Not many leaders today are talking about manufacturing safety as a strategic lever. We propose that safety should be any CEOs first concern. Not only is safety the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. Ownership of safety in manufacturing process should be a shared responsibility. Safety serves as a foundation for associate empowerment and ownership in all other continuous improvement activities. 

The health and livelihood of all associates is the #1 responsibility of any organization. Employees, management and leadership all need to nurture the manufacturing safety process and have clearly defined roles to see safety improvements in the workplace. 

The nine manufacturing safety tips listed below were instrumental to Milliken’s 30-year journey to achieve safety excellence. These tips all represent principles by which all associates can own and excel in safety.

9 Principles of Ownership that Ensure Manufacturing Safet

1. Establish clear leadership

After a very unfortunate fatality of a single mother in one of Milliken’s finishing plants in 1990, Mr. Milliken called together company leadership for a meeting. He declared that from that point forward “It is our belief that ALL incidents are AVOIDABLE, and MANAGEMENT is accountable. We must make certain that an incident will NEVER occur – EVER AGAIN – in any Milliken location, anywhere in the world.” He set a clear vision for Milliken and Company and marked a significant turning point in our focus on safety. It’s critical to set a clear vision for all associates within your organization before you can establish ownership.

2. Measure the right things

Every organization has safety measures, some of which are required by OSHA. However, it’s important to ask yourself if these measures and metrics truly tell you about the health of your manufacturing safety process. Measures should help us see and track progress to your safety goal.

3. Design ownership into everyday life

Ownership is not an instantaneous achievement. It starts with involvement, matures into engagement, and is achieved with a heavy dose of empowerment. It’s important to answer each of the questions for every associate; WIIFM (what’s in it for me), what are my safety measures, what is my safety activity, what do I own, care and improve, what are my safe behaviors, and where do I fit into the system. All roles must be clearly defined for associates, management and leadership

4. Give feedback the right way

This feedback should be personal, precise and positive. It is meant to be used as a coaching opportunity and is best when provided immediately.

5. Make things highly touchable

While digitization has been great for the industry overall, if something is important to us, we should continue to make the effort to interact in real life. This helps build authenticity. For example, when you use a GPS to get to a destination, do you get there? Ultimately yes. But do you learn how to navigate?

6. Commit to a sacred time & space

This principle supports making the interaction with safety easy. By committing to a time and space, you are showing your organization that manufacturing safety is important and nothing takes precedence over it. By making the time and space sacred, meetings don’t get moved or canceled. In Milliken’s case, we chose to invest in the time and space and, though we spend 3X the amount on prevention than the industry average, our total investment is only half. Not only have we seen the number of incidents greatly reduced, but the severity of those incidents is also lower. By waiting to invest after the incident, the average company is spending twice as much for an incident rate that is 10X higher than what Milliken has seen.

7. Personal safety education for all

Education is the way we empower our workforce and build capabilities to support ownership. When we teach, we enable associates to make informed, intelligent decisions. It is important to teach in such a way that it’s company, site, and job specific.

8. Care for the individual

This must start well before an incident occurs. We must establish robust systems to support first response as well as the development of policies and protocols to follow once an incident has occurred. After an incident occurs, we need to make sure we investigate thoroughly, and management must ensure that incident investigation teams drive countermeasures up the countermeasure ladder for maximum effectiveness.

9. Constant focus on awareness activities

The effectiveness of our manufacturing safety processes carries serious weight. Safety can often become so serious a topic that it’s downright boring. Awareness Activities inject fun into our processes. We challenge teams to be creative and develop activities for their colleagues to participate in to remind them of important safety information.

These principles are the infrastructure that allows production associates to take ownership of the manufacturing safety process. Contact Performance Solutions today to get started and improve your safety cultures.

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