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Bob Toohey Samantha King

SLC 2017: Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Safety Excellence

If you are employed at a smaller operation - with potentially smaller resources such as little or no EHS staff or less funding for EHS programs - you have unique challenges. Here's how one company met some of those challenges.

If I say the name “Continental Mills,” you might not immediately recognize the name or the products, because Continental Mills is a smaller, multi-site organization. You might recognize some of their products, though: Krusteaz baking mixes, Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix or Buck Wild snack chips probably ring a bell. The company has over 800 employees at four locations across the country: Washington, Kansas, Illinois and Kentucky.

“Smaller operations have unique challenges to achieving safety excellence, mainly in the amount of EHS professional resources available,” said Bob Toohey, CSP, senior manager of EHS for Continental Mills. “Yet, the responsibility to create a zero-loss environment still exists, and OSHA requirements for compliance are no less applicable.”

Toohey partnered with Paul English, area safety manager for CMC Steel Texas, to talk about “Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Safety Excellence” at the Safety Leadership Conference 2017 in Atlanta. Toohey shared his experience in helping smaller, multi-site organizations effectively manage risk and achieve safety excellence with limited professional EHS resources.

Toohey said safety takes two, parallel tracks at the company: long-term safety management and daily safety management.

The first track examines safety incidents and injuries, said Toohey, who noted that “[incidents] happen when we fail to manage safety programs.” The second track, said Toohey, focuses on “How do we manage safe daily work?”

In his presentation, Toohey quoted John Heily, owner and CEO of Continental Mills, who said: “Creating a safe environment is management’s way of saying they care.”

Toohey called his safety philosophy “The Power of Zero and 100:” Creating a zero-harm work environment while achieving – or perhaps because of achieving – 100 percent employee involvement and engagement. To maximize limited EHS resources for world-class results, Toohey made these suggestions:

  • Establish EHS roles and responsibilities.
  • Include EHS objectives in employee performance management.
  • Conduct regular internal EHS systems audits that drive continuous improvement. As part of that, determine ways to improve EHS skills and foster knowledge development among employees.

Toohey suggested attendees “get organized” for EHS success. “The days of the safety guy or gal are gone,” he said. Safety goes much wider than a single person or a single department. There should be written EHS roles and responsibilities at every level of the organization, suggested Toohey, from the senior vice president of operations to hourly support personnel.

In addition, EHS performance should be part of the overall performance management goals for each employee. That means specific EHS objectives included in employees’ annual goals that are tied into any bonuses, just like production or quality goals.

Because of limited resources, it takes a village to have excellent safety performance, according to Toohey. He achieves it by engaging members of the safety committee, safety coordinators at the facilities, safety program leads and teams and EHS program sponsors, who manage safety challenges like lockout/tagout, confined space, hazcom, electrical safety, etc., and who are part of site leadership. As part of the aspect of daily safe work, these program sponsors conduct JHA’s and risk predictions, work area inspections and behavior audits. “They’re not just counting injuries,” said Toohey. “They are looking for ways to improve performance.”

The site safety coordinator and the EHS program sponsors report directly to the site managers, so everyone is kept up-to-date on safety performance.

This attention to detail and responsiveness to safety challenges is paying off at Continental Mills. In 2007-2008, the company had a total incident rate (TIR) that was average for its industry and higher than the company wanted. The safety sponsor model was introduced in 2009, and Toohey noted that started a fairly precipitous drop in the TIR. In recent years, the company’s TIR rate is less than half of the industry rate and since 2015, has dipped into what Toohey referred to as “best in class.”

“By involving all leadership and employees in specific EHS responsibilities, the organization grew towards a zero-harm culture,” said Toohey.

(The second presentation in this session – “Using Critical Thinking Skills to Be a Better Safety Professional” with Paul English, CSP, area safety manager at CMC Steel Texas – is available in a special webinar presentation. Just click on the link in the presentation title to register and view.)

TAGS: Safety
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