One mark of a championship safety program is support from the top. When Avery Dennison's new general manager assumed command of the international office supplies manufacturing firm in the 1990s, he did more than support safety. He led it.
Shannon Jones remembers it well. "He brought in a set of values that threw safety as we had known it on its ear. His vision: 'Safety is first. Period. The End. We will not do anything without first considering safety.'"
Avery Dennison's leadership got the message. They outlined a safety initiative, sought out environmental health and safety managers, and relied on their expertise to carry it out in the way they thought best for their respective business units.
At the 130-person, three-shift Fasson Roll North America adhesive label plants in Ajax and Pickering, Ontario, the safety program was primarily reactive, as is common to operations of that size, and the safety committee was occupied by wrangling with complaints.
The two plants, 10 km apart, operate as a single business unit and are being consolidated at the Ajax site. Workers coat and laminate paper rolls with adhesives and finish the products into dissolve labels, holographic films and other pressure-sensitive adhesive products, such as labels, stamps, stickers and film wraps.
When Jones came aboard as Ajax's environmental, health and safety (EHS) leader, she resolved to shift the focus of the corporate safety mandate to prevention and continuous improvement. Her safety team's efforts paid off.
Between 1996 and April 1999, the recordable incident rate plummeted from 5.28 to 0.70, and the lost-time incident rate fell from 1.51 to 0. The most serious injuries have involved "a few stitches and no lost time." Corporate leaders took notice.
"I have a voice in the leadership team, and I can make a case for what's important," Jones says. "They give me the resources and time to do the training. Ten minutes of every monthly management meeting are devoted to safety, and the monthly reports include a safety column. The attention is always there.
"To me, the biggest evidence of management support is that we're encouraged to integrate, to build safety into every function, every activity. It's part of our business structure. Did I have to fight to get it there? Yes. Were they willing to let me? Yes."
Top management's commitment to safety and the Ajax EHS team's hard work is reflected in the plant's day-to-day activities. Employees are encouraged to take on safety rolls through a constantly growing array of programs, activities and opportunities. Managers' pay is tied to safety performance. "You don't have to campaign for safety. People accept responsibility and accountability for it," Jones says.
Evidence of Avery executives' pride in the Ajax success story is obvious: Fasson Roll Director of Specialty Operations Jim Richardson nominated the employees of Ajax/Pickering for the 1999 Champions of Safety Award.
Options for Involvement
Jones says that Ajax's success is due, in part, to the wide array of programs designed to induce employees to participate in the safety initiative. Formerly, management led employees into safety involvement. "Then it evolved into a knowledge quest for individuals, and more people came into the safety program," she says. "The more programs we began, the more people we got because they could find something they could be part of."
Employees receive safety training at every meeting, and all receive training in safe procedures specific to their job and to the facility. "It's more efficient from a production standpoint," Jones says, "and for raising the awareness of other employees to tell them how to work more efficiently and safely."
A quarterly training calendar for each functional area permits EHS and corporate leadership to maintain a consistently high level of training and to ensure that EHS standards are perpetuated.
In addition to initial EHS orientation of new employees, the Contact program delivers monthly training in EHS procedures on a personal basis. EHS leaders contact their assigned employees and ensure their awareness and understanding of corporate EHS policy on the designated topics. Participation is tracked and measured.
All team members participate in DuPont's Safety Training Observation Program (STOP), which encourages employees to be aware and to report hazardous conditions or practices to EHS personnel. These issues are reviewed in morning production meetings, after which follow-up actions are assigned and tracked. The incident management program requires that all near-misses be reported and immediate action taken to define factors leading to the event and to assign responsibility for preventing similar events.
Participation is not limited to training. A wide range of programs, designed to attract and engage the diverse employee population, is offered.
Among these programs is The Untouchables, the goal of which is to identify, research, evaluate and manage hazards by making them "untouchable."
For example, the coating and slitting machines formerly involved a high degree of potentially hazardous human-machine interaction. The team identified what machine components were hazardous, whether special tools were used, what lines converge, ergonomics issues and whether additional guarding was needed. Gates were installed around the feed sides of the machine. If the gates are opened, the machine shuts down.
"It slows down operations, but that reinforces the message to employees that their safety is more important than productivity," Richardson says.
The EHS team's visibility on the shop floor and its program of random monitoring have turned up problems that otherwise would have grown, unnoticed, to major hazards. In one case, Jones noticed employees shouting and discovered that the machines' noise slightly exceeded permissible levels. By realigning noise baffles and acoustical enclosures, the problem was quickly remedied.
Although Ajax is a Canadian operation of a U.S. company, straddling the two countries' safety and health regulations is not difficult, Richardson and Jones insist. "In this business, you know what is the right thing to do, regardless of the law," Richardson says. "It's a matter of ethics. Generally, we follow the more stringent of the U.S.-Canadian regulations. Environmental compliance differs little between the two countries."
Bill Murray, health and safety manager at Fasson corporate, says, "If our program was built strictly around compliance, there would be a bigger disconnect between the two countries' regulations. We comply, but that's not the major issue. We're exceeding regulations and doing the right thing."
If what gets measured gets managed, then the Ajax EHS manages very well, indeed. Avery Dennison department managers track four proactive measures -- inspections, training, participation of work force and follow-up of corrective actions -- to determine efficiency.
"It gives people a chance to see where they are and where they need to be at any given time," Jones says. "Accountability for getting things done is tied to salary and performance reviews. Just as you put in an expense report, so safety is also a part of your job. It is the way we work here."
Richardson explains that the corporate objective for EHS is that "if you want to work for Avery Dennison in the global community, you will operate safely. Every decision you make affects everyone else."
Performance measurements are not the sole concern of managers, however. Ajax shares the knowledge by posting injury statistics, performance metrics and goals in the employee break room, along with training opportunities, informational pass-outs and daily production schedules.
Richardson attributes the success of Ajax's EHS efforts, at least partially, to its application of best practices from other corporate divisions. "You don't have to campaign for safety here," Jones says. "People accept responsibility and accountability for safety. They act on it immediately."
Jones and Richardson are allied in their safety goals for 2000. "We are working toward an injury-free workplace," Jones says. "We'dlike to keep what we have, while adding EHS successes to it, drop by drop, without tipping the bucket over. We want to get to a point where everything is understood.
"It's harder than ever now to keep our safety focus. We really have not reached our goal. Safety is a continuous process of improvement. You never really get there. It's a never-ending story. We have to keep the knowledge base growing, learning something new every day."