Zero Harm 24/7: One Company’s Safety Journey

Safety is a core value for all KBR employees and a key element in its Code of Business Conduct. This is not a surprise; most companies will list safety as a priority in official documents. The key to living a safety philosophy is incorporating it into the everyday culture of a company. That’s exactly what KBR has done KBR, starting at the top with its leadership team establishing the vision all the way to field personnel who implement transactional safety management systems every day.
KBR’s safety journey, Zero Harm 24/7, is built on three pillars, which are reflected in the KBR Zero Harm logo: 
  1. Zero Harm: The genuine belief that zero incidents are achievable.
  2. 24/7: The notion that while safety is governed by policies at work, one has a personal choice to embrace the idea of safety while at home or away from work. When safety is a conscience choice, the right decision is to prioritize safety, even when at home. 
  3. Courage to Care: The foundation of the logo; leaders creating an environment where employees have the courage to speak up when seeing practices that do not meet KBR’s safety standards.
The Zero Harm journey has been wildly successful since it was first implemented in 2015, six months after CEO Stuart Bradie assumed his position. In the past four years, the KBR total recordable incident rate has dropped by 54%, while leading indicator activities around safety have increased. To clarify, KBR’s rate was not outside the industry norm when it began its journey, but nevertheless it has now decreased so significantly that the company takes pride as it continues its journey to achieve zero. This means real safety results for employees. Before KBR began the effort, 52 of days in 2014 were without an incident. In 2018, KBR finished 82% of days with zero harm recorded by its employees. From the harsh offshore waters to unforgiving deserts, KBR works in some of the most dangerous environments on earth. Considering the work sites, locations and tasks at hand, this improvement is remarkable. 
Success has not been accidental. It means consciously making the decision to commit, communicate and execute its objective of living and working safely every single day. Ingraining Zero Harm 24/7 into the KBR culture, whether that is in an office or at a jobsite, is integral to the program’s success. This can be attributed to three key factors: visibility, executive buy-in and communication. 
First, the Zero Harm logo can be seen almost everywhere in the KBR organization; one can find it on documents, emails, building walls and personal protective equipment. The CEO speaks about it often, and it is a topic discussed multiple times a day during KBR safety moments. Every meeting, again regardless of whether in an office or on a jobsite, begins with a safety moment – a short discussion on a safety-themed topic. The safety moment can apply to life inside or outside of work around topics like not texting while driving, how to stay comfortable in extreme temperatures or best practices in a flooding situation. The person chosen to deliver the safety moment varies, and the leader can be chosen ahead of time or arbitrarily picked at the meeting, depending on how that department or group operates. This practice keeps safety foremost in employees’ minds. 
Secondly, executive buy-in has been instrumental. Listing safety as a priority in official documents is easy to do and expected but creating a safety culture has to be intentional. For Bradie and the entire executive leadership team, Zero Harm 24/7 has become a genuine value. Reinforcing KBR executives’ commitment to safety, members of the executive leadership team conduct SAFE tours at random KBR locations throughout the calendar year. The executive leadership team member conducting the visit communicates, validates and verifies the existence of Zero Harm 24/7 concepts at each location.
These visits are not to discuss business, schedules or any other topics; they are solely to focus on safety. Taking the time out of an executive’s schedule to confirm, in person, the importance of Zero Harm 24/7 shows a level of personal commitment to all employees. KBR’s CEO was recently named to the prestigious 2019 list of “CEOs Who Get It” by the National Safety Council. But it doesn’t stop with the executive team. For all employees, safety is a defined key performance indicator (KPI), and it is included as part of the employee’s performance evaluations. 
Lastly, communication, both of the initiative and when an incident does occur, has been vital to the success of the program. One of the main pillars of Zero Harm is the Courage to Care. Its purpose is to promote an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up and having conversations around unsafe practices. These can be interventions with a peer, client or coworker if an activity is below the standard of safety, and the employee is empowered to engage in a constructive, coaching conversation. Alternatively, the conversation could highlight a safety best practice, if someone is performing above and beyond expectations that reinforce KBR’s safety culture. These momentary conversations are based on observed behavior and happen in real-time, as employees should address the situation immediately after observing it. If one waits to have the conversation, oftentimes employees forget, or the conversation is less effective. Finally, in the rare times when a safety incident does occur, there is a robust and aggressive incident experience communication process, whereby leaders and employees work together to identify how to correct behaviors that might have led to the incident and how to avoid it in the future. 
Empowering employees to develop a personal relationship with safety means they have ownership of their own safety, as well as those around them. Establishing a safety culture, through Zero Harm 24/7, has been a positive force within KBR. Under this effort, the company has improved lagging indicator rates, increased employee performance and created a more hands-on culture. The initiative has required executive commitment, high visibility, disciplined execution and great communication efforts. But it has been worthwhile, and the results have more than paid off. But its more than just about the tangible results. It’s about keeping people safe. KBR prioritizes safety because it values its people. Employees are the company’s most important asset, and KBR takes seriously the responsibility to get all 36,000 employees home safely to their families every day.