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Bristow Achieves Target Zero the Next Phase

January 13, 2015

Since 2007, Bristow's Target Zero Safety program has spawned a culture of safety embraced by its employees throughout the organization. Looking to the future, the company is recommitting to embed Target Zero even more firmly into its operations.

Bristow asked its employees and safety champions across global operations for their perceptions of the value of Target Zero: What they believe works in terms of getting employees to keep safety top of mind, and what this next phase of Target Zero should look like.

In the mid-2000s, Bristow confirmed safety as its primary core value, launched Target Zero as a company-wide framework and set a safety target for Bristow employees worldwide: Zero accidents. Zero harm to people. Zero harm to the environment. The goal was to encourage people to understand and believe in their hearts that an accident-free, injury-free workplace is possible. In that respect, Target Zero has been a real success, as recent safety records indicate. Today Target Zero is considered the main underpinning of the Bristow culture and a strong component of its reputation and brand among its stakeholders. Target Zero also has become widely recognized as an iconic program for the helicopter transport industry, and the company intends to do everything it can to share its learnings across the industry to increase safe operations for all. “Every Bristow employee has much to be proud of, and we will build on this strong foundation to take safety to the next level for our customers, our stakeholders and our industry,” says Vice President and Chief Safety Officer Steve Predmore. “Toward that end, we are entering the next phase of Target Zero – one in which we will strive to build a true learning culture. We have strong safety practices within our business units (BUs); now it’s a matter of sharing information and best practices across the BUs, and by doing so, we’ll become better at ensuring safe operations in every aspect of our business.”

TARGET ZERO HAS MADE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE

There is evidence that Target Zero has made a real difference in how Bristow employees work as well as how the company operates overall. Tim Rolfe, director of aviation safety, says that Target Zero has become a single rallying cry for the company. “This initiative unites the Bristow family under one banner. It has brought everyone together in terms of achieving a single goal, and it gives everyone an understanding of the importance the company places on safety,” says Rolfe. Perhaps the most notable achievement is that in August 2014 Bristow Group celebrated a full year of Target Zero performance in its commercial helicopter operations. During that time the company had no air accidents and no recordable injuries – a remarkable achievement that proves its goal of zero incidents is not only possible, but truly attainable.

Among other achievements, several BUs report remarkable results. According to Mark Becker, director, his team went more than four years without a recordable injury. “This would not have been possible without Target Zero,” says Becker. “The program got us to focus on creating a safety culture in both our work and home environments. We’re dedicated to talking safety among our teams, looking out for one another and not taking things for granted.” When asked what he thinks is the reason for its success, Becker says, “Employees embrace Target Zero because it affects them and it’s tangible: If they practice safe behavior, they will go home safe at night.” Bristow’s West Africa Business Unit (WASBU) celebrated two consecutive years of Target Zero performance without a recordable injury or air accident (see page 27). In October 2014 alone, Bristow operations in Nigeria achieved 1,000 hours of Target Zero performance.

WASBU Director Akin Oni credits Target Zero for his organization’s success. “From its initial introduction, Target Zero has been embraced by the WASBU team and it has become the way we do things. This safety milestone represents a considerable achievement considering the environment and operational challenges we face in Nigeria.” WASBU HSE Coordinator Frank Webb adds, “I recall when Target Zero was in its infancy we were discussing if Target Zero is achievable; now the word is ‘we must maintain Target Zero.’ The commitment to safety in WASBU is second to none from the business unit director to the shop floor.”

TARGET ZERO ATTITUDE AND PERSEVERANCE PAY OFF

Tim Glasspool, head of flight operations for the Europe Business Unit (EBU), says over the ensuing years he has seen a massive change in attitude toward safety from everyone. “People are now much more aware of how safety impacts them and others around them,” says Glasspool. “The safety mindset is not something you switch off when you leave work. I and others incorporate this at home when we are doing projects around the house. If you’re going to climb on your roof to fix something, you do a risk assessment before you do the task.”

Even in Norway, a country that already has a high safety culture, Kjetil Heradstveit, quality and safety manager with EBU, acknowledges that Target Zero has impacted workers’ lives. He says it has taken time for people to adapt to the program, but they are seeing good results from it today. “It’s all about attitude and being able to understand the intention behind the program,” says Heradstveit. “We’re making sure the clients are happy through our punctuality, regularity and, of course, our focus on zero accidents. This is on my agenda every day.”

Greg Gosnell, operations manager, is part of the team at Bristow Academy in Titusville, Florida, that is introducing a new generation of pilots to Target Zero. “The Academy is fortunate in that we have an opportunity to instill the values and awareness of safety early in the development of professional pilots. This translates into a culture of safety that will follow our graduates throughout their flying careers,” says Gosnell. “In addition, employees at the Academy embrace safety as a personal responsibility and an integral part of our daily activities. The idea of safety in the workplace starts early at the Academy and is supported at all levels. We have a strong Safety Management System that allows us to effectively manage change and incorporate industry best practices into our operations. The Target Zero campaign has made and continues to support a positive difference at the Academy.”

Ron Scherpenzeel, commercial manager in the Australia Business Unit (AUSBU), credits the Target Zero program for contributing to new and repeat business. According to Scherpenzeel, “Target Zero has made a positive difference because we are now in line with our clients’ expectations. Safety in aviation is a given – it’s what the clients expect but safety culture is regarded as a major prerequisite on any contract bid. The Target Zero campaign has been very successful, and the result has assisted us in winning new contracts and extending existing ones. Our safety culture was intensely scrutinized by one global integrated oil and gas company prior to our winning the bid. Another example is achieving a high contractor HSE rating with a second global client. We expect this rating will assist us in extending our existing contract.”

Sandie Richardson, insurance manager and assistant company secretary in Redhill, says the Target Zero program has contributed greatly to insurance premiums being reduced for our two most important assets, people and aircraft – a rare feat in business these days. She adds, “Our insurance providers are so impressed with Target Zero that they have actually lowered our premium ratings!”

WHAT WORKS IN GETTING PEOPLE TO “THINK TARGET ZERO”

When Target Zero was launched in 2007, Bristow didn’t want it to become just another program that would light a fire for a short time and then quickly burn out. Bristow leaders truly wanted it to bring about a cultural change in the company, where employees think and act with safety in mind in everything they do. What works in getting all employees and associates to “think safety”?

Having company leaders – from the senior executives to local managers – embrace the program and advocate for it to everyone around the world has been cited by those interviewed as crucial to Target Zero’s adoption. Former CEO Bill Chiles is widely recognized in the aviation industry as a safety advocate, and his commitment to Target Zero certainly motivated others to embrace it. Now President and CEO Jonathan Baliff is carrying the Target Zero banner for Bristow. As Eddie Driskell, Gulf Coast maintenance manager in the North America Business Unit (NABU), says, “Leadership has pushed this and it’s been accepted by the troops in the field. It wasn’t just something we read in emails; we heard it from our boss and our boss’s boss. It made us all realize this is serious business.”

Paul Doxey, area manager for the Caribbean and Latin America, says, “I think the Bristow senior management team, directors and management are all very committed.” He sees value in supporting lower level supervisors as they speak up for safety and is instituting practices in his business unit to encourage this.

Those interviewed believe that employee training and safety workshops have been the most effective way to instill safe practices and develop Bristow’s safety culture, as has repeat emphasis in employee meetings and safety-focused meetings. Keir Williams, AUSBU human resources manager, comments on her BUs practice: “We hold Target Zero meetings every Friday morning and share Target Zero moments before all client meetings.”

Many of those interviewed credit the FOCUS card program for raising awareness about safety issues. FOCUS cards allow any employee to recognize and change behaviors that introduce risk. Through submission of FOCUS cards, employees can alert the organization to unsafe acts for corrective action by management. According to Scherpenzeel, “FOCUS cards have made a positive difference. Engaging our staff on the front line with the ability to raise safety awareness through these cards, which are sent directly to our CEO, has greatly improved our safety culture. Not only by identifying a safety hazard, but also by engaging and complimenting other staff members when they do a task safely.”

Predmore stresses the importance of the FOCUS card program in gathering the vital information that will make Bristow better. “Right now this is our primary means of getting input from our front line where our hazards and risks lie. The cards are important in raising issues so that we can address them and maintain a safe environment,” he says. “This kind of input from all levels of the organization is absolutely essential to Target Zero and our safet y culture. We can’t sustain our current performance without our front line workers sharing information to help us learn and get better.” In addition to helping address individual issues, the FOCUS cards help address potentially bigger issues that may be remedied across the organization.

Glasspool sees value in feedback about the FOCUS card submissions. “It is interesting to see what’s going on in other places, in addition to the specific location where a person works. We need to be open about sharing common issues to ensure that things are being addressed at a company-wide level,” says Glasspool.

Placing Target Zero posters and other branded imagery throughout company work sites was effective for the launch, and they continue to serve as daily reminders. The safety-oriented content on Bristow’s websites and articles in its publications are also effective; those interviewed say the most-read articles feature people who exemplify safety in action.

THE NEXT PHASE OF TARGET ZERO

In 2015, Predmore says, the focus for Target Zero will be gathering information across all BUs and learning to become better. His goal is to continue to build confidence among our customers, stakeholders and employees that we’re doing the right things and looking out for the well-being of all. “We intend to build a true learning culture,” says Predmore.

“We have strong safety practices within the BUs, so now it’s a matter of sharing information among them.” Doxey agrees. “There is a need to share best practices and standardize procedures as much as possible within the constraints of the differing regulations in diverse parts of the world. In that respect, job-specific procedures and materials are very important.” Heradstveit adds: “Regulators require us to have a SMS with a high focus on proactive and predictive measures. We already have this within Bristow. Taking us to the next level of safety will require that we continue risk assessment, reinforce our SMS and be proactive with a predictive safety system.” Above all, those interviewed say the most effective way to reinforce the Target Zero culture is through workshops and training every year or two – and direct employee engagement. Videos receive qualified endorsement if the content is specific and professionally produced.

Gosnell comments that anything we do going forward should go beyond the original campaign branding. “Organizations often support safety with great marketing campaigns but without true tangible results,” he says. “Empower employees through education and responsibility to drive safety awareness. Safety should be initialized at the lowest level and supported throughout all levels within an organization. If employees believe they can make a difference regarding safety, they will continue to support and promote safety across all organizational boundaries.”

Obinna Ojiako, area operations and service delivery manager in Nigeria, agrees that videos on safety hazards help to internalize the message. He says, “One of our client s did a great video on good habits versus bad habits, and how many small bad habits can lead to an accident. It showed everyday activities – little subtle things that people do every day. This kind of video reminds people to look to see where the hazards are.” Ojiako also suggests that Bristow should continue to bring the safety message into employees’ personal lives, like using seat belts when driving and car seats for children.

James Kennedy, director of maintenance in New Iberia, Louisiana, adds that reminders of why we want to be safe are important. “Most mechanics and pilots are ‘can-do’ people,” he says. “Target Zero can rein them in and save them from themselves. If someone wants to get something done, they’ll put pressure on themselves that is not actually there. Some people need their manager to tell them getting it right is most important.”

This is the most important thing to remember, says Predmore. “The way to ensure safe operations is for every employee to understand what it is that he or she does every day that contributes to safety. Target Zero raises awareness of what’s most important to us every day. It’s not a safety management strategy. We like to think of Target Zero as the North Star. It is not the strategy we use to manage safety performance – we don’t want to manage to a score.”

THE NEXT PHASE OF SAFETY FOR THE HELICOPTER OPERATORS

Looking to the future, Rolfe believes that the introduction of increasingly sophisticated automation will be one of the biggest safety challenges the industry will face. “We’re introducing new technologies into our aircraft, and we’re working with manufacturers and regulators to make sure our people are prepared. How do we best train and check our pilots and maintenance crews? What information do we need to improve our learning and enhance the skills that are required? There are a lot of committed people in our industry who are working to address these points,” says Rolfe. Other issues that affect helicopter operators include the potential for aircraft collisions in increasingly busy airspace; flight path management errors, including landing at the wrong offshore lo cation and unstable approaches; as well as further developing the capabilities of our onboard flight data monitoring systems, such as HUMS and FDM. We are also strongly focused on ensuring that auditing practices within our industry are firmly geared toward improving safety performance.

Bristow is helping to address these issues through its involvement in HeliOffshore, founded by Bristow CEO Emeritus Bill Chiles and the CEOs of five helicopter operating companies. In addition to the involvement of senior management, Bristow safety leaders are teaming with their counterparts to develop and share best practices and advanced technologies, and work with regulators for harmonized flight standards, with the support of newly appointed HeliOffshore CEO Gretchen Haskins.

“Bristow has an important role to play from an industry and external standpoint,” says Predmore. “We have tremendous visibility and a sense of responsibility as an industry leader. We have been active in sharing with the industry how we developed and continue to actively nurture our Target Zero safety culture.”

LEADING US TOWARD TARGET ZERO

Led by Steve Predmore, the global safety team now includes Jerry Allen, system safety director; Glenn Pinsent, global manager health, safety and environment; Tim Rolfe, aviation safety director; Chris Bond, emergency response manager; and Mark Prior, aviation safety analysis manager. This highly experienced team will lead Bristow’s efforts to address and mitigate a variety of risks. For example, many of Bristow’s maintenance workers work at heights all the time - climbing ladders, working off stands or working with components hanging from hoists. In addition to wearing personal safety gear, conducting standardized risk assessments of work sites eliminates potential trouble spots.

This article appeared in Bristow World Issue 1, 2015. View the full magazine here.