Taking the Highway to Safety
In this Readers’ Platform, your author describes how American Elevator Group is striving to transform the role of safety management.
by Åsa Christina Magnusson
Safety has always been an important emphasis for elevator service companies. Yet, we still see way too many accidents in the field because of poor safety practices. What if there were an alternative way — for an entire group of businesses — to promote safety from within? That’s what Lou DeLoreto set out to do when he joined forces with American Elevator Group (AEG).
AEG may be a new name on the elevator-service company scene, but its management team consists of industry veterans with backgrounds in managing risk and safety in the workplace. For them, coming together under one flag is not only an opportunity to explore best practices, but also a way to introduce a consistent, emphatic commitment to safety as a mindset. This commitment is what triggered a collaboration with safety specialist DeLoreto.
“We knew we wanted to work with a very specific focus on safety,” says AEG President C. Mark Boelhouwer. “Our teams are at the forefront of everything we do, so it’s our duty to keep them safe, as well as the people they serve.”
DeLoreto dedicated 25 years to safety management and has been active in the elevator industry for more than 20 years. After recognizing an industry need, he launched his safety consultancy Elevate Safety Systems. This has become a platform for DeLoreto to use his experience to help companies not only recognize their overall safety gaps, but also implement sustainable injury-prevention programs. One of these programs, the SAFE9 methodology, is an end-to-end safety management system he uses to support service companies of all sizes. It is also NAEC-approved continuing-education course.
SAFE9 is built on the foundations of the National Elevator Industry, Inc’s “9 Safety Absolutes” (ELEVATOR WORLD, May 2017). The SAFE9 framework allows an organization to realize the purpose behind those absolutes and build a set of processes that define the necessary rules, equipment and hands-on training to prevent accidents. But, most importantly, it also allows the organization to regularly monitor progress and improvements in the field over time. DeLoreto says:
“You could say SAFE9 is like a highway to safety. Once you’re on it, you just have to follow the signs, and you’re on the right track to your destination. But you never stop: Safety is a journey, and you can’t afford to take your eyes off the road, even for a moment.”
This past year has been challenging in so many ways, as the subject of safety has expanded to include a whole new set of measures, beyond injuries. All service businesses must remain relentless and take responsibility for how they keep their teams healthy and safe. Boelhouwer says:
“Everything we do hinges on keeping people safe, which is why safety is always at the forefront of our partnerships. So, whenever a new company joins the AEG ranks, we send in DeLoreto. He’s our first ‘boots on the ground’ to help everybody get a clear view of the maturity of their safety programs and to place them on a path to proactive development and improvement.”
Safety incidents aren’t necessarily a result of disregard for health and safety. According to DeLoreto, they often stem from a misinterpretation of what good safety practices look like. “I believe that there is still a great opportunity to drive home the SAFE9 mindset across the elevator industry,” he says. “I encourage companies to shift away from the idea of safety being a ‘one-and-done’ transaction. It’s more than just a handbook and a safety bag.”
DeLoreto emphasizes the importance of companies putting in the work to establish commitment, culture and personal accountability — ultimately embedding safety as a mindset, rather than a checkbox exercise. “Obviously, nobody goes to work looking for an injury,” he points out. “But it is our job to make it easier for team members to make the safe choice. With the right guidance, tools and support — and with regular follow-up in the field — we will continue to see improvements every day.”