Business roundtable addresses future needs, issues

2014-02-12T15:39:00Z 2014-02-12T17:58:32Z Business roundtable addresses future needs, issuesRob Earnshaw Times Correspondent
February 12, 2014 3:39 pm  • 

MERRILLVILLE │ Respect in the workplace, educational programs, facility right-sizing and downsizing were among the topics addressed during a Northwest Indiana Business Roundtable discussion Wednesday at the Beyond Safety & Reliability Conference and Expo at Radisson Star Plaza.

Michael Schwerha, BP site project manager, said respect in the workplace is “the new frontier.”

He said over the last few years at the Whiting Refinery there has been a number of visible signs of things that would not be construed as respectful in the workplace including “a couple of instances of extreme signs of hatred.”

This includes graffiti and things that have been inappropriate and offensive, Schwerha said.

“It’s creating a hostile work environment,” he said. “We’re really focusing on at our refinery is around respect in the workplace. Creating a workplace where people feel comfortable coming to work and feel their open to contribute. We’ll be focusing on the visible things. If there’s graffiti, we'll get it turned around every day. If there’s an incident we’ll investigate. We’ll continue to do auditing just like we do on safety.”

Schwerha asked that leaders at the conference do the same at their companies.

“I ask you to think about the type of work environment you want to be in. The type of work environment you want your sons, your daughters, your wives, your husbands to be in.”

Franciscan Healthcare Munster President Barbara Greene said the hospital system is revising its care process because there is not enough money in the system to continue to carry out the way it has been. As a result of that, Franciscan Alliance has embarked in the last year on looking at the strategic location and size of its facilities in the region, many of which are from 50 to 100 years old.

Greene said it will be right-sizing facilities over the next three years. The Munster facility, which is 170,000 square feet, will expand to meet the needs of its patients. Facilities like those in Hammond and Dyer, which are 750,000 to 1 million square feet, could be downsized.

Aco Sikoski, vice chancellor at the Ivy Tech's Valparaiso campus, said the college is listening to industry needs and developing programs to address them. He said members of those industries are part of advisory boards that help Ivy Tech craft its programs. He asked leaders at the conference to join such boards and help develop programs.

“It’s important for us to understand your needs,” he said.

Don Bull, director of NIPSCO Outage Management & Systems Optimization, said his company's overall incident rate last year was 1.23 for about 2.6 million man-hours of work.

“That does include some apparently risky work,” he said. “We’re replacing all the electric and gas meters in our system. You wouldn’t think of people doing meters as apparently high risk but believe it or not there are people out there who don’t care a lot for us and don’t make the work areas particularly friendly.

Bull said that working environment includes pet issues and unmaintained work areas, as well as having to deal with a lot of issues with the weather the region has been experiencing.

Construction Advancement Foundation Executive Director Dewey Pearman, in his industry outlook, said smaller industrial companies that have been out of the capitol or maintenance investment market for some years are starting to come back and re-invest “which is good news for the contracting community in Northwest Indiana.”

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