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UpWind Solutions SafetyWhat safety means to UpWind

Are we good, or are we lucky? This was the question that our former CEO Marty Crotty, and my former boss, was fond of asking our team when talking about our safety program.  Marty would also look for a show of hands for how many people had changed a light bulb while standing on a chair instead of a ladder or step, or crossed a road even though there wasn’t a green signal. These questions always struck me as compelling. They forced our team to consider the reality of their situation, and to be honest about their actions, their decisions, they drove awareness.

On Monday, September 16th, I hit the road to seek out the answer to “are we good, or are we lucky?” Over a period of two weeks, I visited nine of our long term O&M projects in seven states, covering 7,700 miles, conducting nine town hall meetings and spending time with over 100 of our technicians.

My goal was to discuss safety, talk about our risks, discuss personal safety skills and talk about our goal of Zero Harm™. I truly believe we can achieve zero recordable injuries if we do the right things, have the right culture, and continue taking a programmatic approach to safety.

How we are doing?

We can always improve, always do better. That’s a fundamental part of ISO and part of our culture, however, it’s also easy to become complacent when you have good results. Half way through the year our safety metrics were amazing, our weekly reviews were going great, and I was very comfortable with our program.. Then, out of the blue, we had a number of safety related issues that caused me to pause.

At first, I thought we were unlucky, that our first aids and injuries were odd, could not have been foreseen, that they weren’t a reflection on our program, our leadership and our team. Then I thought again …I wanted to dig deeper, to look at the data, to see if there were signs of problems waiting to happen.

I have always been taught to look at data and look for the real insights; “analyze don’t rationalize” a prior manager used to tell me. After looking at six years of data, breaking it down in a number of different ways, I had several observations:

  1. A traditional safety program and a pro-active observational safety program are not enough. The majority of our injuries were caused by individual decisions and actions. Therefore personal safety skills needed to be addressed in a programmatic way.

  2. We had several areas of heightened risk that were interesting. Over a period of 6 years, the vast majority of our injuries occurred on specific days of the week and even at certain times of the day. Furthermore, it was evident that particular scopes of work had a higher number of incidents (near misses, first aids and so on).

After the two week tour, I was impressed by our sites and our teams. That's not to say that there aren't issues to be addressed, there are. And I'm not saying we're perfect, we're not. What impressed me was the quality of our technicians and our leaders. The strong skill set and the obvious pride our people take in their work. The intellect and ability to deliver on our brand promise "A Higher Standard of Service™"

We talked about safety, quality, training, personal goal setting, career progression, bonus structure, overtime, recruiting, uniforms, business strategy and goals. What I am hearing is that while we are good, we're not great ...yet!

What happens now?

I firmly believe in having three elements to our safety program, namely (1) a traditional safety program, (2) an observational safety program, and (3) personal safety skills. We have always had a traditional written program that gets updated on a continuous basis and for the past two years we have been evolving our observational program. The personal safety skill training is a gap and something we need to address.

This quarter, we started rolling out a great program called “SafeStart®” to address personal safety skills and we believe it will drive a significant reduction in human factor related incidents. It also forms part of an update in our training program. Over the past few months we have completed a major overhaul of our technician and leadership development training. Starting in the 1st quarter of 2014, we will launch our new training program called CLIMB™. The program provides an even broader training syllabus with clear progression paths and much deeper leadership development training. Leaders will get additional training on safety, quality, management skills and commercial excellence.  I am really excited about it and can’t wait to get our technicians involved in the program.

Regarding observational safety, we have more work to do to really get the benefit this approach should deliver. While we were an early adopter of observational  safety, looking at leading indicators and trying to get ahead of potential issues, the year over year improvements we expect are not coming yet.

We must continue to ensure our teams are aware of all risk factors, risk periods, and any trends in observations or hazards or near misses. Driving this through weekly safety updates and statistics to our area managers, site managers, and EHS coordinators, emphasizing the risks and actions that need to be taken to ensure Zero Harm™.

I met a lot of great people during the road trip, received some great ideas and challenges from the team, and got some thoughtful follow up from several people.

For those of our team who I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with, thank you for your candor. As I told our team in person, it’s my job to enable their success, and I fully intend to deliver on that commitment.

As always…stay focused…stay safe…deliver A Higher Standard of Service™.



Peter Wells

Peter Wells

Peter Wells is a senior executive business leader with 27 years of global experience in renewable energy, energy technology, power projects, construction engineering and consulting. He was named Chief Executive Officer in September 2011, after serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. His demonstrated leadership, vision, and strategic thinking have been instrumental in fulfilling the overall corporate strategy of consistently providing customers a full-service offering at a lower cost per kilowatt hour.

Peter is focused on the continued growth and development of UpWind as the leading wind energy independent service provider (ISP) on utility scale wind power projects in North America. His commitment has been demonstrated through the development of an ISP that both sets the industry standard for O&M Excellence© but also continues to innovate how O&M providers can produce better results for wind farm owners.

Topics: safety, upwind solutions, o&m, Peter Wells