Show Me the Safety

June 1, 2008
When Roper Corp. asked employees to "Show me the safety," they did – and reduced their OSHA recordable rate in the process.

After enjoying a downward trend in our OSHA recordable rate for many successful years, Roper Corp., an appliance manufacturer located in La Fayette, Ga., reached an all-time low recordable rate of 2.4 in 2005. Our 1,500 employees were highly involved in the safety program and all the fundamental safety elements were in place at this point in our history. But we still were looking for ways to improve – ways to reach our ultimate goal of zero injuries.

To improve our efficiencies at Roper Corp., we launched a huge lean manufacturing initiative at the site in 2004. As we headed into our second year of our lean manufacturing journey, we made changes in the plant at a rapid pace. We were not, however, effectively taking into account the ergonomic risk associated with many of our changes. As a result, in 2006, our recordable rate sharply increased 38 percent over the previous year, landing at 3.3. Ouch! How did this happen? What could we do to get this back on track as we headed into 2007, one of our busiest schedules for new product introductions in years?

Years of building a trusting relationship between the operations teams and management led to a strong foundation for our team. Management commitment and employee involvement had been vital to our success so far, and would continue to be so in the future. As we brainstormed ways to improve our safety performance, one of our team members mentioned the phrase, “Show me the safety.” It’s sort of a combination of the “Show Me” state, Missouri, and the “Show me the money” quote from the Jerry McGuire movie. It was catchy and we liked it from the start. We hoped that its personal feel would continue to empower and engage employees.

The response was exactly what we hoped for: improved personal ownership, accountability and employees holding each other accountable for safe behavior. Employees could see what was expected and they could see immediate results from following the Show Me the Safety plan. Quite simply, it worked.

As we formulated our safety plan around this phrase, we developed four categories: Show Me Greater Ergo Awareness, Show Me Improved Housekeeping, Show Me Safety Matters to You and Show Me the Safety Results. We kept each category clear and concise, leaving little room for interpretation.

Show Me Greater Ergo Awareness focused on using ergonomic analysis tools to identify issues and then taking action to improve workstation designs and assist in training employees on proper ergonomic postures. We also strongly emphasized that employees immediately should report any pain or discomfort brought on by work. As a result, our first aid cases jumped from 67 in 2006 to 237 in 2007. Our recordable rate, meanwhile, dropped from 3.3 in 2006 to a new record low of 1.7 in 2007! While the early reporting may have been a bit overwhelming for our clinic, it prompted timely intervention to prevent the injuries from worsening, while prompting us to quickly correct workstation issues.

Show Me Improved Housekeeping brought safety and lean manufacturing together by using the Lean 5S process to get things organized and in order. A key indication of a good safety program, after all, is excellence in housekeeping and employees’ ownership of their local areas. The Lean 5S process takes the teams through the housekeeping improvement steps by focusing on Sorting, Shining, Stabilizing, Standardizing and Sustaining their work areas. A clean work area is a safer work area!

Show Me Safety Matters to You helped us drive ownership at all levels. Throughout the entire organization, everyone is now expected to follow the safety rules all the time. A higher rank does carry the privilege of avoiding safety rules. In our high-cut hazard areas, for example, we painted purple “Barney lines” on the floor, requiring that anyone who crosses the line must have armguards and cut-resistant gloves on the entire time they are in the area. Furthermore, everyone is expected to follow the rules and to encourage co-workers to do likewise. This resulted in consistent enforcement of safety policies in all areas of the plant.

Last but certainly not least, Show Me the Safety Results brought the metrics into alignment with our expectations. Twice a year, Roper Corp. has a performance payout to all the employees based on four categories: safety, quality, delivery and schedule achievement. To encourage the right kind of behavior, we needed employees to follow all safety rules and report all ergonomic injuries immediately. We did not impose a financial penalty for injuries for fear that employees would fail to report.

Instead, we implemented a “safety bucket” incentive program that has worked wonderfully. Each week, we add $6.15 to the safety bucket. We start each 6-month period at zero and work our way up, thus preventing any thoughts of entitlement. If we have a recordable incident that occurs because of a safety violation or failure to early report, we dock the payout by $10. Implementing these stipulations has caused employees to follow safety rules and prompt each other to do the same.

Our success with the Show Me the Safety program led to our quality department adopting a similar slogan and approach with their Show Me the Quality program in 2008. It’s amazing what a tactical safety plan can do when it is combined with a workforce that has a foundation of trust and commitment between all levels of management and operational teams. Keeping it simple is typically the most effective method. Using a familiar slogan, such as a line from a movie, is a great way to help employees remember key points.

As we say at Roper Corp., don’t just tell me about safety – “Show Me the Safety!”

Bob Edwards is a mechanical engineer, a special government employee for OSHA’s Volunteer Protective Programs and the safety leader for Roper Corp., a subsidiary of General Electric.

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