Case Study

Jim Quinn

Engaging the Board on health and safety

Jim Quinn, former CEO, KiwiRail

The CEO’s role in engaging the Board on safety

Two years ago we decided we wanted to change the nature of the conversations we were having on health and safety between KiwiRail’s management and Board of Directors. We wanted to find new ways for the Board to engage, so we could build support and momentum for KiwiRail’s ambitious safety improvement plan. The Board has a key role in safety governance. As CEO, my responsibility is to ensure the Board is informed, able to make accurate insights, and to challenge constructively.

How improved reporting helps lift the boardroom conversation

One tool we use to improve our conversations with directors is our Safety Scorecard. The scorecard includes lead and lag indicators, and is discussed at monthly Board meetings. We wanted the discussion to cover not just indicators of harm, like lost time injuries, but also indicators of how well we are managing critical risks. For that reason, the scorecard includes Fatal Risk Events, which show the number and type of incidents that could have caused deaths or serious injuries. 

The results

Our engagement with the Board has really improved and the conversations are getting much richer. When directors are present on work-sites they are well equipped to ask safety-related questions. There is strong, constructive, tension between directors and executives on whether we are improving fast enough. Where capital investment decisions are being made, the Board always openly assesses any risk and safety considerations. No significant matters of risk go undisclosed or are glossed over.