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Throughout the remainder of the year, we’re bringing you the inspiring stories of our 2023 Safety Award Nominees. In this installment, Bryan Baker, Safety Director at NorthStar Energy, shares the importance of encouraging employees to take ownership of operational fixes—and celebrating them when they do.

We’ll also recognize Kelly Scott, LNG Conversion Port Engineer at TOTE Services, who was nominated for his development of plans and engineering fixes to improve safety on TOTE’s ORCA-class vessels during the LNG conversion and continued vessel operations.

As we delve into their stories, we are reminded of the strength and determination that permeates every aspect of our Saltchuk community. By spotlighting these outstanding individuals, we celebrate the collaborative spirit that defines us and inspires us to elevate safety standards across our organization.

When NorthStar Energy Safety Director Bryan Barker first started the company’s robust safety program four years ago, he had to pinpoint employees to honor as ‘Safety Champions.’ Now, he chooses monthly from an ever-growing slate.

“I think a lot of times within safety programs, employees will see something wrong and think to themselves, ‘This isn’t right,’” Barker said. “Where we win is when they think, ‘This isn’t right, we need to take care of it,’ and then go find and implement solutions.”

For Barker, converting near-miss incidents into operational fixes means acknowledging that many employees are experts in their field and giving them agency over the process.

“We’re starting to see a lot of employees who recognize simple opportunities for improvement making those changes themselves. When people have ownership over policies and procedures, it makes all the difference.”

The other side of the coin? Employee recognition. Barker said NorthStar’s monthly recognition of employees whose actions went above and beyond their day-to-day duties is a critical part of the program.

“We celebrate each win,” he said. “We started awarding ‘safety jackets’—nice, Carhartt jackets with the words ‘Safety Champion’ on them. We have annual patches they can add to their jackets, and coins. It doesn’t seem like much, but I was down in California, and one of our employees saw someone with a jacket and he immediately asked, ‘Hey, how can I get one of those?’ And the answer is, he can get one by proactively looking for ways to improve the safety of our operations.”

Barker’s degree in Safety Engineering has seen him lead operational safety teams all over the world, from manufacturing to mining.

“One of the things I love about being a safety professional is that I’m in a service role. I’m serving employees, the company—we sometimes look at safety as a lagging indicator, as ‘someone got hurt.’ I like to look at it as potential lives saved. When we put people into a work environment, it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re safe in that environment. Even to the point of making sure there’s no lasting effects that will show up later in life.”

Kelly Scott, LNG Conversion Port Engineer, TOTE Services
2023 Saltchuk Safety Award Nominee

Kelly Scott grew up in Canada. He finished high school in in Washington state before returning north for college, sitting for his marine engineering license while attending the Pacific Marine Training Campus at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

While attending BCIT, he started his cadetship on an oil tanker. He quickly discovered tankers weren’t for him, and the next year he sailed with P&O Princess of cruise ships.

“It was a lot of fun. There was so much equipment that’s not found on other vessels. Also, there were so many different people onboard. The technical department alone had close to 60 members—more than the combined crew of both of TOTE’s ORCA vessels.

Scott found he most enjoyed the shipyard periods.

“They were intense, and you were able to see all the parts that can’t be see while the vessel is in the water.”

Scott tried super yachts next.

“Yachting was certainly interesting, but not sustainable. We had the helicopter and jet skis—the whole nine yards. The best part was a fully kitted dive locker. When I decided it was time for Peter Pan to grow up and leave Neverland, I came ashore and worked as a service engineer for Rolls-Royce.”

Scott specialized in controllable pitch propellers. He went to a lot of shipyards.

“That’s when I fell into project management.”

He went to work for Crowley, working on the North Slope of Alaska in the summers and doing special projects the rest of the year. He eventually moved to the Bay Area and picked up a job with BAE San Francisco Ship Repair running the Machinists Department.

“That’s where I was introduced to TOTE. The Isla Bella came to the shipyard for emergency repairs to the stern tube bearing. It quickly turned into a bigger job than everyone thought, but once it calmed down, I was able to check out all the LNG equipment.”

Unfortunately, the shipyard closed a year later. Fortunately for Scott, the TOTE team that came with the Isla Bella remembered him when he asked if they had anything interesting going on. Soon, he was hired as the LNG Conversion Port Engineer for the ORCAs transition to dual fuel. 

“Honestly, I wasn’t really excited about the position until Lee Peterson described all the challenges that the program faced. He said, ‘You will lose sleep on this project.  But it’s going to be a lot of fun.’  He was right.  It was all the problems waiting for solutions that attracted me.  I’m a sucker for a challenge—the bigger the better. The team working on the conversion was the best I’d ever worked with. I attribute our success to always keeping the ship’s crew in mind, as they’re the ones who’d be left with end-product. I’m most proud of all the issues that the crew never saw. It’s hard enough being at sea.”

Scott’s nomination for a 2023 Saltchuk Safety Award praised his dedication to being an operational agent of responsible change.

“The fixes I helped make that were the most important were the unseen items. I made it a point to attend both vessels every port call in Tacoma to talk with the crew and give them updates and try to answer any questions. There were several times where I really had to stand my ground with our suppliers and the design engineers. If something is less functional or poorly thought out, people will come up with workarounds, and sometimes those aren’t the safest solutions. Most of the time, it’s the people who’ve actually sailed who are the experts.”

Click here to read our Safety Spotlight on developing a successful Near-Miss Program.

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.