Danos Safety Culture Spreads Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
Original article featured in the May June 2021 issue of North American Oil and Gas Pipelines
When the world shut down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone felt the pain. And with the drop in oil prices, the energy industry was particularly strained. Many companies were left not knowing how or if they would survive.
While each day provided a new learning experience, service company Danos believes it has been successful throughout the COVID-19 pandemic because of its safety culture, because of the training and experience of its employees and because it treats employees like family.
Company culture does not develop overnight. It is something that is embedded within an organization. It grows out of a long-standing, intentional effort until it becomes ingrained in the every-day lives of its employees. Danos’ culture of safety is the product of its 74-year history.
This culture is prevalent throughout the entire company, which has 14 different service lines including coatings, construction, fabrication and production workforce. Safety is not just something management preaches; it is a company value that it is practiced by employees on the job each day.
“Danos is an organization driven by our purpose and by our culture,” says Owner and CEO Paul Danos. “It informs our company’s decision making daily, particularly when it comes to how to keep people safe.”
Danos says there is no distraction that is too great to shift that focus, whether there is a global pandemic or a plummet in oil prices. In fact, amid these obstacles last year, the company recorded its second lowest TRIR in company history, 0.15.
While the company has a strong safety team with robust programming, each of its 2,200 employees is involved in safety. Danos preserves its safety culture by sharing examples of safety in action using a variety of channels such as: weekly employee newsletters, field leader seminars, quarterly Town Hall gatherings, regular executive messages, weekly safety calls, job safety environmental analyses (JSEAs), behavior-based safety observances, stop work authority (SWA) and safety meetings.
“We preserve and strengthen our culture through every decision we make and in every action that we take in our daily work,” says Safety Director Issac Dantin. “When COVID began, we were able to utilize the programming that was already in place to communicate health and safety messages to our employees.
The company used its varied communication channels to share its COVID-19 plan, which they updated as information evolved. The COVID plan was (and still is) available on the Danos website for employees and customers. Additionally, the safety team regularly implements safety campaigns, and last year was no different. The company ran a Show Us How You Stay Healthy photo challenge, as well as a Keep Your Guard Up campaign.
With the Show Us How You Stay Healthy photo challenge, the safety team encouraged employees to submit photos of how they were staying healthy, including keeping hands clean, maintaining clean workspaces and any other ways employees were preventing the potential spread of germs. Employees submitted photos with their families, from their workstations and with all the cleaning supplies (and toilet paper!) they could find.
As time went on, the company entered Phase Two of its COVID plan, and the safety team turned their focus to preventing employees from becoming lax in safety protocols.
“With the Keep Your Guard Up campaign, I was reminded of my childhood days boxing with my friends in the back yard,” said Dantin. “The golden rule was ‘keep your guard up.’ As soon as you lowered your guard, that’s when you’d get hit in the face.”
The safety team distributed posters for employees to keep at their workstations and share with coworkers and customers. The poster encouraged everyone to control what was “in their ring,” with safety reminders such as masking, hand washing and social distancing. The poster was available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese to be inclusive of all employees.
Culture with Experience
Danos’ culture of safety includes emergency preparedness.
“We are prepared for any disaster,” says Danos Case Manager Frances Kosak.
Danos’ case management team consists of several employees with emergency response training, including experience with federal and state public health agencies. This allows Danos to respond immediately, providing support and education to employees.
Ask Kosak, and she will tell you managing the response was extensive, with “constant phone calls; coordinating testing; managing test results; testing within a certain window to meet requirements; reporting exposure, … the list goes on and on,” she says. “With so many moving pieces and guidelines constantly changing, we are fortunate that we had a well-equipped team ready to handle anything.”
In the beginning, one of the biggest challenges was the lack of testing kits. Danos was also challenged to find testing sites that could accommodate the work hours of its employees.
“It was difficult to find places that would even see our employees. I researched locations and had to call several to try to find testing availability because the number of swabs was limited,” says Kosak.
Eventually, many customers bought their own testing kits, which made life easier at Danos.
As time went on, the case management team continued to educate themselves. Kosak participated in virtual CDC and American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) meetings and kept up with the latest recommendations to stay ahead of the game. Danos customers reached out to them for guidance and support. Because of Danos’ history of safety, customers trusted the organization in managing care and looked to them for guidance on how the company was managing cases and following federal guidelines.
Through it all, communication was key. Kosak and her team communicated with government officials and worked with federal and state agencies. They distributed information on quarantining and isolation, specifically how to do that properly. And they issued daily situation reports to Danos managers and key personnel.
Danos says that it puts its employees first, which is why the team managed COVID cases regardless of whether employees were exposed at work or at home. Danos had approximately 220 employees who tested positive for COVID, roughly 10% of its employee base. The organization was able to manage care for each, providing guidelines and assistance.
“We had 1,030 employees who were either exposed or COVID positive, and we managed each individually,” says Kosak. “We called employees every two days because COVID can take a turn for the worse in a 12 to 24-hour period.”
Danos’ case management team is thorough, and that makes a difference to employees. Many employees report that they have never worked for a company who cared for them like Danos does. The company makes sure employees understand the process and have access to proper medical care, makes sure the family is taken care of and follows through until the employee is well enough to return to work.
“Our team members are family, and that’s how we care for them - like family,” says Kosak.
Culture of Family
Danos was founded in 1947 as a family company. Its first employees were literally family, so it was natural for the company to care for its employees like family. A practice that continues today.
“Our history and family values reflect how we treat our employees today,” says Danos. “That’s what drives our decision-making, particularly when it comes to safety. We look at our culture, our values and our history as a road map for how to care for our team.”
Just as the company would with any incident, Danos remained in close contact with each employee who needed assistance managing COVID. If employees had trouble getting a medical appointment, Kosak would find a doctor or hospital who would see them. After establishing appointments, Kosak called doctors and hospitals to make sure employees received the best care.
Perhaps more importantly, the Danos team supported the employee’s family through everything, assuring spouses that Danos was taking care of them. Kosak recalls telling one hospitalized employee that Danos was there for his family, so he just needed to focus on getting better.
“After the employee recovered, his wife told me her husband was able to get better, ‘knowing that Danos was taking care of me and the kids.’”
This type of care is nothing new for Danos, though.
“We do this across the board. That is why we created a case management team,” says Dantin. “We give our employees the very best care. They are treated like someone special, and that makes a difference.”
Influencing Culture within the Industry
Danos serves over 100 customers with employees working in 500 locations nation-wide, which is why the company believes it is in a unique position to influence the entirety of the industry.
“That is our passion, our vision and what drives us. We want to influence and impact the industry so that every person can work safely,” says Danos. “To create a sustainable, long-term industry that is here for future generations. We’ve done that for over 70 years, and I envision we’ll do that for 70 more.”