From Driver to Safety Leader: Dave Mason’s Inspiring Journey at Roberts Oxygen
August 11, 2023
In the realm of safety, the most profound lessons often stem from studying the best in the business. This ethos has been at the core of Roberts Oxygen’s philosophy, and it’s a principle that Dave Mason embraced from his very first days as a driver/salesperson, a remarkable 46 years ago.
“Everything we’ve done to enhance the safety of our operators and drivers – from the inclusion of GPS, backup cameras, to the addition of extra mirrors to eliminate blind spots – has been a direct result of lessons gleaned from the industry,” Mason reflects. “If someone is doing something better than us, we want to understand why.”
Roberts Oxygen can be credited as an innovator, or at the very least, an early adopter, in offering a quarterly bonus program that places a strong emphasis on safety metrics within its operations.
Their unwavering commitment to safety, coupled with their dedication to giving back to the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), earned Dave Mason the esteemed Charles H. Glasier Safety Award at the annual meeting.
“I’m truly honored and deeply grateful that my peers within the industry have recognized both my efforts and our company’s commitment to safety,” says Mason, who devoted more than 35 years to his role as Vice President of Operations at Roberts Oxygen. “Operating safely is a fundamental obligation for every company, but not every company has the privilege of contributing back to the community. Our company has been wholeheartedly supportive of my endeavors over the last 25 years or so, enabling me to dedicate significant time and effort to the betterment of the industry.”
Dave Mason’s guiding philosophy, which closely aligns with that of his company, can be succinctly summarized: “Our ultimate goal is to achieve accident-free performance from every operator and driver,” he asserts. “While we may not have reached it yet, it has remained our unwavering aspiration.”
The quarterly bonus program, in Mason’s view, stands as one of the most effective incentives. Open to all employees, it offers a substantial monetary incentive that acts as a quarterly reminder to align with the company’s safety objectives. When the zero-accident target is missed, it leaves an indelible impact. Mason notes, “Almost without exception, employees shift their perspective after such an incident, intensifying their focus on safety in their daily responsibilities.”
For Mason, it’s nearly impossible to disentangle his safety ethos from that of his company, particularly when reflecting on his early days as a driver. “When you’re transporting hazardous materials, people notice the hazmat placards, and they scrutinize your actions closely. I learned from the outset that driving safely and courteously is essential to earn respect from fellow road users. To this day, we diligently attend to every complaint received from customers or the general public.”
Many decades ago, when Mason assumed leadership responsibilities overseeing cylinder filling, delivery operations, and bulk gases transport and storage, the commitment to conducting operations with utmost safety became second nature. The company President encouraged proactive engagement with other companies, advising him to, “Visit these companies, observe their practices, and learn about safety.” The unwavering support Mason received whenever he proposed a safety-focused visit has been instrumental in his journey.
Today, Mason leads while continuously learning. ” People are always willing to talk about what they do and why. It has been an endless source of wisdom for our company’s improvement efforts.”
This commitment to safety dovetails seamlessly with another core value at Roberts Oxygen: a dedication to excellence in customer service. Mason emphasizes, “Excellence in safety is a prerequisite for delivering top-tier customer service. When we look back to our early years with less than 10 trucks, a single accident could significantly impact our customer service due to the size of our fleet. There is immense value in maintaining a relentless focus on safety, ranging from reduced insurance costs and operational stability to employee retention. Moreover, it extends to retaining customers, as a single accident within their environment can lead to their departure. It’s simply smart business to prioritize safety.”
For Dave Mason, this is a notion that has proven to be a resounding success.