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Closing the Gap Between Safety as a Value and Safety Culture

by Chris Kilbourne

There is a gap between the value of worker safety and the culture of safety in many organizations. Closing the gap is a major concern for safety professionals and executive managers.

Jeff Ruebesam, VP of Global Health, Safety and Environmental at Fluor Corporation, spoke about his company’s use of leading indicators to measure employee engagement and continuous improvement, and as a way to evaluate manager’s performance toward safety goals. His company employs the indicators at both the site level and at the executive/corporate level.

At the site level, he tracks and analyzes trends of the following indicators of safety:

  • Training
  • Job safety analysis of the activities of work crews
  • Hazard recognition and elimination (find and fix)
  • Weekly and daily inspections
  • Near-miss reporting


Near-miss reporting was difficult to measure because workers feared retribution if they reported a potential safety problem. It got easier after managers gained the trust of workers by demonstrating there would be no consequences of such reporting, made it easy and simple to report, and managers made it a priority

At the executive/corporate level, indicators that are measured include:

  • Program development and coordination
  • Management action—monitoring site operations and consistently administering a system of rewards and consequences of actions
  • Completion of employee training, communications with employees, and culture initiatives
  • Execution of activities in the field
  • Executive compensation formulas that include metrics for safety performance

When asked about the top three actions he thinks any CEO should take to improve safety, Ruebesam replied:

  • Physically show up on the shop floor to talk to workers—word spreads quickly through the company that the leader is engaging with workers.
  • Establish consistent measurements of performance and hold people accountable for them.
  • Express pride in the safe performance of their workers to the general public and/or the rest of their industry.