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America's Safest Companies 2018: Ashland

At chemical manufacturer Ashland, every business meeting, global town hall and business unit update starts with EHS.

 

Ashland manufactures specialty chemicals for a diverse range of industries, such as adhesives, automotive, construction, energy, food and beverage, personal care and pharmaceutical. But throughout it all, "the management philosophy for safety is unequivocally that it is the number one priority of the company," says Jonathan Scheibe, global manager of life safety and laboratory safety.

"Regulatory compliance is just the ticket to be a chemical manufacturer," he observes, "but it says nothing about your business or safety philosophy."

The company's behavior/culture program is called ZIC, which stands for Zero Incident Culture. "Every business meeting, global town hall and business unit update starts with EHS," Scheibe emphasizes. The company's CEO, he notes, frequently communicates the message that "no matter how much profit we make or sales we execute, it is not a win for the company if people get hurt."

The ZIC program has four cornerstones: leadership, employee engagement, risk reduction and performance measurement. When tracking performance, Ashland uses a scorecard heavily weighted to leading indicators for safety, from many different areas of the company. The list of leading indicators is extensive, and includes such things as: near hits, recordable injuries, process hazard analyses and action item completion, substandard conditions, motor vehicle accidents per million hours worked, EHS audit performance, sustainability metrics, safety training completion and safety suggestions. The company also tracks days, months and years worked safely, and recognizes employees and sites that are "zero heroes."

"We are always experimenting with things to measure to get the most value out of performance measurement to create changes which positively impact the organization," Scheibe says.

Part of the key to Ashland's success is empowering its employees with "stop work" authority. As Scheibe explains, "Every employee can stop any job they feel is not safe, with no consequences."

Ashland aims to be a benchmark in safety, and to that end the company openly shares its successes and challenges with peer companies and organizations. "Safety is a key to our success," he says, "but we also feel that sharing with other companies the details of those successes will make us all better."

 
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