America's Safest Companies - Part Two

Oct. 21, 2002
17 Award Winners Share Best Practices

Part 1

Going the Extra Mile at Standard Register

This Ohio-based company manages safety like it manages its business: by going one step further than the competition.

At Standard Register, the goal is to meet not only state and federal requirements from a safety perspective, "but also to go the extra mile to make sure we have a safe workplace," says Rick Miller, director, Environmental Affairs, Safety & Health.

"An example of going the extra mile is reflected in the fact that we invested over $8 million within the past four years on equipment guards to not only meet, but also exceed, ANSI regulations. We not only launched safeguards on presses earlier than required, but we added guards to equipment that fell outside the scope of regulations. We were first in this protection program, and we went beyond what the industry was doing," he adds.

Miller says the safety program at Standard Register, where 6,300 employees at 36 manufacturing facilities provide document management, identification and workflow solutions for health care, and financial institutions and other markets, is perceived as an ongoing process. "We start with knowledge," he notes. "We have a thorough understanding of the federal and state requirements and also a thorough understanding of our operations. This includes knowing what potential safety hazards there are on equipment and knowing what chemicals are in the workplace and what the potential hazards may be."

Next, the company drives associate education and engagement in compliance. "We post material safety data sheets so everyone knows what chemicals are being used and what their hazard ratings are (e.g., flammable)," Miller says. The company funds a significant training effort, including procedures training, so employees understand the materials and equipment with which they work, how to operate systems, what not to do in terms of materials and equipment, and where potential risks exist. Employees also receive first aid and CPR training at various sites.

Members of the safety committee conduct monthly audits. If an employee is seen violating a safety practice, the employee is disciplined. A corporate team also conducts in-depth surveys, with feedback going back to managers and employees.

Recognition for a well-done job is important at Standard Register, and safety milestones (such as a year worked without lost-time injuries) and training accomplishments (such as an employee completing a training program) are recognized. Such recognition does not have to be expensive, Miller acknowledges. "Things such as free donuts and coffee, or a lunch with the CEO, can be quite motivating," he notes. At one facility, employees play Safety Bingo as a way to have fun and win prizes that vary from safety items to gift certificates. Other facilities use similar programs to motivate employees.

"It's the people who make the difference," Miller says, "and we keep them engaged in the safety effort."

Those safety efforts have paid off. Standard Register's York, Penn., facility set an industry record of more than 3 million hours worked without a disabling injury. It won the Governor's Award for Safety Excellence. In fact, the York facility has accomplished something only two Pennsylvania companies have ever done: won the Governor's Award for Safety Excellence and the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence. In addition, Standard Register participates in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program, which recognizes companies for occupational safety and health efforts and requires employee involvement in the safety process.

In addition to traditional safety and health efforts, how many corporations can boast of a wellness program as comprehensive as the one found at Standard Register's corporate headquarters in Dayton, Ohio? The facility has a walking/running track, aerobics and kickboxing classes, heart-healthy food and an annual health fair with free, on-site mammograms, lipids/cholesterol screening, osteoporosis screening, prostate screening, healthy cooking classes and more.

"Our commitment to safety has been longstanding," Miller says of the company that's been around since 1912, adding, "We strive to be a great company that's a great place to work."

Best Practices

To ensure that employees understand safety is the No. 1 priority at Standard Register, the company produces quarterly newsletters on safety and environmental news, safety success stories and safety milestones. the company also sponsors an annual three-day conference for safety coordinators, which includes sharing best practices from all 36 manufacturing facilities and warehouse distribution sites.

Russell Corp.

Russell Corp. was the first apparel company to have a site listed in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program. That safety is important is apparent from the start of every shift. The first thing, at the beginning of each shift in the massive distribution centers, front-line supervisors and employees discuss the goals for the day, important things to remember about production, the target the group is shooting for and safety. They discuss proper personal protective equipment, accident trends and any unsafe conditions employees or supervisors might have spotted.

"Safety is an integral part of our culture. It is integrated into the total manufacturing process. Russell's goal is to produce a quality product safely. No job or task is so important that it cannot be done safely," says Joe Harrison, area safety director. "At Russell, we believe that our employees are our most valuable resource, and a safe and healthful workplace results in improved morale, higher quality and productivity, and a greater sense of security."

Any time employees have concerns, they know they can go to supervisors, members of the safety committee or members of management. Employees are interviewed during annual safety and health audits. "We talk about the strong points of the program as well as areas that may need attention. They offer their opinions about the safety program and their comments about making the program better. We make note and execute," Harrison says.

In addition to conducting audits, implementing programs and talking to employees, Harrison does a lot of proactive number crunching by looking at accident reports to spot accident trends for immediate correction and prevention. "We go back and determine how injuries are occurring, whether it's an unsafe act or an unsafe condition. If it's a specific shift, specific machine, specific task or even a specific motion."

If a trend is identified or suspected, action plans immediately go into place to correct the problem.

Facts about Russell Corp:

  • Headquarters: Atlanta
  • Industry/Products: Textiles and apparel
  • Number of Employees/Locations: 5,900 employees at 23 facilities in the United States, 13,450 worldwide
  • Number of EHS Professionals: 12

Weyerhaeuser Co.

There are four tenants to Weyerhaeuser's philosophy regarding safety, says Rich Hanson, executive vice president for timberlands. "All incidents are preventable. Our commitment to safety is based on caring. Line management is responsible for employee and contractor safety. Safety is a condition of employment."

Weyerhaeuser has received recognition for its innovative and effective safety programs from a number of state safety organizations, including Washington's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, the Arkansas Department of Labor's Three Accumulative Years Safety Award, the 2000 safety award from the American Forest & Paper Association, the Utah Labor Commission's Annual Safety Award, and the 2000 Mill Safety Competition sponsored by the APA - Engineered Wood Association.

Hanson credits committed leadership, employee involvement, identifying and focusing on the greatest potential for improvement, and risk management for the company's stellar safety record. Also deserving credit, he says, is an effort to see that "the basics are done well: incident investigation, recordkeeping, safety auditing, process reliability and regulatory compliance."

In a speech titled "Survivor Challenge: Surviving as a Member of the Northwest Pulp & Paper Industry," which he gave last year for a leading technical association for the worldwide pulp, paper and converting industry, Hanson listed "work safely" as his No. 1 survival tip for an industry undergoing tough times.

"The first and most important survival tip is to work and live safely - on the job, on the road and around the house," Hanson told the group. "A sustainable culture of safety does not happen overnight. It's a journey that requires the involvement of every individual within a company, as well as steadfast leadership and the application of reliable processes."

At Weyerhaeuser, the safety wake-up call came in 1985, he recalled. That year, the company experienced four fatalities in its pulp and paper-manufacturing sector. Managers knew something had to change.

Through the concerted efforts of managers and employees, Weyerhaeuser experienced reductions in all of its safety indicators - recordable incident rate, lost-time accidents and severity of injuries. For example, since 1995, it decreased the number of recordable incidents by a third. "Our goal is less than one recordable incident per 100 employees per year," Hanson said.

"For all of us to survive, we need to hire prudent people, insist on behavior-based safety education and intervene when people take risks. Lead by example and don't be afraid to set high expectations, and make sure your employees meet them. Have the courage to show you care by making the hard call, even if it means letting someone go," he added.

Facts about Weyerhaeuser Co.:

  • Headquarters: Federal Way, Wash.
  • Industry/Products: Forest products
  • Number of Employees/Locations: 58,000 employees at 440 locations following July 2002 integration with Willamette Industries
  • Number of EHS Professionals: 262

Dow: Fine-tuning for Perfection

Dow Chemical set a goal to reduce its injury/illness rate by 90 percent between 1995 and 2005, and it's well on its way to achieving it.

Dow Chemical set a tough goal for itself when it comes to safety: an injury/illness rate of 0.24 in 2005. In 1994, the global rate (including Dow employees and contractors) was 2.51. By 2001, it had improved to 0.86. "We are even lower this year," reports Bart Gliatta, personal safety expertise leader at Dow's Expertise Center in Port Lavaca, Texas.

Gliatta identifies three critical elements to the success of the company's safety program: leadership, work process and empowered organization.

Leadership. Safety starts with Dow leadership, which sets the vision. "The ultimate vision is to reach zero recordables," Gliatta explains. "The goal of 0.24 will get us very close to zero."

According to Gliatta, one of the most important concepts in utilizing the strength of leadership is to understand the difference between a leader and leadership. "Leaders set the tone and expectations and provide the resources," he explains, while leadership involves empowerment, which relates to leadership at all levels. "This means that, regardless of where you are in the organization, you have accountability and responsibility to perform and to take a leadership role with your peers and others in the organization," he notes.

Work Process. Gliatta is part of Dow's Expertise Center, which develops tools to help the organization achieve its safety goals. His responsibility is to make sure the sites have the systems and tools they need to achieve the expected levels of safety performance. "We are the keeper of the model practices. We own the expertise in safety," he states.

The Expertise Center has a number of EHS work processes, which examine things like behavior-based safety tools and root-cause investigations. The purpose of the root-cause investigations is to find out what happened during an incident and how to improve safety performance as part of a continuous improvement process.

Dow, which has corporate headquarters in Midland, Mich., utilizes the ISO Plan-Do-Check-Act process all the way through. The Expertise Center, Gliatta says, is also responsible for global safety standards across the organization, such as lockout/tagout, confined space, etc. The Expertise Center provides training and education to Dow facilities to help them perform audits and assessments and improve safety performance. "Each site has a safety contact person, and our people work with that person and/or the site leader," he adds.

Empowered Organization. This is the concept designed to drive the accountability and responsibility down to the individual employee for achieving the goals. "This removes a lot of the barriers associated with a supervisor looking over their shoulders and being responsible for their safety," he states. Despite the focus on the individual, Dow also encourages teams to work together on safety.

The real key to success, Gliatta believes, is the fact that all of the elements are linked together. A three-legged stool can stand firmly, but take away just one of the legs, and it collapses. "If you took even one of the elements away, you'd have to start all over again and rebuild everything," he states.

Of the three, which poses the most significant challenge? "Our biggest challenge is making sure that everyone maintains a safety focus at all times - making sure that when you go into a job, you think about the safety aspects," Gliatta responds. "You have to work on safety every minute of every day. If you use the same disciplines for working safely that you use to perform the work operations, you will be safe."

One of the most important responsibilities everyone has is getting employees on the front line involved and being part of the safety process. Using the internationally linked computer system, anyone in Dow can key in a specific issue and find the company's common rules, standards and other information.

"For example, if you're on the midnight shift and have a question about something, you can go into the system and enter the topic into the search engine," says Gliatta, making it a 24-hour-per-day safety resource.

Best Practices: Special Initiatives

Dow has a number of specific initiatives designed to help move it toward its goal of zero recordables:

  • Information sharing. Dow has systems in place to share incident information quickly, preventing similar incidents from happening elsewhere.
  • Safety auditing. This occurs on three levels: corporate, site and individual.
  • Behavior-based safety.
  • Safety committees. Some sites have site-wide committees. Others have committees within individual operations. At Dow, safety committees are called Responsible Care Teams, and they are accountable for safety within their organizations.
  • Safety incentives. The program tracks a number of performance activities, such as behavior-based safety, as part of the incentive package.
  • Ergonomics. A Procedural Implementation Assessment examines how jobs are performed. The company also does pre-task analysis, part of which looks at the ergonomics of the job, such as body positions.
  • Contractor safety. The safety department works closely with purchasing and has a rigorous process of qualifying and selecting contractors.

Safety Soars at Lockheed Martin Corp.

The goal of Lockheed Martin's 962 EHS professionals is to send all 125,000 employees home safe at the end of the shift.

At Lockheed Martin Corp., it is the job of management to protect employees, believes Ken Meashey, corporate vice president for Energy, Environment, Safety and Health (EEHS). "We want our people safe, leaving work in the same condition they came in to work.

"Accidents are wasted effort, lost productivity, drivers of administrative costs." In other words, Meashey says, accidents and injuries are bad business.

Key elements of the occupational safety and health program at Lockheed Martin Corp., with headquarters in Bethesda, Md., and involvement in the aerospace, defense and technology industries, include:

  • 2002 Absence Management Initiative to reduce nonoccupational injuries;
  • 2002 E-Training Initiative to provide interactive employee training online;
  • Common Performance Metrics to reduce and monitor Business Unit DACR, recordable rate and severity rate;
  • Implementation of ergonomic software to monitor employee computer work time;
  • Ongoing training and workshops on OSHA recordkeeping, electrical safety, etc.;
  • Safety Smart! For Networks software available online for use in employee communications;
  • Development of Injury Cost Model and Ergonomics Model Program;
  • Ongoing review of safety and health regulatory requirements and teleconferences with Business Unit safety and health personnel to discuss applicability and concerns; and
  • Online Safety and Health Guidance Modules that include topics like confined space, electrical safety, fall protection, etc.

The Energy, Environment, Safety & Health Mission of Lockheed Martin Corp. has four goals: to protect employees and the environment, ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, acquire energy and ensure that it is used efficiently, and integrate systems and services that enhance performance and reduce costs.

To that end, Meashey meets regularly with the EESH managers from the four business areas - Mark Posson (Space Systems), Norm Varney (Systems Integration), Dennis Olejcznak (Technology Services) and Bill Persky (Aeronautics Company) - as well as Scott Evans, the Enterprise Information Systems EESH manager.

"We negotiate what (safety) performance they think they can achieve. They set performance goals you wouldn't think they could achieve, but they do it," Meashey says of the safety professionals at Lockheed Martin Corp.

Best Practice:

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s policy statement says the company is "committed to conducting its operations in a manner that prevents accidents and environmental, safety and health incidents; ensures the safety of employees, contractors and the public; protects the environment; and conserves natural resources.

Chief Industries: Building a Better Safety Program

At Chief Industries, manufacturers of engineered metal buildings, safety takes on a life of its own.

The plant manager at Chief Industries' Buildings Division in Grand Island, Neb., made it his No. 1 goal to become a Star site in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program.

"He gave us a year to do it," remembers Mike Epp, health and safety coordinator at the site, "and we did it. Our employees are willing to adapt to change, and they do a good job of following the safety program."

In addition, Epp says, employees know that management isn't just giving lip service to safety. "Some places have an 'us against them' attitude. Here, you don't feel that," he notes. "Management honestly cares for the safety of employees, and employees can feel it."

The facility is 70 percent under the average lost workday rate in its SIC code. "No job is so important and no service so urgent that we cannot do it safely," Epp says, quoting management's philosophy regarding safety. That attitude, and an emphasis on prevention, is the key to Chief Industries' overall safety success.

Prevention is the Best Cure. The best way to reduce injuries, Epp says, is to ensure they never happen in the first place.

As at many manufacturing facilities, equipment repair operations is an area where injuries are likely to occur. Eliminate breakdowns and the need for repairs is eliminated, Epp notes.

"One of our standout programs is preventative maintenance. If it needs to be checked, it's checked. There are very few mechanical breakdowns. We do [safety and maintenance] checks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis." Maintenance checks are conducted by employees operating the machines and by maintenance personnel.

Prevention is also the key to reducing and eliminating ergonomic injuries at Chief, which has 1,800 employees in 13 divisions. Jim Steele, corporate safety manager, says the ergonomics program starts with a job safety analysis (JSA) to examine ways to reduce risk factors. These JSAs include inspections to study the relationship between job tasks and equipment, discussions among the safety committee members to determine the safest way to do a job task and an evaluation of job tasks by a physical therapist.

Chief Industries trains employees in risk factors and symptoms of ergonomic-related injuries, and the physical therapist evaluates their job tasks and offers them advice and tips to reduce or eliminate discomfort and injuries.

"We believe in early intervention," Steele says. "We conduct a survey of employees to determine if they're experiencing discomfort and where. It doesn't matter if it's work-related or not. Even if they've got strains or pains from nonwork-related activities, we still want to ensure that their work activities do not make it worse."

Although such comprehensive programs can be expensive to operate, Steele comments, "It panned out that the cost savings from reducing ergonomic injuries far outweighed the cost of the ergonomic program."

The emphasis on hazard prevention, rather than on after-the-fact efforts, has not gone unnoticed by employees. "We've undergone a culture change," Epp says. "It's become expected that you won't get hurt at work, rather than you will get hurt at work. Before you know it, safety has taken on a life of its own and you have fewer injuries and fewer costs associated with injuries.

"Safety, quality and value are the key principles of our business, and we can't live without any of them. All have to be important to employees for us to succeed."

Best Practices: Tracking Hazards to Correction

When Chief employees spot a hazardous condition, they must note:

  • The hazard
  • Where it can be found
  • What, if any, corrective action was taken
  • What's been done to ensure it does not happen again.

Supervisors and managers are alerted to the hazard as part of the process, and the safety committee maintains contact with the manager until the hazard is corrected. The hazard identification correction form is not closed out until the employee who submitted the form says the problem has been fixed.

Conoco Inc.: Three Steps to Safety

With 20,000 employees working in 40 countries, Conoco Inc. has a formidable responsibility when it comes to safety.

Conoco Inc., based in Houston, has 150 safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals to provide education, support and guidance for the company's employees and managers. It seems to be working.

Through June, Conoco logged a total recordable rate (worldwide) of 0.65 (0.36 for Conoco employees, 0.90 for contractors), and a total lost workday case rate (worldwide) of 0.16 (0.07 for Conoco employees and 0.23 for contractors).

"We are a 127-year-old company and can trace our safety initiatives back almost 70 years," states Steve Brouillard, manager, safety and occupational health. Back then, the prevailing attitude in the petroleum industry was "full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes," he says.

"However, we had people in our company who believed that killing people wasn't an acceptable cost of doing business," he adds. Today, Conoco's ultimate goal is zero injuries, illnesses and incidents. "We believe there isn't any job that we can't do safely," he emphasizes.

As Easy as 1-2-3? While there are obviously dozens, if not hundreds, of components to a successful safety program, Conoco focuses on three that it considers critical to success. "We came up with these in the late 1990s, when we were still part of DuPont," Brouillard states.

"DuPont was the chemical industry leader in safety, and we were the petroleum industry leader, but safety performance in both companies had been flat for about 10 years. We wanted to improve."

Conoco created a team chaired by two executive vice presidents to see how it could improve safety. The team identified three key elements:

Leadership commitment. "Our safety leadership comes directly from the CEO," Brouillard emphasizes. For example, if any significant incidents occur, the chairman's office must be notified within 24 hours. Along the same lines, accountability for safety is a line responsibility, from top to bottom.

Work force engagement. This means involving everyone in the work force in all phases of business, including safety. "For example, we became involved in behavior-based safety in our refineries several years ago," Brouillard reports. "In some locations, we allowed them to select the model they wanted to use." Some facilities used a program offered by an outside consultant, some selected a program offered by the union, and some selected a hybrid. "Regardless of the model they use, though, they own and operate it, manage the budget, do the observations, keep the records and generate the reports," he explains. "If management wants a report on behavior-based safety performance, they go to that committee to get it."

Tools and processes. One of the main jobs of the corporate SH&E department is to keep a "well-stocked toolbox" of ideas that the business units can use to implement safety initiatives. "Years ago, we would 'shotgun' safety programs from the corporate office if we saw certain trends developing," Brouillard reports. "The problem was that the program might be useful for one facility, but not another. We realized that 'one size doesn't fit all,' so we now allow the business units to select from our 'toolbox' based on their needs."

What's the most difficult element of the three? Brouillard feels the second one represents the greatest challenge - keeping the work force engaged, given the lure of today's world of instant gratification. "The more often employees come to work and don't get hurt, the more complacent they can become," he explains. "A lot of the injuries we have are very basic, the result of people just not paying attention. As such, one of our most important responsibilities is to remind people every day of the importance of paying attention to what they are doing."

The second most challenging is the first element - keeping leadership engaged. "They have a lot of pressures and responsibilities to deal with in other areas," Brouillard says. "We emphasize, though, that failure to remain engaged each and every day allows problems to start happening very quickly. You don't get to rest on your laurels very long when it comes to safety performance."

Centralized/Decentralized Safety. As noted, Conoco has found success with a unique mix of centralized and decentralized safety strategies. Here's some examples of how these work:

Decentralized: While the company has a corporate-level safety policy and vision, most of the actual initiatives are determined by each business unit, based on what makes sense. For example, safety committees are not mandated from corporate, but many of the facilities use them as a way to move ownership of the various safety elements into the hands of the employees.

Many of the businesses also utilize safety incentive programs. "We realize there is some controversy associated with these, and we're not really big into them, but we do use them where they make sense," Brouillard states.

Conoco provides corporate guidance on ergonomics in the sense that the business units must address ergonomics risk factors, and the SH&E department offers a "toolbox" of things they can use. "The business units identify their own specific risks and then use the tools that make sense," Brouillard explains.

Centralized: One of Conoco's few corporate standards is that all business units must have a formal SH&E Management System in place, which has 14 elements. "We have a corporate audit group that performs system-level safety audits on a full-time basis," Brouillard notes. The team schedules visits to all Conoco facilities. Higher-risk facilities, such as refineries, are audited every year.

Synergy. The centralized-decentralized concept dovetails most clearly when it comes to sharing safety information. "We used to tell the business units to just 'do their own thing,' but we realized we were missing a lot of opportunities this way," Brouillard admits. "This literally resulted in stupid things happening."

As a result, Conoco has a series of corporate networks set up to become aware of what all of the business units are doing in safety and then shares best practices from each unit with all of the other units, who are free to adopt the ideas if they are of use. In addition, when the SH&E department finds that two business units are planning to address the same issue, they get them together so they don't duplicate efforts.

Perspective. In sum, the keys to a successful safety program are implementing the three elements Brouillard listed earlier. "If you set up a program around these three things, you're 90 percent of the way there," he concludes.

Best Practices: Conoco's 10 Safety Principles

  • 1. All injuries can be prevented.
  • 2. Management (including all levels through first-line supervisors) is accountable for preventing injuries.
  • 3. Safety is a condition of employment.
  • 4. Management must provide training.
  • 5. Management must audit performance in the workplace to assess safety program success.
  • 6. All deficiencies must be corrected promptly.
  • 7. All incidents are investigated to determine causes, correct them and prevent recurrences of similar incidents.
  • 8. Off-the-job safety is important.
  • 9. It's good business to prevent injuries.
  • 10. People are the most critical element of the safety program.

Lozier Corp.

Walk into just about any major retailer in the country and you'll see fixtures made by the employees of Lozier Corp. With so many customers needing so many products, you'd think that production or customer service would top the company's list of priorities. Not so.

Safety is the first item on Lozier's list of priorities. The company has very little flexibility or tolerance when it comes to an "unsafe environment." Second on that list of priorities is "respect and caring," followed by "quality," "service," "speed" and "cost."

"Safety is definitely integrated into the business," says Kerry Shaffar, corporate safety director. "It is one of the key aspects of our business and of our business decision-making."

Lozier's efforts include basics such as audits, safety talks, safety committees and accident investigations, as well as innovative programs such as Hazard Hunts and "Adopt-a-Repeater."

Hazard Hunts are conducted daily on each shift and in each department, Shaffar says. Supervisor and manager completion

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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