An interview with ken Flechler, Vice President of Safety and Compliance, Comcast Corporation
"Safety has always been my focus," says Ken Flechler, whose career began in Louisville, Kentucky as a Water Safety Instructor and Lifeguard Instructor for the American Red Cross. Other roles related to safety that he has held over the years include serving as the Safety Administrator for a local cable television market in Louisville, and positions as the State Safety Manager for TCI of Kentucky, and Divisional Director of Safety and Security for TCI – Atlantic Division. In early 1999, he joined Comcast as Director of Safety and now serves as Vice President of Safety and Compliance for Comcast Corporation.Founded in 1963 and headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Comcast Corporation began as a single system cable operation. Today, the company is the nation's leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services. Its 80,000 employees serve 21.4 million cable customers, 9.8 million digital cable customers, 8.5 million high-speed Internet customers and 1.3 million voice customers in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
What are the most significant and beneficial safety programs, practices and processes that have been initiated at Comcast?
Comcast has a great safety team at every level, from local safety leaders to divisional directors of safety. Together, we have initiated several programs, including a safety leader training program and a defensive driving program. Perhaps the most successful practice we employ is one we did not initiate but is ingrained in our culture. Specifically, Comcast is very decentralized and as such takes an approach that allows each local market, region and division to customize safety programs to address specific needs they may have.
How do safety programs benefit the company, its employees and its customers?
Since rolling out our safety program, we've continued to improve in a number of key areas while reducing safety-related expenses. Helping our employees work more safely increases productivity, which in turn helps us deliver better service to our customers. For example, the Comcast Safety Department introduced an Employee Safety Program in 1998, which has decreased our employee accident rate by 64%. In 2002, we introduced a vehicle accident prevention program, which has decreased the vehicle accident rate by 40%.
How do you determine hazards and develop safety practices and programs?
Our safety program is based on trends at Comcast and in the industry. First, we identify areas of focus. Then, our Safety Department and our Training Department, as well as subject matter experts, partner to develop and implement internal courses and programs. These training programs include:
• Ladder Handling
• Defensive Driving
• Confined Space
• Pole Climbing
• General Safety
• Aerial Lift
• Plant Safety
• Work Zone Safety
How do you measure safety performance? How can safety professionals benchmark progress in improving safety records?
We utilize a three-tiered approach to measuring the safety performance of our systems. Those include a monthly analysis of Safety Results, a quarterly Safety Report Card, and a Perception Survey that is conducted every other year. We benchmark our programs against best practices of other companies, looking at metrics like accident and OSHA rates.
What changes do you see coming that will have an impact on your operation and the industry as a whole?
The new OSHA Chief, Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., took office on April 3, 2006 and will continue the initiatives begun by John Henshaw, and will also focus on small businesses and state plan issues. On the legislative side, Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY), the former chairman of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, who now chairs the full Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has sponsored three bills, which are in committee. The proposed legislation includes the OSHA Safety Partnership Act, the Occupational Safety Fairness Act and the Hazard Communication Simplification and Modernization Act. These initiatives could have a direct or indirect impact on our industry in the future, but it's too early to speculate. ip
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