What's Your Company's Safety Maturity Index?

New Tool Helps Companies Benchmark Against Best Practices, and Set a Roadmap for the Future

By Joe Feeley

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This week at the 2013 Automation Fair in Houston, Rockwell Automation introduced its Safety Maturity Index (SMI), a self-guided assessment tool drawn from studies, extensive private research, collaboration with cultural development experts, input from leading manufacturers and a wealth of its own experience as a provider of safety systems. The Safety Maturity Index tool is touted as a comprehensive measurement of performance in creating and sustaining a safety culture, compliance processes and procedures, and capital investments in safety technologies. It helps companies understand their current level of performance and steps they can take to improve safety and profitability.

"One of the key things that played into the development of this—and we've been looking for a couple of years—was to understand what we've referred to as the 'epiphany' that companies experience," said Steve Ludwig, safety programs manager, Rockwell Automation. "What is it that causes a company that's been fairly steady in its injury rate, good or bad, to suddenly decide that they really want to address safety? Some were driven by standards, some by changes in leadership or other factors. But why does a company that found it acceptable to have 75 incidents last year, suddenly decide that 76 this year is not at all acceptable?"

Safety Maturity = Operational Excellence

Ludwig added that Rockwell Automation took careful note of a recent Aberdeen study reporting that the safest companies also were the most productive—they were not mutually exclusive objectives. "The safest companies had 5% to 7% higher OEE [overall equipment effectiveness], 2% to 4% less unscheduled downtime and less than half the injury rate of companies performing at average levels of those indicators," he reported.

Ludwig said Rockwell Automation then did additional custom research with Aberdeen to get more details about how these companies were operating. "Repeatedly, we found that the best companies had a really good safety culture," he explained. "They had processes and procedures in place to understand what hazards they had around them, and the methods to facilitate mitigation and compliance, and they used a lot of integrated safety technologies to improve productivity. We saw that the three 'C's of culture, compliance and capital were present in these successful companies."

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The research also showed that each of these safety pillars is equally critical and dependent on the other. A company that builds a strong safety culture, for example, can only go so far without complying with standards and investing in safeguarding technologies. Likewise, manufacturers can make significant investments in safety technologies and procedures, but those investments only go so far if management doesn't embed safety into the cultural DNA of the company.

Out of this work came the Safety Maturity Index assessment tool, which gives manufacturers visibility into their safety programs and the ability to optimize them. It can help an organization measure and evaluate its safety program against the three key pillars of culture, compliance and capital on a scale of one to four.

Four Levels of Maturity

A company that scores at the lowest level, SMI 1, makes minimizing investment its key focus or driver. For these manufacturers, production throughput and cost reduction are the top priorities. Safety incidents frequently are hidden. There could be high incident rates, high insurance costs, fines and/or employee complaints to government agencies. Incomplete or improper use of safety technologies exacerbates the problem. Mark Eitzman, safety market development manager at Rockwell Automation, added that the initial Aberdeen study places 25% of the respondent companies in this category.

The second level up is SMI 2. Attaining compliance would be these companies' key driver. Safety is important, but minimal compliance is the most important part of the safety program. They often use safety technologies such as relays, which separate safety from core or standard machinery operation. This score represents the largest responder group at 37%.

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