Gulf Coast Signs is marking a big safety milestone.
Safety is good business.
That's the bottom line, says Gulf Coast Signs of Sarasota Inc. President and CEO Hidayet Kutat.
Kutat and his team just celebrated a big safety milestone — 10 years without a lost-time injury, an incident resulting in an employee losing time from work.
Kutat tells Coffee Talk his work as a manager at chemical giant DuPont helped set the stage for his focus on safety at Gulf Coast Signs, which he acquired in 2003. He says safety is a high priority at DuPont, and his years working with the company, first as an engineer and then in management positions, helped embed a safety philosophy in him.
“Safety is a mindset,” Kutat says. “You have to walk the talk, and you have to differentiate between working safely and people using safety as a crutch not to do the job.”
That includes Kutat himself, who wears safety glasses when walking around the shop at the exterior and interior sign company. “It starts at leadership,” he says. “If leadership doesn't believe in safety, people will not do what is right.”
Kutat leads a safety and business communication meeting at Gulf Coast Signs every Monday. During the meeting, he reviews safety incidents and what his team can learn from various experiences.
The company has a specific place where people can record small injuries, such as small cuts that only need minor first aid. It's important to manage injuries at an early stage, Kutat says. If employees don't take care of small injuries, they can become larger problems. The company also has a display that records the total number of days employees have worked without lost-time injury.
“It takes a culture change for safety to take place,” he says. “Sometimes an injury happens because a person makes a mistake. Other times it's the systems we have that created the problem. Those are the ones we can correct.”
Safety performance is also considered heavily in employee performance reviews and it affects raises. “As a company we can provide a workplace in which people can do their jobs safely,” Kutat says, “but we can't make people follow the rules unless they believe in it.”