Flipping The Script on Safety

Safety is the fundamental building block to creating a high performing sustainable manufacturing operating system. I’ve worked for Milliken & Company for 31 years in various roles throughout the company. I’ve held plant leadership roles in several different manufacturing plants, as well as, business leadership roles in different businesses units within the company. Therefore, I’ve witnessed what a successful safety process can do for a company from the manufacturing and business side. Safety can and should be used as a strategic lever and I believe the safety of the workforce should be the first concern for any CEO. A safe work environment not only saves the company money, but it leads to improved morale and increased productivity.

To put it simply, the tone is set from the top. Every organization has a Chief Safety Officer (CSO). At Milliken & Company, our CSO is our CEO. This moves safety from just another program to a core value throughout the company. It’s our belief, that in order to have a successful and sustainable safety process, everyone in the organization must be involved. Therefore, the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the company must change.

Management is still accountable, but now acts more as a coach or a sponsor. The production associates lead the charge. They lead the central safety steering committees and supporting subcommittees based on the needs of each site. The management team is there to give guidance and remove potential road blocks. Management moves from the front of the room to the back of the room, but they do not leave the room.

The right metrics must exist at every level in the organization in order to know if you’re winning. However, too often when it comes to safety, companies only measure Output Metrics or “Lagging Indicators” such as TIR (Total Incident Rate) or DART Rate (Days Away, Restrictions and Transfers) which measures severity. To work on issues prior to an injury happening, companies should focus on Input Metrics or “Leading Indicators”. Examples of Input Metrics are % Associate Engagement in the safety process, % Audits and Corrective Actions Performed, Risk Assessments and Reduction Efforts, Safe Behavior Observations and Safety Suggestions Submitted. Not only is measuring the right things critical, but the metrics must be understood, actionable and reviewed consistently by all levels of the organization.

Most leaders don’t like to think about the financial impact safety can have on the company’s bottom line. Whether companies realize it or not you pay for safety in 2 ways 1) invest in the training and education upfront – before someone is injured or 2) after an injury occurs. We estimate companies spend less than 20% of their safety budget on preventive measures. At Milliken, the preventive spend is 80% of the total safety budget, but we spend much less per incident overall. By focusing on preventive measures, the Milliken spend in total is half the industry average and the incident rate is one-sixth.

Companies that aspire to be World-Class must have safety as a core value. Safety and health are personal to every human being and can have a profound impact on their motivation and morale.

Interested in discussing how your company can flip the script on safety? Contact us today.

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