Q&A: Involved to Engaged. An Employee-Centric Approach to Improving Safety

In our recent webinar “Involved to Engaged. An Employee-Centric Approach to Improving Safety”, hosted in partnership with EHS Today, we discussed why organizations must address people and culture long before applying new tools. We had great participation during the Q&A and we wanted to share that conversation with you!


Phil McIntyre, Managing Director, Business Development & Marketing, Performance Solutions by Milliken

Cara Thompson, Managing Director, Operations, Performance Solutions by Milliken


Here are a few takeaways from the webinar’s Q&A session.

Q: Once you have engaged the individual, how do you structure the organization to support and sustain the change?

Phil: Structure and infrastructure are very important. We are strong advocates of a structure that begins with a steering committee. This committee has responsibility for guiding the safety efforts within the organization. We are advocates of populating this steering committee with your existing safety champions but there are a lot of ways to do this. Many organizations feel they need to focus on the resisters while we believe you should begin with your champions instead. Underneath the steering committee, we are proponents of subcommittees of where these subcommittees align to where your current loss landscape is. Subcommittees need to be set up around areas in which the work teams can generate a win.

Cara: How you support the individuals on the team is important. While it should be your safety champions, that is a great opportunity to involve frontline employees, but they also need a coach. Often existing safety leaders are great sponsors for those teams because they have the subject matter expertise and can provide support for hourly associates that are building that team. Each of the subcommittees need a sponsor as well. Those coaches are important to help the team learn to work together, set goals and action plans, and work towards those early successes so they can continue to improve your safety process.

Q: How do you deal with cultural differences from different parts of the world?

Cara: The basic concepts apply, but the tactics to execute differ. It comes down to understanding your frontline team. At Milliken, we use the same safety structure everywhere in the world. However, how we prioritize and form the teams is out of respect for the local culture. Each site has the latitude to form their priorities and determine how they are going to evolve towards this process. We talk a lot about common language, common process. When we say common language, this refers to what we call things and common process is in terms of our safety steering team and our subcommittee structure. My experience around the world is that when it comes to safety, there’s not much cultural difference. It all comes down to that human want to go home to our families.

Phil: We also recognized that in a very international organization such as Milliken, every single country has their own individual metrics. We decided that every site around the world was going to be measured the same way.

Q: What advice do you have for an organization who started Operational Excellence before Safety Excellence?

Cara: It’s never too late to start your safety journey. We recommend our structure and starting with a safety subcommittee to get that process going. When an organization is ready or makes the decision to apply the attitude of excellence to their safety process is a good time to start.

Phil: Many times, when organizations look at the word “start” on safety, we believe that it does start with leadership commitment and communication. But it’s never too late to create safety as a value.

If you missed this webinar or would like to view it again, this webinar is available on demand. View on demand webinar.

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