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Just what is SCWE and why should you care? I learned the acronym from my husband who is in the nuclear industry. SCWE stands for Safety Conscious Work Environment. OK, no big surprise, there. What I have been most impressed by is the linkage between fear and intimidation and SCWE. Was not intuitive, at first.
A Safety Conscious Work Environment (SCWE) is an environment where management and employees feel comfortable raising issues important to them and these issues are resolved with commitment, respect and timeliness. The label is born from the commercial nuclear power industry and created by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The concept is applicable to all regulated and non-regulated organizations that desire constant learning and improvement.
What you don’t know, but is obvious once you think about it, is that many terrifying industrial accidents are born out of environments where intimidation and fear of management are rife. Examples are:
- The worker who must do the job quickly, or be fired;
- Overlooking corrosion or a crack, because you would have to shut the plant down to fix it, and cost the company revenue and earnings;
- The employee who, if he brings up the “wrong”issue, is called a dunce and endures screaming, with the issue being dismissed.
- The manager who will not tolerate having his recommendations and orders questioned.
If you read about the causes of mine accidents, large gas explosions, fraudulent IPOs, and so on, you will eventually find SCWE roots.
Now, let’s look close to home in the financial industry: The mortgage debacle in 2008 had its roots in SCWE. You need look no further than Congress and the Senate and the institutions that benefited financially from the home mortgage industry. In that time period, I remember reading truly nutty editorials in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal from high ranking officials in government talking about every last person being able to buy and afford their own home. No thought was given to the fact that some people just aren’t good with the sort of responsibility or the work that home ownership entails. And no one told the emperor that he had no clothes. It was remarkable to see those same officials play Monday Morning quarterback, damning the FHA and other institutions involved in the mess.
Another SCWE example in the finance industry is the corporate finance person who questions the wisdom of underwriting a certain company for quality of earnings issues.
Being in the equity end of the business, I was astonished that Wall Street was doing so well. Of course, it was the debt sector—that was bundling and reselling those mortgages—that was doing so well.The largest investment banks had a pony in that game—they were huge facilitators and were making eye popping profits by reselling those mortgages. Of course, they were also the ones bailed out by the government.
And Enron is an old, old story, where we now know that no one listened to the whistleblowers. The financial press was just so captivated by Jeff Skilling, boy-wonder.
In the nuclear industry, an official SCWE charge is always investigated, and is career limiting to those being charged.
But, let’s go closer to home. Let’s think about your life. Don’t you improve when people question why you are doing things? You have to stop, think, and articulate. Certainly, we couldn’t get through every day if we questioned every action. Efficiency depends on our ability to operate under autopilot. Intermittent questioning helps us to think about things from a different angle, and keeps us fresh. We all need to be shaken up a bit. And maybe by being shaken up we can go on to improve our own quality of life
All the best,
Founder & Chairman
SiVal Advisors, LLC
Stevens Capital Advisors
Susan Woods and Vlad Harris
Margaret Johns is the Founder and Chairman of BlueLake Partners, a boutique M&A investment bank based in the Greater Boston Area. Prior to founding BlueLake she was an employee founder and Managing Director at Needham & Company where she worked in Corporate Finance in New York City and headed up its Boston office. She now lives in Londonderry, New Hampshire with her husband, 16 year old step-daughter and three pugs. When she’s not working with clients, FINRA or writing blogs she competes on the Granite State Penguins Masters Swim Team, skis, rides her bike or is out walking her pugs.
Content researched, edited and reviewed on a best efforts basis.
We make no claim to being comprehensive in our review, as the contents are companies and topics we, ourselves, find of interest.
This newsletter is currently being proofed by Dave Henshaw, which is much appreciated. Dave is my USMS swimming lane mate, and Granite State Penguin team-mate. He is retired from MIT, where he used to produce and proof their annual financial report. Exactly what we need.