Establishing Safety Leadership In Your Plant: How to Set The Vision for 100% Ownership

Part of Performance Solutions by Milliken’s manufacturing safety tips series – click here to learn more

The health and safety of our associates is a deeply held organizational and individual value by Milliken. It was not always like that. Milliken was like many companies in that they were a “top-down” driven company. Initiatives were developed at the top and driven down to the plant level. Many of these were ambiguous but were required to be implemented. People in the plants felt this was another “corporate program” which led to limited or reluctant buy-in at the floor level. The results were mediocre at best, and the overall process functioned by the fear of consequences.

Discovering Safety Leadership

Mr. Roger Milliken, former CEO, realized that the safety process needed to be changed and set forth a vision for greater ownership. The ownership of the vision was distributed to every leader in the company. The leader’s responsibility shifted from implementation to sponsorship. The ownership of the process needed to be where the most impact could be felt – on the floor. With the shift of ownership, we realized that management’s or leadership’s role in the process should be more supportive and not directive. As we changed the direction of the safety process, we developed the associates on the floor to become leaders and rely on management for support rather than direction. The change in thinking and approach empowered everyone in the process to be owners of the system. The leaders and managers were the first challenged to ‘let go’ of their controlling tendencies. When leaders let go of their grip on the process, we see the merging of three circles of our safety process: leaders, associates, and the safety system.

Developing Safety Ownership

Safety ownership did not come easily. The key to developing safety ownership is through three forces:

  • Empowerment
  • Enablement
  • Engagement

Where leaders and the safety system intersect, we see a new way of leading – a way that empowers others, and leaders shift from directing to serving. Where we see associates and the safety system intersect, we see a new way of working – enabling associates to become more involved and contribute to their own safety. And where leadership and associates intersect, we see engagement happen. Associates transform from following the process to leading the process. Everyone in the facility shares ownership in the process and they work from an ownership perspective rather than just complying with the rules. When leadership empowers the associates on the floor to own the safety system, we have the maximum impact to the safety process.

As leaders, managers, and associates developed into their new roles and responsibilities, our organization began to advance not only what and how to be safe, but also why to be safe. The purpose of a safe work environment was actualized in our day to day. Decisions were made that reflected the renewed belief and mindset. The new purpose solidified the ownership and connection to each other, and to our work. Today, everyone from the CEO to the newest production associate is an integral owner in the safety process.

Are you looking to get your production associates to take ownership of the manufacturing safety process? Contact Performance Solutions today to get started and improve your safety cultures. Additionally, click here to learn how our safety consulting gets results for our clients.

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