ARCHIVED - Session 2 - The Role of Leadership - Greg Ebel, CEO - Spectra Energy

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Safety Forum - June 5-6, 2013

Greg Ebel, CEO
Spectra Energy

Do you measure safety culture? If you do, high level, how do you do it?

One way which we measure safety culture is by seeking direct, candid feedback from employees. We conduct an annual employee safety and engagement survey. The survey is administered by Towers Watson, which allows us to benchmark our results against other high-performing companies. Participation in the survey is high -more than 76 per cent of employees provided feedback in the last survey, and we rank among the top 25 per cent of high performing companies in North America. Our most recent survey indicates that employees view Spectra Energy as a safe place to work; they understand their personal responsibilities and how their day-to-day actions affect safety; they receive the training they need to perform tasks safely; and they see strong safety commitment from senior leadership.

Are there any specific collaborative initiatives (knowledge sharing, R&D, etc.) across companies or across industries?

Industry collaboration is vital -and at Spectra Energy we are committed to being a leader and agent of positive change around pipeline safety. We are engaged and active in virtually all of the organizations that share our dedication to pipeline and public safety. Spectra Energy is a charter member of PRCI and of the Common Ground Alliance, which promotes best practices in preventing third-party damage to underground utilities in the U.S. We have likewise been a key proponent of the important ‘one-call’ system in Canada, aimed at reducing the risk of third-party excavation damage to pipelines.

To Greg: Process risk-a low probability high consequence event:  How do you keep those rare events top of mind and not fall into complacency?

We look at the big picture, and focus very intently on precursor indicators that if left unchecked could lead to larger, systemic problems. We define what we need to do strategically -and then we lay out protocols and procedures and the tactical steps required. We’ve found that by taking care of these seemingly ‘small’ things has a significant impact in preventing the big, high-consequence issues.

Mr. Ebel & others: what are your thoughts on moving beyond using the traditional lagging metrics primarily for measuring safety performance?

At Spectra Energy, we’re committed to being proactive by focusing on leading vs. lagging indicators. We continually assess and track precursor indicators with the goal of defining and preventing incidents. And, importantly, we communicate leading indicators with our team to keep them fresh, alert and connected to the procedures and protocol that keep us ahead of the curve when it comes to safety.

Does the goal of zero meet the requirements of goal setting science i.e. realistic and achievable?

Here’s where we stand: When it comes human health and lives, zero is the only acceptable goal. It’s not an easy target; but we do believe it is achievable, and we know it supports improvement and advancement. The safety culture work we’re doing is moving us toward a zero tolerance for poor or risky performance, which in turn will lead to zero incidents.

It’s important to note that we’re pursuing a ‘sustainable’ zero. We can get to zero incidents on any given day, but the ultimate goal is to stay at zero. In that sense, there is no ending point to achieving a zero incidents goal. So we continually look at the trends within our organization, how long we’ve been able to sustain zero incidents, what may have taken took us off course, and what we need to do to get back on track and maintain zero incidents into perpetuity.

Communication is another critical component to safety and our quest of zero incidents. At Spectra Energy, we continually communicate our goal and progress with our stakeholders. That’s part of our commitment to be transparent in our reporting... to coalesce around a goal that affects our publics… and to hold ourselves accountable.

All of you are from finance backgrounds - that doesn't sound like a background for an operations, safety focus. How did you get to safety first?

While I am ultimately accountable for safety performance across our enterprise, I rely upon the professional expertise of my team -and on the values and culture that drive our concerted safety focus. No CEO acts alone in any area, from safety to operations to HR or IT. We set the tone at the top, and we set behavioral expectation. We make sure we have the right bandwidth in all these areas, that our organizational structure is sound, and that we foster a working environment in which knowledge and ideas are shared.

While zero is well intentioned is it eroding trust and belief at the worker level?  Is it driving wrong types of behaviors in the company?

I don’t see an erosion of trust within our company; in fact, our experience has been quite the contrary. When front-line employees see and believe that leadership is dedicated to keeping them safe and well, trust grows. At Spectra Energy, we operate within a learning culture -consistently driving safe behaviors, setting expectations, engaging our team and viewing mistakes and mishaps as opportunities for improvement rather than retribution.

How do you know you have a positive safety culture?

Personal accountability is a key theme at our company, and teammates are held accountable for their own safe work practices -and for vigilance across the board. Every employee is empowered -expected -to speak up if they see a potentially unsafe behavior. And believe me, they do! That’s what success looks like to me: when an employee calls us out, halts work and compels us to rethink and redress what could be risky behavior.

Another key factor for success is continuous organizational learning -and the sharing of learnings from both adverse and positive events. Companies need to be sure that the right information is gathered and used to understand and manage risk, that incidents are diligently investigated for root cause, that corrective actions are defined and tracked to completion, that external benchmarking is pursued and applied, and that they engage openly with stakeholders.

How do you manage the indicators that may conflict with safety performance such as cost reduction?

Good safety is good business. And I am convinced that we do ourselves a disservice when we view safety as a stand-alone value or isolated goal. It is connected to absolutely every facet of our work and success. The mindset that leads to high safety performance also drives high performance on every other front.

Think about it: the actions that prevent accidents - rigorous planning, adherence to process, not cutting steps, attention to detail, allowing adequate time and resources to do the job right -they contribute to quality across the board. So we need to expand our thinking beyond what’s the safe way to do a job -and think more holistically in terms of the right way to do a job. And if we take that broad approach, the connections become apparent and essential.

Where does PAS-55 or ISO-55000 fit into the CEO's perspective of the future - management systems, including safety and ability to audit?

There are many different industry standards for management systems and asset management, such as PAS-55 and CSA Z662. The various standards share many common elements and processes which can provide structure and clarity to improve safety management. As we develop and enhance internal programs, we look at and consider many industry standards to see where we can learn and incorporate these ideas into our programs.

Do you believe the integration of corporate communications into safety practices would benefit a company (internal/external communication)?

Absolutely - building a strong, sustainable safety culture requires continuous discussion, both internally and externally. At Spectra Energy, we dedicate a great deal of time and effort to frank, forthright conversations around safety: what we’re doing right, where we need to improve, learnings from within and outside our sector. We begin every single meeting within the company with a safety message, I address safety and operational performance in every employee venue, and when we experience an incident on our system we immediately communicate about it; and, as appropriate, stand down.

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