Safety is paramount to a productive and profitable pipeline construction project. While this is important to a company’s bottom line, the main reason to work safely is to ensure people have the ability to go home at the end of a job, to spend time with loved ones and doing activities that they enjoy.
The leaders of Michels Corp. know this, and in 2018 they revitalized their safety efforts to really bring the message home. Already known industry-wide for its safety culture and award-winning “Promise Me” video, launched in 2014, the Michels Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) team decided it was time to refresh the program and bring it to the masses at several of Michels’ locations and major projects.
The Mi-Promises campaign is a revitalization of its “Promise Me” video and a main component of the campaign is My VIP & Me, a traveling safety event that provides an opportunity for the Michels leadership team to present its safety message to its employees, as well as their family and friends. The relaxed atmosphere includes games, food and photo ops. It also provided a chance for the younger attendees to see what it exactly is that their family members do for a living and the important role that safety plays in that.
Robert Osborn, senior vice president, Michels Pipeline Construction, notes that the new initiative is the brainchild of Sean Nicholson, Michels vice president of Health, Safety and Environment.
“He understands that an individual’s personal commitment is the single greatest influencer on safety,” Osborn says. “Sean sought to re-vitalize the traditional safety message of the construction industry and develop a program that would be the catalyst for conversations between employees and their loved ones about the importance of safety in all aspects of life.”
Of course, an undertaking like this does not amount to much if the company’s leadership does not buy-in as well. That is clearly not the case at Michels Corp. where Pat Michels, the company’s president and CEO, fully embraced and worked with Nicholson to expand it. It was Pat Michels who actually provided the safety celebration idea, which would be come My VIP & Me, and he attended many of the events in July and August.
On the pipeline side of the business, Michels Corp. hosted a My VIP & Me safety celebration outside of Toledo, Ohio, where the company was stationed to work on Spreads 3 and 4 of the NEXUS Pipeline project in Ohio and Michigan. Also invited to attend were representatives from NEXUS, as well as Michels’ subcontractors and inspection staff.
To get a proper scope of the size of these events, it required a big top tent (red and white of course) to accommodate the approximately 1,200 people who attended the Toledo celebration. Judging by the license plates on trucks in the parking lot workers were there not only from Ohio and Michigan, but Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin to name a few. Of those 1,200 about half were family members of employees.
“One injury can significantly impact many lives and many futures,” Nicholson said. “I think about that every day, and I implore all of our people to do the same. The Mi-Promises campaign is both a celebration of our safety culture and a reminder of why it is of paramount importance.”
Michels rolled out the multi-faceted Mi-Promises campaign during the summer of 2018, when our employment reached a peak of 8,500. The basis of the safety initiative is to remind each employee, whether they work in the field or in an office.
Components of the Michels Mi-Promises campaign included:
- 12 Safety Celebrations for employees and their families at offices and project yards throughout North America.
- Stop Work Promise: Michels asks all employees to promise to stop work that is unsafe or that they or someone else may be unqualified to perform.
- Mi-Promises: Employees made a personal and specific commitment/promise to their loved ones regarding what they would “always” do to ensure they make it home safely each and every day.
“Mi-Promises” video: This video re-enforces the message of the award-winning 2014 “Promise Me” video by featuring Michels employees making candid, unscripted and compelling promises to work safely.
- Michels designed and distributed a commemorative Mi-Promises safety coin to celebrate the Mi-Promises campaign and reinforce the importance of each individual’s Stop Work Promise. All employees are asked to carry the coin with them each day as a reminder to themselves and their teammates of this essential commitment and message.
The Stop Work Promise noted above is Michels Corp.’s version on the industry-standard Stop Work Authority. As a way to personalize the concept, and remove any negative connotation associated with the stoppage or pausing of work for the sake of safety, Michels Corp. exchanged “authority” for “promise.”
“We believe it is more actionable and personal to ask each employee to promise themselves, their loved ones and their co-workers to not do work that they feel is unsafe, to speak up if they identify a potentially unsafe condition or a team member that may be inexperienced or in a hazardous situation,” Nicholson says. “We believe the Stop Work Promise proactively asks all of our people to take in role in safety.”
All told, ore than 4,000 employees and family members attended the My VIP & Me events in July and August, reinforcing the Michels Corp. commitment to jobsite safety. And the HSE group intends to keep the going into 2019 and beyond.
“We intend to continue to promote and develop the concept and program, and hope to utilize the momentum we’ve gained,” Nicholson says. “All great and successful initiatives evolve and we believe it is all of our obligation as Michels employees to carry on the Mi-Promises message, and to support and promote it.”
While My VIP & Me celebrations have ended for this year, Mi-Promises continues on, and that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a safe pipeline project. Osborn notes that Michels has an extensive safety program with many initiatives. Specific to each large pipeline projects, Michels holds weekly and monthly award and recognition programs. they also use the company magazine to recognize employee accomplishments.
“As a contractor in the pipeline industry, we know we all have a responsibility for keeping our employees, others in the industry and the public safe and healthy,” Nicholson says. “When it comes down to safety, and the safe performance of our work, we try to incorporate everybody into the efforts. We believe it is everyone’s responsibility from leadership of the organization on down. Everyone!”
Mike Kezdi is associate editor of North American Oil & Gas Pipelines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.