The goal of Air Products & Chemicals, Inc., Allentown, Pa., is to be the safest and most profitable industrial gas company in the world, and to provide excellent service to its customers. It’s no accident that safety is the foremost part of that goal—a commitment that’s further reflected in the firm’s safety philosophies:
  • Nothing is more important than safety—not production, not sales, not profits. 
  • All accidents and injuries are preventable—not inevitable. 
  • Safety is an individual responsibility—and a condition of employment. 
  • Safety is a way of life—around the clock. 
  • Every task must be performed with a concern for safety—for ourselves, our fellow employees, our contractors and the communities in which we operate.
One of Air Products’ corporate KPIs involves doing a quarterly safety stand-down. The idea is to bring members of the ownership team—people involved in procurement, manpower planning, etc.—together with the contractor’s senior leadership, superintendents, project managers and safety officers to forestall incidents that tend to occur on construction projects.

Following is Air Products’ approach to a safety stand-down.

To start, send a formal agenda to everyone involved so they know what to expect on the day of the stand-down. During the contractor’s normal morning safety meeting, have a representative of the ownership team convey the purpose of the stand-down. It’s important to reiterate nothing bad has happened and that this is a proactive exercise for the workforce’s benefit. Remind employees to go about their business as usual with the knowledge they will be observed throughout the day.

In addition to auditing job safety analyses, toolbox talks and work permits, the safety stand-down team should conduct a site review. Possible findings include employees working without gloves or appropriate ladders, large rocks present in walkways, inadequate barricades or excessive equipment in crowded work areas.

To uncover more intangible problems, it’s important to interview field workers. First, do an anonymous survey featuring questions such as:
  • If you had to make a bet, where would the next accident occur at this facility and why?  
  • What bothers you most about safety on this site? 
  • What reasonable changes would you like to recommend to make your work safer? 
  • What rules seem to be the least understood by your fellow workers? What rules are most likely to be ignored? 
  • Do you think the training you received is adequate, and are the appropriate tools available?
Then, bring a group of workers into a forum-type setting and present them with the same questions. Being in a group often encourages them to open up a little more.

Finally, communicate findings from the audit and interviews during a site-wide safety meeting, and then bring the management team back together to identify and assign action items. Examples include adding signage to hazardous areas, investigating fence closures or updating the equipment and tool inspection process.

While the exercise may only last one day, the effects should endure throughout the project life cycle—or until another stand-down is held.


Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. shared its safety stand-down procedure at the Industrial Users Conference hosted by Associated Builders and Contractors last fall. This year’s event will be held Oct. 8-9 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will have both industrial and health care tracks. Stay tuned to www.abc.org for more details.