Twenty-five years ago, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, AK, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil – an environmental catastrophe that cost ExxonMobil $507 million in punitive damages (not to mention the impact to the company’s reputation).
In the wake of this disaster, the giant conglomerate implemented a fundamental shift in its corporate culture to stress safety and preparedness throughout the organization – a focus that businesses from mom-and-pop retail stores to construction companies can use to manage risk. Rather than simply publishing policy and procedural guidelines, ExxonMobil management stressed the need for workers to execute every task, even the most basic, with care and consideration for unintended consequences. For example:
- Employees were told to back their cars into parking spaces so they could see clearly if they needed to pull away during a potential emergency.
- Daily acts that might have hazardous consequences (such as not turning off a coffee burner or wiping up after a spill) could lead to written reprimands.
- Departments organized safety meetings and competitions, with prizes for acts as minor as making sure that file drawers were closed. Managers and workers used these sessions to share stories of near misses or catastrophes averted. This approach was so pervasive that it spread to sharing safety tips for employees’ personal lives.
The result: dramatic reductions in insurance claims (and premiums) litigation, on-the-job accidents, and lost worker hours – not to mention human misery.
Your business can learn from ExxonMobil’s example by creating and promulgating your own culture of preparedness.
As always, our agency stands ready to help you implement a comprehensive risk management program.