Mike Quashne: Manager of business transformation and performance excellence, BGE

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert | Mar 15, 2023
Mike Quashne

Mike Quashne wears several hats to promote safety at Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) as manager of business transformation and performance excellence. Quashne delved into what it takes to truly transform an organization’s culture and make work safer for everyone.

Mike Quashne wears several hats to promote safety at Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) as manager of business transformation and performance excellence. Quashne delved into what it takes to truly transform an organization’s culture and make work safer for everyone.

How do you help improve worker safety in your roles at BGE?

I have a few different roles at BGE that all come together to improve the safety of our employees. In my business transformation role, I lead a small team that focuses specifically on serious injury and fatality (SIF) prevention. That team develops, executes and supports initiatives to reduce the likelihood and severity of low-frequency, high-consequence events.

In my performance assessment role, I lead a team that promotes human performance excellence to reduce the likelihood of unwanted safety outcomes, but also reliability, operational and financial outcomes. They receive condition reports about risk or adverse events and then coordinate with business line leadership to gather information for trending, recommend and support actions to reduce risk, and facilitate the execution of incident investigations when needed.

These roles come together to reduce the overall risk to employees in their everyday work based on risk models, actual incidents and identified hazards. What differentiates us from BGE’s safety and wellness unit is our particular focus on preventing SIF and having our fingers on the pulse of risk based on input and reports from our employees.

How do your different roles improve BGE’s safety programs?

Leading these groups [provides] a broader view of risk in the business through performance assessment and a specific view of SIF risk. With our business transformation group, I’m keeping SIF risk at the forefront of the conversation when it comes to safety. SIF is a topic that can often get lost in the background because they don’t occur often. The business transformation team both advocates for and leads projects to actively address SIF risk when those events aren’t happening.

With our performance assessment group, we bring diverse experience and a deep knowledge of organizational and operational history that helps our safety group better understand the needs of our divisions and how their safety concerns interact with other goals. In both roles, I’m bringing a risk management perspective to managing safety within BGE and giving us insight into what’s happening when nothing seems to be going wrong.

Recently, I had the pleasure of leading a project that transformed our standard safety practices around the idea that every injury is the result of an uncontrolled release of energy contacting a person. With that definition, every source of energy is a hazard, and the better we control them, the less likely we are to have an injury. We also know that more energy will cause a worse injury.

So, our new approach to prejob briefings, safety observations, incident classification and incident investigation is far simpler, and it asks everyone involved to identify the sources of large amounts of energy, and to put robust and error-resistant controls in place. We’ve wrapped our safety programs around these straightforward concepts and answered the common question, “How does all of this fit together?”

What challenges do leaders face in improving safety programs in their organizations? What is the best way to overcome them?

Safety is a topic that impacts everybody and often seems simple enough. “It’s all common sense.” The problem is that it’s not! As an advisor to operational leaders, safety leaders can often face an uphill battle when they try to influence leaders to approach safety differently, [in a way that] goes against the operational leader’s ingrained beliefs. In general, people don’t enjoy having their beliefs challenged. Safety leaders have to walk a tightrope to influence operational leaders in the right way and still maintain good relationships.

Safety is more than common sense, so leaders need to present themselves as experts in a complex topic. To do that, [it is important] to make the time to develop ourselves and go find information that is different from what we are doing today. Find new books, articles and even research papers to give yourself a broader perspective of the safety world and take notes on the parts that are challenging or insightful. After a while, you’ll find that you have a lot of understanding and evidence that you can use to shift the organization’s way of managing safety.

There’s research that’s been published in the last three years showing that using OSHA recordable rate as a way of comparing performance between organizations of any size or as a way of comparing performance over time is almost always statistically insignificant! That means that when we use an injury count or rate to drive business decisions, we’re actually responding to random variation. It’s like trying to control the airflow in a room by looking at the movement of a fly’s wings; we’re making large-scale changes with very little information about what’s actually happening.

Find new concepts, learn as much as you can about them, then challenge the organization by [asking], “What would happen if we did this differently?”


Mike had more to say about being a safety professional that we couldn't fit into print. Keep reading for additional web-exclusive content:

What interested you in this line of work?

The best way to describe how I got into safety is that it looks a lot like Forrest Gump...I happened to be in the right place at the right time and followed where those opportunities took me. I went from leading project managers in an electrical transmission division to leading the company's human performance improvement program because the right person came to me and said, "I think you have the unique combination of skills to do very well in this position."

What I enjoy about working in safety is the direct impact we have on our frontline professionals. We might not impact their pay or vacation or hours, but we do the work to make sure they have the best chance of going home to their families at the end of the day.

In the utility business especially, we have incredible men and women who provide a service necessary for life to our communities by doing jobs that many folks, including me, aren't able to do. Being able to provide those folks with the best possible support so that they go home fulfilled and have quality time with their friends, family, kids and grandkids is a humbling position and an honor that keeps me coming to work to be the best safety leader I can.

Anything else you would like other safety professionals to consider when improving their safety programs?

The absolute best thing safety professionals can do is to continuously learn and be willing to have your mind changed when you find something new. The work and environment our frontline professionals face changes and evolves constantly, so we have to do the same. The beliefs and approaches that got us to where we are today aren't the same ones that will drive future improvement!

Most importantly, spend all the time you can with frontline folks to learn about the problems and challenges they face on a daily basis, and be a champion for their solutions to make the work easier to do more safely, or safe to do more easily. At the same time, develop a detailed knowledge of and fascination with safety science and emerging research, and be an advocate for new approaches when the evidence suggests. Finally, build positive relationships with operational leaders so that you can continually influence change and drive safety within your organization.

Header image: Mike Quashne

About The Author

KUEHNER-HEBERT is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience. Reach her at [email protected].  





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