Safety Articles

Article # 12104

From the Front Lines: Successful Safety Programs and What Makes Them Tick

What is the key to a successful safety program? Most safety managers would love to find one single answer to that question. Unfortunately, we all know there is no single answer, no single strategy that will guarantee success. Magid has talked to a number of customers who have successfully implemented safety programs that are embraced by employees, supported by management and that, most importantly, deliver results for their companies. In this article, we talk to a few of those customers to find out what makes their programs tick.

Keep it simple
Danny Gravis, safety and environmental manager for an farming equipment company believes that successful safety programs can be as easy as 1 - 2 - 3, and he has the successful safety record to prove it. Gravis' facility, which manufactures landscape tractors and other equipment, recently completed 1,608,272 man-hours without a lost time accident. Gravis credits their success to a new program he implemented about a year ago, called Three Steps to Safety. The steps are very simple:
1. Think and recognize dangers.
2. Assume it's going to happen.
3. Don't let it happen.
"Simplicity is the key," he says. "Many programs are too complicated. I felt I needed to reduce safety principles to their simplest elements. The program is so simple it works!"
At the root of the program is Gravis' belief that we all need to listen to that "little voice" in the back of our heads that tells us something is going to happen. If we listen to that voice and assume that the accident will happen, then we can fix the potential problem before anything goes wrong. "My program tells employees to be aware all the time. Listen to that voice. Don't pass it off. If everyone does that, we can avoid most accidents."

Gravis also believes his success can be attributed to the fact that he's made safety an employee-driven process. "Employees want their work areas to be safe," he says. "They're eager to make things right. When we first started the program, I gave each employee a paper and asked them to identify dangers in their areas. A volunteer committee met once a week and assigned people to correct the potential problems." Gravis says there were 767 dangers identified the first year, and more than 90% were corrected. "The committees used to meet once a week," he says. "But now they only need to meet once a month."

Anthony Smith, environmental health and safety manager for a major chemicals corporation agrees that employee buy-in is critical. Over the past two years his facilities, which manufacture chemicals for microelectronic and pharmaceutical use, have gone more than 900 days without a lost-time accident and 560 days without an OSHA recordable accident.

"The key is employee awareness and employee buy-in," says Smith. "We hold monthly safety meetings and reviews. If there's a safety problem they catalog it, correct it, and get back to the employees. We began doing this about 3 years ago and it really has made a difference. Our employees believe safety is important. Every employee has the right to report any issue. We document everything, address it and report back."

Smith's monthly meetings are mandatory and they involve every employee on site. "We don't have safety committees," he says, "because committees remove many employees from the process. Here, every employee is involved with safety. They look for hazards on the job. I believe that if you focus on safety, you will perform your job safely. Most accidents occur because you're not thinking about how to complete the job safely. We want employees here to always think about safety, and they do. Our employees are 100% invested in the process."

Incentives for safety
Judy Backer, environmental, safety and health manager for a manufacturer of steam generation and heat recovery systems for power generating and industrial customers, believes that employee involvement has been the key to the turning her safety program around. "Letting employees choose the tools and equipment to do the job safely has made all the difference," says Backer.

It was an employee suggestion that also helped initiate the company's incentive program. The program allows employees who work for a full quarter without a lost-time accident or a recordable injury to earn an hour of paid time off. "This employee suggestion," adds Backer, "resulted in a successful program which reduced lost work days due to injury by 89% from 1999 to 2000."

Backer also credits her Magid rep with being a pivotal part of her safety efforts. "Magid assisted with assessing workplace hazards and providing required safety equipment and training when necessary. They really work hard to give us the best equipment or clothing for the job," adds Backer. "We've done well with Magid."

A company-wide commitment
Gravis says that implementing any changes or new program can be tough. "It takes time," he says. "Getting employees to buy-in was a little tough, but it grew eventually. We had a commitment from management. You can't be successful without that."