From “production first” to “safety first”
The client is a world-leading specialty chemical company. This case study focuses on two production sites in North America. The sites operate under one management team and have a total of 140 employees, including 9 senior management team members.
At the time of initial contact in February 2018, one of the two sites had the highest recordable injury rate of all the companies North American sites, with between 5 and 15 injuries a year requiring medical attention.
Management team members were not aligned in their vision and goals. Employee involvement was low. The results from the culture survey and interviews revealed a high level of frustration and dissatisfaction, mainly caused by a lack of transparency and trust in management, a silo mentality resulting in communication barriers, and the perception of management as being responsible for creating an environment that forces employees to take risks on the job. Furthermore, employees felt excluded from critical decision-making processes on safety policies and practices. The role and duties of supervisors were unclear. And training programs fell short in preparing employees for their tasks.
The interview conducted prior to the program showed that the company culture was characterized by a deeply rooted production-focused mentality. The company’s long-serving employees were proud of their jobs and ‘their’ sites. They looked out for each other but felt management was not looking after them.
Desire for change
A shift in focus from ‘production first’ to ‘safety first’. A strong team where all voices are heard and everyone is on the same page. A collaborative culture where employees are empowered through informal leadership and positive reinforcement.
In 2018, we outlined a shared vision on safety and established specific goals for behavioral expectations, with personal commitment from senior management members. A variety of InTense safety training programs were carried out at both the management and the supervisor levels, leading to various safety initiatives and best-practice sharing. Performance and behavioral changes were measured along the way.
The implemented programs were the Safety Leadership program (management level) and Frontline Supervision program (supervisor level).
In 2020, two years after the programs were initiated, a senior management member said: “Last year, we were one week from achieving the same milestone and we had a single injury, which reminds us that safety is not a race to win and there is no finish line. There was no retribution or head-sinking, but a continued focus to make the site a flagship and to constantly improve. Today the site has gone one year without a recordable injury!”