnel spend 16 hours at the plant level annually working with plant personnel on health, safety and environmental commitments. Such activities might include participating in EHS audits, attending monthly safety meetings, participating in EHS procedures such as lockout/tagout and confined space permitting or participating in emergency preparedness drills.


The level of management commitment at Wood Group is excellent, says Skreba, but he adds, “We recognize that our safety programs are ineffective without the participation of all employees.”

That makes the company's “Safety Observation and Stop Work” program all the more important. The program encourages employees to actively make safety observations of both positive and negative safety behaviors, and gives them the authority to stop work for EHS concerns without fear of retribution.

All employees, including corporate management personnel, annually enter into personal safety performance contracts and commit to improving safety awareness via three criteria falling outside of the workplace. For example, employees have committed to ensuring children wear bicycle helmets, using eye protection when working on home projects, wearing hearing protection when working with power equipment, quitting smoking and losing weight.

When asked if he's received pushback from employees about these contracts, Skreba laughs and says, “One person said, ‘You're forcing me to make a new years resolution and how many people stick to their new years resolutions?’ I told him, ‘I've been trying to lose the same 10 pounds for the past 5 years, but it doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying.’”

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