Initiating Safety and Health Best Practices

March 8, 2000
Four award-winning professionals explain the most important initiative in 2000 to improve safety and health at their companies.

"Our goal for 2000 is to roll out a consistent behavioral observation process that shifts from preventing a few more accidents each year to preventing tremendous numbers of accidents in a given period. We've come up with what we believe is a consistent model that we can apply to every project, with the goal of being incident-free at any time.

"The model establishes parameters for what worker observation teams look like, what training the observers get, how to track behavioral data and what to do with data when it's obtained. For instance, training prepares the teams to take a group of behaviors and analyze them to find reasons that they are occurring. Once they find a behavior's cause, the behavior is reinforced if it's good or altered if it's bad. The teams provide a structured way to get a greater number of employees directly involved with health, safety and environmental activities." Mark Guest, global manager of health, safety and environment, Kellogg Brown & Root, Houston

"We are formally introducing an ergonomics program because we've identified musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as our most costly type of injury in regards to workers' compensation. We're in electronics manufacturing, so our people use their hands a lot. To keep ergonomics injuries from getting worse, we're adding automation to our processes to reduce the number of MSDs. We've also done a series of tests of different types of chairs and let the workers on the manufacturing floor try them out. We based a lot of the selection on their input. Additional implementation includes starting local ergonomics teams to resolve issues.

"We want to get away from reacting to somebody who's hurt to proactively assessing areas and making changes. Many times, there are quick fixes that get employees into proper work positions. A lot of it involves changing awkward body postures that we see. It's about educating employees. It's amazing how many employees don't even know how to adjust a chair." Glenn Spetta, corporate environmental, health and safety manager, Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y.

"The most important initiative this year is to take our facility's employee involvement to a new level as part of their safety and health program. To expand on employee involvement through a voluntary safety committee, we are empowering the workers to a greater degree. One of the things we've started is a monthly Good House-keeping Award that is given to a department supervisor. Employees feel empowered because they determine the award winner. As a result, our housekeeping has improved. The end result has been fewer accidents and lower workers' comp costs.

"It's about employee peer pressure, which has helped the workers become responsible for their safety. That peer pressure comes from workers noticing and speaking up when they see an unsafe situation. It has totally sold me on employee participation, because you cannot create a safety program in a vacuum, throw it out on the floor and expect it to work. The employees have to be part of the program." George Heard, vice president of loss prevention, New Campaign Inc., Norfolk, Va.

"Our focus for the year is to ensure that our work force is aligned with our safety and health excellence goal as part of the integration of each facility's safety, environmental management and operations elements. The goal includes developing a behavioral modification program that identifies traits found in an 'ideal' employee.

"To accomplish this, we have identified activities that will capture the skills and thought processes of the ideal employee. This worker is a perfectly safe operator who does everything by procedure and makes no mistakes because of an error-proof thought process. At the same time, we are identifying the skills and thought processes of our top employees to see how they line up with the qualities of an ideal worker.

"Defining these skills and thought processes allows us to identify any gaps between the top employee and the average employee, as well as between the ideal employee and the top employee. Once we accomplish this, we develop specific training objectives and programs to close those gaps." Dallas Sparks, senior safety and health advisor, ExxonMobil Chemical's Houston Olefins plant, Houston

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