“I see, I act”: Veolia Water helping employees take the lead in improved safety monitoring

Concept: Veolia Environment is committed to maintaining the same high standards for employee relations in every country where it operates, and ensuring that they apply to employees at every level. Since the safety of every employee is a priority concern, extensive measures have been taken worldwide to improve accident prevention. In China, low incident reporting rates prompted an effort by managers, health & safety supervisors and HR departments to improve transparency. Employees tend to report only major accidents, not day-to-day incidents, out of fear of being reprimanded. But when safety problems go unreported, it is impossible to anticipate and resolve them over time. The “I see, I act” campaign focuses on this fundamental behavior to create a positive culture, rather than one based on punishment.

Action: Beginning in 2009, Veolia Water prepared and distributed a printed guide in Southeast Asia. This resource proved so successful that the health & safety department adopted it for use in China. The “I see, I act” document promotes a proactive approach to accident prevention. Each employee is encouraged to report hazardous activities or conditions and can propose solutions. It’s an approach rooted in performance rather than supervision.

Software was developed in-house to replace the Excel form that was initially distributed at each site. By aggregating data, this software can provide a statistical profile of the number and type of incidents reported and the corrective action taken. As a result, each site or team can monitor its own indicators. They can make their results available to each region connected to the network, so as to share their experiences more widely. The software also lets them target areas for improvement and launch appropriate campaigns to raise employee awareness.

Although the “I see, I act” resource was specifically designed to help employees identify ways to improve safety, some effort was required during the rollout to promote its use. The critical challenge is to ensure the tool is used effectively, and that requires employee support. A communications campaign was conducted that included a special logo, t-shirts and an “I see, I act” reporting logbook that was distributed to every employee. Safety committees appointed at each site regularly announce prizes for the highest reporting rates and most innovative ideas. Managers have made an essential contribution by explaining how important it is to report incidents and by encouraging employees to alert their supervisors to potentially hazardous actions and working conditions.

Impact: The “I see, I act” initiative is now part of the analytical procedures adopted by employees from Veolia's water businesses in China. It has changed their views about reporting: they readily grasp the underlying goal of continuous improvement and now, backed by the trust of their company, they feel integral to its future progress.