Keeping the complacency in check – JUVA sharing their stories
N.V. JUVA (specialising in sustainable energy systems) has been awarded the title World-class Workplace 2021. The label is handed out to organizations that score above the national benchmark for good employment practices. In an interview with Eddie van der Wereld from InTense, CEO Frank Binnekamp defines JUVA’s status as a world-class workplace as an environment wherein everyone is seen, heard, and valued. How has JUVA achieved this? How has their safety culture development journey with InTense contributed to this? Who have been the enablers? What have been success factors and eye-opening moments? And what is JUVA’s vision for the future? Read JUVA’s story below:
How have you developed your safety culture and what role has InTense played in this process?
Our safety culture was put into action quite a long time ago, in 2006. However, all our training programs were skills oriented. But workers get used to doing things a certain way and become oblivious to the hazards around them. So how can you ensure your staff do not become complacent about safety? That’s when we came into contact with InTense. We wanted to learn how to support workers with routine tasks by increasing their safety awareness and empowering them to speak up if they feel that safety is being compromised. InTense’s basic training program gave us the opportunity to train our staff in this area. Every two years a refresher training is taken.
What has been the effect of the training program?
The main thing is to stay calm, mindful and reflect on what you’re doing. And this goes beyond safety alone. We all tend to rush things sometimes in order to get things done. The training program teaches you to take a step back and consider whether you’ve thought through each step, the risks involved, the available options. You learn to make well considered choices instead of just steaming ahead to get the job done. This has been a real eye-opener.
What are other key elements or success factors of the program?
For me, the biggest success factor is that training is provided away from the work environment and across all hierarchical levels. The groups are diverse and everyone is equal, which allows for a greater range of perspective on safety while still working from a common framework. Being in a new environment away from the office contributes to a team-feeling. This makes it easier to discuss safety issues and experiences.
How did you incorporate what you’ve learned in your organization’s work practice?
In addition to the required certifications, toolbox talks and workplace inspections, which give management insight into how staff are implementing safety into their work, the training has allowed us to implement simpler, less formal systems, such as face-to-face discussions with shop-floor staff. Safety often depends on small details. It’s impossible to know all the ins and outs of your organization. Reaching out to employees who are performing the work itself can lead to valuable insights. Often, small issues that you were unaware of can be solved relatively easily. This helps increase support among employees because safety is no longer a mantra that is being imposed from the top down but relates to actual situations that they experience every day in their work.
What changes in behavior have you noticed as a result of your collaboration with InTense?
InTense has started us on the road toward continuous improvement. We are not there yet, but we are making steps. For instance, we have noticed an increase in reporting and flagging. People are more aware and think about what they are doing. Misses and near misses are more visible now compared to before. So that’s a big change.
You have invested in a long-term safety improvement program with InTense. What makes you most proud of this decision?
Our management team used to be very action oriented and driven. We were constantly starting new initiatives before previous ones had been completed. This was an issue that surfaced during the training. It made us think about our behavior as a team and the impact it had on the organization. We realized that we were always focusing on the next task ahead without celebrating successes along the way. Constantly chasing the next idea was making us, as an organization, restless. This realization was a breakthrough for me.
Your organization opted for a behavior-based certified program. What were the reasons for doing so?
My biggest fear is complacency: the routines that become ruts. Skills can be trained but shaking your organization out of complacency requires a cultural shift. Opting for a personal certified program demonstrates that we take this seriously. It also helps us to identify improvement areas that employees need to strengthen. This is something we, as an organization, can build on.
There have been employees whose certification has been deferred. How do you feel about that?
It has been a wakeup call. If people do not exhibit the behavior that they should, we should know about it. At the end of the day, ensuring a safe work environment will benefit us all. Working on safety behavior is something that we do not just for ourselves, but also for each other, and for the environment. Investing in safety is not only the company’s responsibility; employees also have a responsibility towards their fellow colleagues. Certification is a logical part of this process. If an employee is not granted a certificate yet, we can see where improvements need to be made. So that’s a good thing.
The number of incidents in your organization has decreased. Are there any stats or figures to back this up?
It’s true that the number of incidents has decreased. However, our incident rate has always been quite low. I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of reported incidents. This is a positive sign because it shows that people are more aware. Safety is more than executing tasks in a technically correct manner. Organizational safety also encompasses relationships between people and your employees’ ability to speak up when necessary, even if they are new to the organization. No matter what their level in the workplace hierarchy is. So, social safety will be the next step in our journey. I feel there is still progress to be made in this area.
JUVA and InTense have a long-term partnership. Why have you continued to work with InTense for so long?
The positive feedback on the training programs has played a big role. People have experienced that discussing safety is much easier when hierarchical boundaries are broken down. They have become aware that safety starts with yourself. Safety is a choice – and that decision is made every day. We, as an organization, can support them with that. Also, the InTense basic training is excellent. It provides a terrific balance between theory, reflection and practical application. I don’t think I’ve yet heard of anybody who hasn’t been satisfied with the training.
What is your safety vision for the future of JUVA?
I want everyone to feel heard and valued. The workplace should be a safe place where employees feel free to speak up without fear of criticism or judgment. We’re well on our way but still have an exciting journey ahead of us.