Safety Summit: DuPont Pursues the Value of Safety

Company VP says the business value of safety has to be more than anecdotal.

With her company serving as sponsor for the second annual Workplace Safety Summit, Ellen Kullman, vice president of DuPont''s Safety and Protection Group, was asked in an interview what she hopes the two-day event last week in Washington will accomplish.

"I really want to see the growth over time in the belief that safety is a critical part of operating a successful business," Kullman said.

Safety is fast becoming an important part of DuPont''s success. Since the company began to focus on its external safety consulting business in 1999, Kullman said revenues have grown 25 percent a year.

In her public remarks addressing summit attendees, Kullman spoke of safety as a moral necessity and a business value. As Dupont seeks to continue to grow its consulting business, it is figuring how to sell the value of safety that is attracting the company''s attention.

Kullman said that safety has been a core value at DuPont for many years, so the company had not, until recently, paid much attention to the business value of safety. She said that in her experience prior to joining the company, there was a strong correlation between safety performance and quality, productivity, yield and other indicators. "The business value of safety appears anecdotal, and that''s a problem," she said.

One result of last year''s summit was the creation of the Center for Business and Public Policy at Georgetown University''s McDonough School of Business. "In order to get over this ''anecdotal'' data problem," Kullman asserted, "we need to get data and have it blessed in an academic setting so people see this isn''t just us talking to ourselves, but people from a business school saying it''s real."

Another priority Kullman identified for the summit is expanding the number of participants and the activities that follow from the event.

Whatever happens to the effort to lend academic respectability to the business value of safety, Kullman sees no end in sight to Dupont''s efforts to make the sale. "We''re convinced that the way we assess it and go after it, we can, on average, cut injuries by 50 percent," she said.

In fact, DuPont is so confident about its safety consultant business that it now offers performance-based contracts. Under this arrangement, DuPont is paid based on its ability to reduce injury rates. "This has opened the door to a lot of places that were hesitant about paying the costs of workers'' compensation and the cost of consulting too," Kullman said.

DuPont seems to be having no difficulty in selling the value of its safety business domestically and globally. "It''s very exciting," Kullman said. "Safety is one of the fastest growing parts of Dupont''s business."

by James Nash ([email protected])

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