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Legally, for example, a general contractor can’t place all the burden of safety
                                                     responsibility onto subcontractors. In other words, safety is everybody’s
                                                     responsibility. And just like company culture as a whole, an ethos of safety
                                                     starts at the top.

                                                     As VP of Safety & Team Development for the Buesing Corporation, Brian
                                                     Owens oversees all the safety programs for the company and speaks
                                                     publicly on safety topics. He’s even written a book called Inversion and the
                                                     Perspective-Based Safety Culture.

                                                     His focus on safety started in the military, and reached new heights when he
                                                     entered the mining industry after leaving active duty. While undergoing the
                                                     MSHA training required for mining, the president of operations shared that
                                                     only two days earlier, an employee had been killed on the job.

        “It never occurred to me that I could still get hurt or even killed at work, just doing a regular job. I thought all that was in my rearview
        mirror. Now that I was home [from Baghdad], nobody was shooting at me anymore,” Brian said. “Watching this man break down openly
        and sob in front of all of us that hit me so hard that it actually launched my career into safety. That was the turning point for me.”
        Today, he is always in the pursuit of “zero incidents” when it comes to safety. Accidents will always happen, of course. But when a
        company prioritizes safety at every level, it can make a big difference.
        Many small survey companies tend to fly by the seat of their pants in the quest to pay bills. Many of them are working as quickly as they
        can, and don’t even have safety policies in place.
        Brian says that type of work environment puts you at risk.

        “We’re not even talking safety. We’re talking safety being the by-product of investing in your company culture, and you don’t even
        need a safety person to do that. You need leadership, you need the buy-in from management and ownership and the core group of the
        company to set the tone. The trickle-down effect is improved safety,” said Brian.

        To reiterate: you do not need a safety department or a safety manager to prioritize safety. Yes, that person can help pave the way. But
        as mentioned previously, culture starts higher up than any one individual.
        “As far as companies that simply don’t have the budget or the manpower to put a pedigreed safety professional in those roles, that’s
        not even what we’re talking about. The leaders in your organization are torchbearers of culture,” Brian said. “It can become safety-
        related, but we’re way upstream from safety.”
        Safety cannot be reactive
        If you only make one mindset change when it comes to safety, Brian said it should be this: take a proactive approach, rather than a
        reactive one.
        Many companies operate by looking around for things that are already wrong or hazardous and then fixing them.
        But when you take that route, sometimes you’re already too late.
        Brian offered this analogy of seeking out the root causes of unsafe situations:

        “Let’s use the analogy of a farmer walking through an orchard and looking for trees that are not putting off fruit. What most companies
        do is they walk through and look at things that are not going well, the things that are dangerous, and point at it and say ‘that’s going to
        cause an incident,’ or ‘that’s why that incident got caused.’ It is very reactive. My question is, what is happening to cause that tree to put
        off bad fruit? To me, you need to get into the root. What is it that is not allowing that tree to be optimal in its production?”
        This is where Brian’s concept of the inverted safety pyramid was born.
        The concept was first inspired during a safety meeting at the mining company he worked at. The safety manager at the time was using
        a pyramid example during a meeting, with examples of fatal and catastrophic recent safety issues at the top. His plan was to use those
        incidents as scare tactics to get employees to be safer.
        “I couldn’t help but feel that was way too late in the game, that we were missing valuable opportunities earlier in the process to be more
        proactive. And that is what created the idea behind inversion,” said Brian.
        The inverted safety pyramid literally puts the old pyramid on its head in the quest to get ever-closer to zero safety incidents.
        Brian doesn’t act like a safety policeman and use scare tactics. Instead, he works as a companion and peer alongside employees, helping
        them to recognize how to make smart choices.
        “I just look for opportunities for improvement. And I come in underhandedly. Hey, what do you think about this? And then we have an
        educated conversation about it,” Brian said.
        He also solicits employees’ advice. As part of Buesing’s continuous improvement team, he gathers employees from every corner of the
        company to brainstorm ways to improve the company—both in terms of safety and other matters.
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                                                                                        The Nevada Traverse Vol.49, No.1, 2022 7
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