Sandy Says: 10 Years of America’s Safest Companies

Since 2002, EHS Today has chosen companies we feel represents the safest operations the United States has to offer. But what do you think?

For the past 10 years, right around this time of year, I send out a call for applications for America's Safest Companies, which is a corporate-level award. Hundreds — more than 1,000 — of companies have answered that call. A total of 120 companies, ranging in size from fewer than 50 employees to U.S.-headquartered, multi-nationals with hundreds of thousands of employees, have been acknowledged as America's Safest. Companies can win more than once, but must wait 5 years after a win to apply again.

To be considered one of America's Safest Companies, organizations must demonstrate support from management and employee involvement; innovative solutions to safety challenges; comprehensive training programs; evidence that prevention of incidents is the cornerstone of the safety process; and communication about the value of safety. The winning companies empower their employees to play an active role in corporate safety culture; offer safety education through rigorous training programs or corporate universities; consider OSHA compliance as a starting point; and invest in safety at every level.

“We like to think that all 10,523 of our employees are safety professionals — as we invest both the skills and responsibilities in each of them to ensure the proper application of safety principles for every operation, every day,” said Mike Snyder, director of corporate safety, industrial hygiene and loss prevention at Dow Corning Corp., which was named to the list of America's Safest Companies in 2010.

To expand on what Mike said, how do employees contribute to making a company safe? What role does management play in safety? How are risk management principles integrated into all aspects of production at the safest companies? What components does a safety process require if a company wants to be considered one of America's Safest? You tell me.

Tell me, when you are contemplating safety at your company or safe work processes in general, the “qualifications” you feel are required of one of America's Safest. And what are the benefits of meeting these qualifications? How does safe work benefit not only the employees, but the employer? If you can answer these questions, then perhaps your company is a candidate for America's Safest Companies, Class of 2011.

“Although we are willing to place safety above the bottom line, the fact is that safety and profitability are not the polar opposites that some companies perceive them to be,” said Erick Ajax, vice president, E.J. Ajax & Sons Inc., which was named one of America's Safest in 2007. “E.J. Ajax has outlasted many competitors in a challenging manufacturing environment in part because of a workers' compensation rate that saves the company more than $1,000 per year per employee in insurance premiums.”

It's always been my assertion that companies that are named to our list understand the symbiotic relationship between safety and productivity, profits, morale and employee retention. As Koch-Glitsch President Bob DiFulgentiz put it in 2006, the qualities that helped the company's Wichita, Kan., manufacturing facility become an OSHA VPP Star site are the same qualities needed “to deliver on time, have a high-quality product and have good productivity.”

“Amazingly, when we focus on safety, all the other measurements improved,” DiFulgentiz said. “It's just good for business.”

Good for business; safety is good for business. Hmmm…

In these days of “less equals more” and “doing more with less,” the one thing we can't skimp on — the one thing we can't do without — is safety. Every injury, every near miss, every property loss with no injuries, is costly to a business and even more costly to the employees involved.

Does your company use safety as a measure of business success? “Safety is a key indicator of organizational excellence. A safe plant typically has high employee morale, high productivity and minimal product defects,” said Joseph Van Houten, Ph.D., CSP, in 2003, when he was the worldwide director of planning, process design and delivery, Johnson & Johnson Safety & Industrial Hygiene. J&J, an acknowledged leader in business and in safety, understands the symbiotic relationship between safety and success.

If your company management understands this relationship and can meet the criteria outlined above, then fill out an application for America's Safest Companies and join an elite group of employers who have been honored by EHS TODAY. You can find the application online at http://ehs today.com/safety/asc/questionnaire. Please return it to me by July 15, and may the safest companies win!!

Send an e-mail with your thoughts to [email protected].

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