Safety is a strategic choice with profound bottom-line results

An investment in safety and health is an investment in your bottom line.

If safety is considered the cornerstone of an excellent business operation, then health is the mortar that holds that cornerstone in place. Ignoring the health aspect jeopardises the practice of safety. This in turn jeopardises an organisation’s future profitability.

Building excellence within a company is not about having more rules and regulations; it’s about building a culture that balances them.

To use the metaphor where the ‘rubber hits the road,’ business leaders need to refocus their attention so that their organisational value and purpose can be fully realised.
Despite their different backgrounds, American Brian Fielkow of Jetco USA and Kiwi John Barley of RiteTrack / Barley Insurances New Zealand have teamed up after connecting on the social media platform, LinkedIn.

Both share a common belief about culture change and are advocates tackling workplaces in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere with this message.

During his lifetime Brian Fielkow has witnessed a number of incidents which have caused loss of life, business reputation and financial stability. He says business leaders need to focus on what can be done to prevent accidents from occurring and analyse the financial impact from those losses. Barley agrees and adds that by understanding the patterns that occur in our lives and businesses, we can prevent the loss from occurring in the first place.

Brian Fielkow has looked at plane crashes, train derailments, truck crashes, and automobile recalls in the past two years which were clearly due to malfunctioning communication in organisations which tragically resulted in the loss of many lives.

Sadly it’s only when there are large numbers of deaths due to a tragedy that the media start to unravel the vulnerable factors in a business that cause such events to occur.
Both men question whether these losses were totally avoidable and look for a solution to avoid it happening again. By understanding the background of any incident, the solutions become more readily apparent.

Taking a leaf out of Brian Fielkow’s company, Jetco Delivery, caring about the culture within the business has led to higher productivity, higher profitability, reduced accidents and errors, not to mention a much happier workforce.

It’s a choice to make change
The secret to Jetco’s success? Creating a business environment that is both safe and profitable based on personal choice rather than depending upon regulations handed down by government. Brian Fielkow believes that it is about managing the behaviour and realising that safety is not a cost of compliance, but rather it is a strategic choice with profound bottom line results.

John Barley shares the same view. He says understanding the background factors, people’s choices and behaviour patterns is critical when creating a culture of safety.
“Before every incident there are usually signs that all is not well. There may be ripples just below the surface, but they are still noticeable and measurable. It is just a matter of taking notice, recording and acting on them. Don’t just ignore these signs” he warns.

He says injuries and or fatalities do not just happen. They’re likely to be the result of a series of unsafe behaviours that went on without being remedied.

Brian Fielkow recalls an incident in the US involving an actor driving a vehicle where a truck plowed into it killing his passenger and severely injuring him. Interestingly the truck driver was in compliance with the regulations (i.e., within his legal driving hours) but the underlying background factor was that the driver of the truck had just completed an all-nighter on his own time the night before getting in his truck.

Strangely there is no regulation preventing a driver from getting into his truck while being personally exhausted. This highlights the necessity to promote individual accountability ― doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. This is a behavioural factor. Taking time to understand the patterns that cause crisis is key. In a risk management capacity John Fielkow assists businesses to identify patterns and use strategies to nip any negative trends in the bud. More often the strategy is culture based and is resolved with staff communication and buy-in. John Barley connected with Brian Fielkow on LinkedIn when he identified that Brian Fielkow’s strategies within Jetco was a perfect example of the outcomes that can be achieved.

Basically Brian Fielkow has successfully softened the hard cold edges of business by bringing in the human element to produce creative solutions and at the same time procure outstanding business results. By comparison, John Barley comes from the world of insurance, quite a different background to Fielkow where he has witnessed numerous businesses suffering financial loss due to pressures of time and the necessity for reaching KPIs and quarterly profit targets.

Health and safety is a cultural factor in any business
John Barley has dedicated three years of personal research to the subject of organisational health noting that many of the losses and consequential damage incurred could easily have been prevented by taking a softer approach with due care and attention to the patterns that occur before each event and are not recorded.

Ignoring safety will ultimately lead to accidents, litigation, increased insurance costs, product failures, damaged reputations and ultimately business failure. Barley believes having insurance is purely a band aid for the symptom. It provides financial security but does nothing to identify or understand patterns that could prevent a loss.

We live in an ever changing fast-paced environment. There is a link with the employee’s sense of wellbeing knowing that the place in which they work is safe, they will return home at the end of the working day. The sense of wellbeing is an important ingredient into the health of the employee because it reduces the level of stress and reduces the probability of such conditions as heart attacks and cancer.

As a CEO himself Fielkow recognises the responsibility of the directors of a business to ensure and engender responsibility to care and nurture wellbeing of his employees. It is a role that cannot be delegated to another.

Invest time to understand the factors that impact on your business
Similarly in New Zealand under the provisions of the Health & Safety in Employment Act it is the director’s role to ensure that all health and safety practices are being carried out with due care and attention.

This needs to be achieved through having open and honest dialogue with employees throughout the business who are actively engaged with the health and safety regime which achieves a culture of nurturing wellbeing.

In New Zealand the Health & Safety in Employment Act was amended in 2003. The amendment focuses on the necessity for businesses of all sizes to become compliant. This downward regulatory pressure does cause some concern for many businesses. However, by following Brian Fielkow’s example creating a culture of safety within the business from the grass roots, the issue of compliancy is turned on its head.

Māori have a term for compliance, which is called tikanga which means “the way we do things, who we are.” It is a spiritual approach which requires the buy-in of all participants and the perfect metaphor for John Barley (being an idealist) and Brian Fielkow’s (being a forward thinking entrepreneur) approach to safety and accident prevention.

  • Brian Fielkow is the keynote speaker at the upcoming ‘Driving to Perfection’ conference in Auckland on 16 October 2015. Go to for more details.

Brian Fielkow is the president of Jetco Delivery, a multimillion-dollar logistics company specializing in regional trucking, heavy haul and national freight. Jetco was featured as one of the Houston Business Journal’s ‘Fastest Growing Companies’ and was voted a ‘Top Workplace’ by the Houston Chronicle. He is the author of ‘Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture’, a how to guide for CEOs based on his 25 years of leadership experience in both public and privately held companies. Previously he served as COO of the Peltz Group (the nation’s largest privately held recycling company with more than US$700 million in operations), was the executive vice president of Recycle America Alliance, a subsidiary of Waste Management (the largest environmental solutions provider in North America) and practiced corporate law after receiving his JD from Northwestern University.

John Barley – MCIT, IBANZ, AIINZ, Dip Bus Mg Stud (Insurance and Marketing) is the managing director of Barley Insurances Ltd (boutique insurance brokerage) and one of the few independent brokers remaining in the New Zealand market. He has 30+ years of experience covering all aspects of insurance within the New Zealand and Lloyds markets (UK). He is also the managing director of RiteTrack NZ Ltd, the insurance arm of Barley Group which focuses on risk management through wider organisational health (providing a toolbox of products and services to improve productivity, profitability and create business resilience).

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