It’s common that we see organizations drive safety from the top down. The initiatives tend to be broad and vague. Because of this, owning the safety initiative is treated like a chore, and not a value-add role resulting in a lack of interest and a disconnect in how each plant carries out each piece. When no one is committed to owning the process and the safety operations strategy is developed at the corporate level it can result in employee disconnect and limited results. It’s often thought that if you simply tell people that safety is the “priority,” people will make it their priority. We used to think so too.
As one of the safest companies in North America, Milliken believes a zero-accident rate is possible. Former CEO and Chairman of the Board, Mr. Roger Milliken, stated “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.” It was his mission to make safety an uncompromising value. With this in mind, a new safety strategy was implemented. By flipping the approach, you can drive higher employee engagement and a more preventive and predictive process to safety. This thinking paved the pathway for the Milliken Safety Way.
Over the next couple weeks, we’ll take a deeper dive into the 9 timeless keys of a successful and sustainable safety process.
The 9 Immutable Keys
Leadership Expectations & Communication
Leadership has to establish safety as a value and demonstrate a commitment to the journey. Management needs to provide the tools to improve while employees must be empowered and engaged. To be successful, each role plays a part and requires disciplined changes. Precise and frequent communication is pivotal to long-term sustainability.
It is critical to set metrics to measure against and review often. Input metrics, such as associate involvement, and output metrics, such as total incident rate, are a great place to start. You’ll want to identify both lagging and leading indicators to be measured. Leading indicators can show you where to spend more time and resources in order to prevent possible incidents.
Your entire organization needs to “own” safety and put its practices in place. However, having the right organizational structure helps increase involvement and empowerment leading to your employees driving and owning the process. Introducing safety subcommittees can assist in the process of making your entire organization a safety leader.
To say that safety is a core value means that safety is a part of daily business. At the start of every business meeting, safety is the first topic – before sales, production or anything else. When visitors come to a site, the safety rules are the first things discussed. Making reporting a part of the company culture reinforces the importance of safety.
Standardization of common language and common process is a powerful tool. Achieving total workforce engagement can be difficult If everyone is speaking a different language. To ensure standardization it is essential that you are prescriptive in how things should be done.
Time & Money Commitment
While we know there is a time and dollar commitment once an incident has occurred, there needs to be greater investment prior to an incident. We’ve found the ‘cost of prevention’ can have a significant impact on the post incident cost and overall total cost of being safe.
Inadequate training is a challenge to employee involvement. We cannot expect employees to perform safe practices without first teaching safe practices. Beyond the hard skills such as safety audits and JSA’s, there is an inherent need for soft skill training as well. This should cover topics such as communication best practices, handling a crisis, coaching, and more.
Case management is the procedures and protocols which facilitate the earliest possible return to work for an employee who has been injured on the job. This includes the strategies needed to achieve case closure within the most efficient timeframe possible.
Awareness activities are meant to make safety fun and engaging. You can start with setting company safety goals, hosting contests to keep employees focused and enthusiastic about safety, or test different skills. Innovative and engaging activities are great ways to raise awareness about safety in the workplace.