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Management systems are our safety net—and everyone needs to work together

July 10, 2014

By Denise Pothier

What Crayola fridge art can teach us about personal accountability and working together as part of an integrated system

When I was working in the offshore industry, I’d established a routine with my daughter, Sabrina. Since I would have to leave home in the wee hours of the morning, I’d leave her a hand-drawn picture on the fridge, and in return, she’d have one waiting for me when I got home. Typically, these would be pictures that kids draw: our house, our family, a park. However, one particular trip, she drew a picture of herself with arms outstretched up to the sky. This was unique, because her perspectives on size were usually pretty good and this one was strangely disproportionate. Her arms were wide and spanned a large majority of the picture. When I asked her about the picture, she told me that her arms were guiding the helicopter safely back home. She was being my safety net.      

But what does Crayola art have to do with the workplace? Or, more specifically, my job as a director of quality management? It speaks to personal accountability and working together as part of an integrated system. My daughter understood that as part of our system—our family system—she was an integral part of our safety.

Often, an integrated management system (IMS) is viewed as a structured process or system. While this is true, a system itself cannot function without people. An IMS requires that people understand their responsibilities and work together towards common goals. My daughter understood her role was to remind me of why I return home safe every evening.

A management system is a safety net, but the strength of that net depends on the attitudes and behaviors of the individuals who work within the system. The strength of an integrated management system (and I think Stantec’s is an excellent example, but I may be biased…_) is that each employee works together—diligently, safely, ethically, and respectfully—every single day. 

Offshore installations are frequently regarded as leading examples of well-implemented integrated management systems. One reason is that when you work on an offshore installation, you quickly realize that there is no room for error. Before ever stepping foot on an offshore installation, you must be competently trained and educated, and understand best practices and core concepts like teamwork, diligence, and pride of ownership. The systems and procedures are well planned and thought out, but what makes them effective is the commitment and dedication of the people who put them into practice every day.

Each and every member of the team, each part of the net, is trained in the overarching emergency response plan, and then each operator has their own plan in support of the overall plan. Fire drills and person overboard drills are practiced over and over again. We hoped that these events would never happen, but we all were solidly prepared if they did. 

What it boils down to is that weare the integrated management system, working tirelessly and diligently to support the goals we’ve set as an organization.

My daughter, though she may not have realized it, made a personal commitment to my safety. She did her part to ensure that I maintained an unwavering commitment to safety, and returned home safely every day.

As my daughter has grown, she’s maintained her commitment. The hand-drawn pictures on the fridge have long since been replaced by text messages:

“Just boarding the flight home, see you 9ish. Love you”

“Luv U2 safe trip xo”

While the media has changed, the sentiment, and the commitment, remains the same. The safety net is still intact, and the message is still the same: Return home safely.

Do you have a story about a personal accountability to safety or quality? Share it in the comments below, or send a hand-drawn picture or text.

  • Denise Pothier

    Denise is passionate about quality, professional practice, keeping people safe, and the protection of the environment

    Contact Denise
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