Safety Has Different Tactics, But Identical Goals

Leaders from L'Oreal, PepsiCo and General Motors Share Safety Best Practices

Automatio Fair 2011

By Joe Feeley

No matter what market your company serves, the keys to successful safety programs are pretty much the same, even if the scope, complicating factors and elements of implementation are widely different.

The Tuesday morning general session presentations at Rockwell Automation's Safety Automation Forum by health and safety leaders of L'Oreal's Little Rock, Ark., facility; PepsiCo and General Motors, made that pretty clear.

Tommy Short of L'Oreal stressed the importance of moving along a line away from a management-driven safety system, through individual values, to a group culture of safety, where he says incident rates are dramatically lower. "But first of all, your company has to truly believe that you can look one or two or five years down the road and see zero injuries," Short said. "Is that possible? If you say no, that's not possible, things happen, then you're probably not very far down that line. You can be there, but it's going to take a lot of work--a commitment to get out there, roll up your sleeves and get to work at all levels."

Short says when you get to the group or interdependent safety culture stage on that line, then people are not only looking out for their own safety, they're now looking out for each other.

A key element to the L'Oreal Little Rock approach that gives employees ownership of the process is the 60-second observation.

"The goal is for every employee to complete one observation per week," Short said. "They go out on a scheduled, pre-planned visit to understand how a particular job should be done. Nobody's name goes on a form; they're not reporting anything--they're looking at how the safety culture is. Do we ‘get it'?" Short says it's important not to bog down on process, so focus on what's important.

Short makes it clear that this is all-encompassing. "Safety360 is an important element of our safety culture, and it means we include safety at home, at school and on the road. It's about child safety as well. It's for your coworkers' families too."

Then there are the challenges that Craig Torrance from PepsiCo faces in what it takes to implement global safety success across 800 manufacturing sites that are parts of widely different businesses that operate as autonomous divisions with established cultures, located all over the world, and in a market where things change fast because consumer product preferences demand rapid response.

"Safety can't be just a priority," Torrance said. "It should be a value. It's not on a list competing with other needs. A value is part of everything we do."

The results of improved machine safety seriously affect safety culture, Torrance argues. "It's visible. The impact of investing in making machines safer is huge." The employees have done the "soft" stuff, he says. They've read the manuals; they've heard the importance of safety from management. "We had a machine that was operating without interlocking guards for 30 years, Torrance admitted. "So, when you install interlocks and can show [workers] that this machine is safer now, that has a much bigger impact."

Leadership was, of course, identified by all the speakers as critical. There has to be accountability driven from the top. "There's accountability for sales, for profit, for operations," Torrance pointed out. "Why would there not be accountability for safety?"

Regardless, cost always comes up in a project discussion, Torrance said to wide audience agreement. "I get calls from engineers who tell me that when they 'plug-in' the cost of safety, the ROI falls apart" he said. "They'll ask if they can separate out the safety cost piece when they go for funding. My answer always is "No.' It's simple. If you can't afford to do the project safely, then you can't afford the project."

Torrance said it's also important in a global environment to understand that a common safety approach doesn't mean identical. "This is something we struggled with at the beginning, trying to get everything to look the same, but it doesn't have to be that way. In a company this size, there already were risk assessment tools out there. You don't need a new template if the old way is working."

Global standards are important, Torrance said, as a place to find commonality and arbitrate disagreements. They try to simplify their own standards to focus on what must be done, not necessarily how. "Let the businesses take ownership and work out the details."

Torrance also faces regional differences in the maturity level of risk tolerance. Some of that is remediated by the standards, not the safety message. "The standard says we must have safety guarding on every machine. There's no discussion about past records. We can harmonize the risk assessment without having to officially harmonize the risk."

Mike Douglas of General Motors spoke about what he called the continuum of the past 14 years in moving its safety culture forward across functions and areas as diverse as research, manufacturing, dealerships and customer support. "How do you come up with common processes for all that?" he mused to the audience. "You need to be flexible, and in some sense, standards set you back. What risk assessment does for you is performance-based, not prescriptive in nature."

Asked what he thought was the one thing essential to success in a global safety implementation, Douglas offered two thoughts. "Whatever you do, make sure there's respect," Douglas quickly said. "When people feel that you respect their local issues, things go better." Language is the other essential, Douglas added. "If you can translate into local languages, that's good. However, make sure it's done in the local language by a local person, particularly in regions where there are many, many languages. But it's another tool to gain the respect that's so important."

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