Best Practices -- DuPont: Safety Starts At The Top

Dec. 21, 2004
The Wilmington, Del.-based chemicals manufacturer's safety program works so well that other companies subscribe to its practices.

The employees of DuPont & Co.'s titanium technologies facility in Uberaba, Brazil, recently planted trees to commemorate the site's 10th anniversary.

They had several things to celebrate, including the fact that since production began in 1992, the site has had zero environmental incidents and no recordable safety cases. That's indicative of DuPont's reputation as a leader in safety.

The Wilmington, Del.-based chemicals manufacturer has decreased its number of incidents including injuries, illnesses, waste and emission by 60% over the last decade. In 2000, more than 90% of DuPont's sites operated with zero injuries. With $24.7 billion in revenues and about 83,000 employees, the company has developed so successful a safety program that three years ago it formally began training other companies in safety via its DuPont Safety Resources unit.

The best practices DuPont espouses to clients such as General Motors Corp., General Electric Co., Alcoa Inc. and others mimic the company's internal safety mantra: Make safety a priority from the top down.

"Many companies start at the employee level, but it's really about management -- management goals and management clarity," says Jim Forsman, president of DuPont Safety Resources. "Frankly, one of the gaps we find is proactive leadership involvement."

After an initial data-based assessment, DuPont's program requires a visible commitment to safety from the company's top leadership, including the CEO. (DuPont CEO Charles Holliday also carries the title Chief Safety Officer.)

Forsman says at today's companies, leadership support of safety is vital because organizations are running so fast and hard that they can focus on only three goals at a time. Simply put, if safety isn't one of them, then best practices in safety won't be implemented.

DuPont's Safety Program in Action

Steel producer Corus recently implemented DuPont's STOP (Safety Training Observation Program) at its Tuscaloosa, Ala., complex and attributes the program to a more than 30% drop in recordable and lost-time injuries. In addition, the rate for proper use of personal protective equipment rose by more than 100%.

Corus president and CEO Colin Muncie says the behavior-based program -- which calls on employees to observe one another, correct improper procedures and encourage safe procedures -- initially was rolled out from the executive level to the team-leader level.

"[Team members] had reservations, thinking STOP would be 'the program of the month,' " Muncie says. "As training continued, and executives and managers remained committed, the employees not only began to accept the STOP system, they questioned why they weren't involved as well."

In response, Corus Tuscaloosa expanded the program to all employees, with the second phase focusing on self-observation. The STOP program trains employees to know safety procedures so well that they can observe anyone from any department, says Melissa Dotson, safety manager at Corus Tuscaloosa. A customer-service employee, for instance, could observe a production employee. This all-inclusive concept is pervasive at DuPont itself.

"(At DuPont) from Day One, you are not allowed on the site without safety training," says Ellen Kullman, group vice president of DuPont Safety & Protection. In addition, all DuPont employees -- whether they work in a carpet-lined office or with caustic chemicals on the plant floor -- are graded on safety as part of job performance.


DuPont On Safety Essential elements for safety management. Leadership Elements

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