With the Right Health and Safety Programs, Everybody Wins

Leaders in the manufacturing and energy industries know that a safe, healthy work force is associated with higher retention, better productivity and a higher-quality product.

Many of these leading companies plan the health and safety of their plants 10 years in advance, set programs in place to achieve these goals and then hold all plants even if they were annexed through a merger or acquisition to these long-term standards.

These are just some of the findings from research conducted by Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Best Practices LLC. The consulting firm has studied the health and safety programs, goals and training of industry leaders, in addition to the unique best practices they use to promote successful health and safety initiatives.

One of the key findings of the firm's research was that employees are taking more responsibility for their own health and safety, rather than deferring to management oversight.

How have companies encouraged these employees to take ownership for their well-being? One study participant pulls dedicated employees off the manufacturing lines to serve as health and safety ambassadors for other employees. When employees have ownership in the program, they put pressure on their peers to be safe.

However, employee buy-in isn't enough for a successful health and safety initiative. According to an operations executive at one of the companies studied: "A focus on safety starts at the top or it doesn't start at all."

That's why many companies tie executive compensation to safety metrics. In one company, failure to produce daily initiatives for safety improvements could reduce compensation.

Survey data and best practices interviews reveal the following key lessons learned:

Coordinated strategies and processes Benchmark findings suggest that top companies regard employee health and safety as one of the most important and far-reaching company priorities. For this reason, companies seek to create common health and safety philosophies, strategies and processes.

To ensure health and safety consistency and promote an overall health and safety culture, leading benchmark companies coordinate key strategies and activities through a centralized oversight department, such as corporate health and safety. Specifically, best practitioner health and safety organizations coordinate company health and safety standards objectives, basic training design and requirements and performance metrics through a central health and safety function.

Companies also recognize that business units have unique health and safety differences and allow individual units and plants to focus health and safety efforts within corporate guidelines.

EHS centers of expertise Top companies create centralized centers of expertise to coordinate strategies and processes. Health and safety centers of expertise drive company health and safety strategies and consult on health and safety matters for the entire company.

Typically employees staffed to expertise groups have specialized health and safety qualifications; sit at the corporate and global business unit levels; and report to a senior executive at corporate headquarters.

Advanced companies use health and safety expertise groups to create the company's EHS philosophy and strategy; communicate specific standards; design company training modules; use technology to make important health and safety information globally accessible; and consult regularly with business units.

Top companies report that central centers of health and safety expertise help to avoid duplication of efforts, drive a health and safety culture, provide a central location for health and safety performance results and promote global thinking.

Technology-driven health and safety awareness Advanced companies drive health and safety awareness through e-learning, standardized workstations, corporate intranets and computerized best practices and hazard incident databases. Technology allows companies to maintain central controls on important health and safety activities such as training and measurements while pushing information to the entire company to build health and safety awareness.

A complimentary excerpt of the findings in this research bundle can be accessed at http://www3.best-in-class.com/dr173.ad.

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