Dow Corning loss prevention officers

Safe, Safer, Safest

Sept. 6, 2013
IndustryWeek talks with top safety officials at two companies widely recognized as having among the most progressive and effective safety programs in U.S. manufacturing to find out how they do it.

Editor's Note: Dow Corning's Mike Snyder, global director of safety, industrial hygiene and loss prevention,  will speak at the 2014 IndustryWeek Best Plants conference May 5-7 on the topic of using in-process metrics to evaluate and improvement safety performance.

People, equipment, buildings, inventory: These are a manufacturing company's vital assets. They need to be taken care of, protected, treated like gold.

People are at the front of that list for a reason. Nothing matters more to a manufacturer -- or nothing should -- than its workers. And it follows that the best manufacturers are the manufacturers who send their people home safe at the end the day.

All of their people. Every day.

What does it take to do that? Are there commonalities among the approaches the best manufacturers take with regard to employee safety? IndustryWeek recently talked with top safety officials at two companies widely recognized as having among the most progressive and effective safety programs in U.S. manufacturing -- Dow Corning and Honeywell Aerospace -- to find out how they do it. Here's what we learned.

Dow Corning: High Reliability

IW: What characteristics of your company's safety program do you feel make it "leading-edge"?

Mike Snyder: We've structured our program along the lines of becoming a highly reliable organization. We're focused on being a risk-based, vigilant organization that looks in-process to assess and judge whether our safety program and risk management is under control.

Also, beginning in 2010, we redefined internally what "good safety" looks like. Several things drove this. Probably the most significant was the follow-up activity from the 2005 BP Texas City event -- the industry reports that came out afterward saying that even a company with leading occupational safety measures and performance can still have significant unmitigated operational risks if you overly focus on traditional lagging metrics.

See Also: Manufacturing Workforce Management Best Practices

So we've redefined our mission. Our mission in the past was a heavy focus on lagging metrics and significant improvement in those areas. Now we've modified that. We've gone into a continuous improvement mindset on the lagging indicators and a heavier focus on reducing the risk of major events and serious injury. We're particularly looking to make sure that things that represent potential high-consequence, low-frequency events are well-managed.

Mike Snyder ǀ Global Director of Safety, Industrial Hygiene

IW: What are some key statistics that show how your company is doing in terms of employee safety?

MS: We're working on building a dashboard for the in-process metrics I mentioned earlier. I'll give you an example. The company that does our property insurance has a third-party-validated metric that has a linkage to both the severity and probability of large-loss events. We've used it since 2010 as a driver for targeted investments and recommendation resolution to a variety of process- and fire-related risks. We have seen that metric increase by more than 10% per year from 2010 through the end of 2012.

IW: On your website it says one of your company's key safety focuses is preventing accidents and eliminating their root causes. How does Dow Corning do that?

MS: It starts with understanding the risks that we have. We've made a huge investment in training every employee in the world on hazard identification, risk analysis and risk management. It's a matter of looking at issues in the workplace, in the design fields, in the operations, in the transportation of our chemicals, and trying to understand where the significant risk elements are and what our key controls are. We had more than 12,000 people receive specific training on these topics, and the completion of that training was directly linked to our variable-compensation program.

Dow Corning laboratory workers wear protective clothing and use custom tools to ensure their safety when working with strong acids.

We talked about improving our acumen in risk evaluation and risk management. It's about having people be aware and curious about those things that might be unforeseen or unexpected, and catching them at the earliest stages of the defect so they can be addressed. This manifests itself in close-call and near-miss reporting, which has skyrocketed in our organization. We're now processing thousands of close calls, near misses and hazard reports globally.

IW: Dow Corning has reached a high level of effectiveness with its employee safety and has kept it at a high level over a number of years. How do you guard against complacency or staleness setting in?

MS: The engine that runs this process is a management system that embraces the technical specification of Responsible Care 14001. It's a plan-do-check-act framework, with the same level of methodology and discipline that ISO 9000 does for quality and ISO 14001 does for environment. We do this for occupational safety, process safety, product stewardship, transportation and security. That plan-do-check-act framework gets right at what you're talking about. We look at what the targets and plans were for the previous year; what improvements have been done; what our audits and incident data are telling us maybe we haven't quite accomplished; and we use that to reset the targets from the previous year. 

IW: What would you say is the next level Dow Corning needs to reach in terms of employee safety?

MS: First of all, we need to make sure we maintain the control plan of the process that we talked about. That's easy to say, but it's the discipline that every employee, every leader has to exhibit every single day. We're on that journey; we're not there yet. I look at this as probably another two to three years of delivering the discipline that's necessary before we go too far down the path into something new.

As we look at what that next level will be, it will likely involve taking the next step in our employees' technical awareness of what constitutes these risks and how they can be better at assessing them in the workplace.

Honeywell Aerospace: Safety Acculturation

IW: What characteristics of your company's safety program do you feel make it "leading-edge"?

Scott Harczynski: Safety has to be part of the culture. If it isn't, you won't be able to sustain the results that are generally achieved with a world-class program. And leadership commitment to safety must be prevalent within the organization. The HSE or safety group can't drive safety results alone. It requires leadership commitment across the organization, horizontally and vertically. And the last thing, specific to Honeywell Aerospace, is our Honeywell Operating System. We have truly integrated safety into the system.

IW: What advice would you give a company that is trying to figure out how to embed safety into its culture?

SH: It's not going to happen overnight. It really starts with simply doing what you say you're going to do.

Scott Harczynski ǀ Global Director of Safety, Industrial Hygiene

IW: Can you give an example of that?

SH: I'll link that to where we're currently at with our Honeywell Operating System. Every day, in all of our plants, we start the day talking about safety. And if there's a safety issue that has escalated, our plants can shut a line down, or we can stop a process if something is not safe. We have examples where our plants have done this. To me, that's doing what we say we're going to do. Oftentimes companies might say that safety is No. 1, but when it comes to competing with production, it doesn't always win. For us, it does. If something's unsafe, we'll stop it, we'll solve it, and then move on.

IW: I read that in 2011 your company achieved a 0.11 lost-time injury rate for 35,000 U.S. employees working in a variety of complex tasks with high degrees of risk. Do you have any other statistics that show how your company is doing in terms of employee safety?

SH: Over the last two to three years, our lost workday case incidence rate is relatively flat, right around 0.11, 0.12. Where we continue to see improved results year over year is in the total case incident rate. In fact, I just looked at our performance for the first half of 2012. We're at 0.41. I've been with Honeywell Aerospace 18 years, and we've never had a better incident rate than we currently do. We're proud of that.

IW: On your website, under corporate safety goals, it says "Honeywell will maintain our companywide global total case incident rate at less than half of the combined U.S. averages of the businesses in which we operate." That's a high standard. Has Honeywell been able to achieve that?

SH: The short answer is yes -- within Honeywell Aerospace we have. In fact, we just recently benchmarked all of our competitors for metrics planning purposes, and we're still leading our peers in those two metrics [total case incident rate and lost-workday case rate].

IW: Does Honeywell Aerospace have any other major safety goals along those lines?

SH: Yes. We use a balanced scorecard, in order to help us achieve both leading and lagging key performance indicators. It measures things like the number of people getting injured and how well we're doing with regard to closing corrective actions.

Honeywell Aerospace, the avionics and aircraft engine manufacturing arm of Honeywell International, has won numerous awards for safety performance.

SH: We've continued to set safety targets that are challenging, and we keep those targets and expectations in front of our employees and in front of our company's leadership. By doing that, we're continuously challenging ourselves. That keeps complacency at bay, I think.

For more on workforce safety issues, see

IW: What would you say is the next level Honeywell Aerospace needs to reach in terms of employee safety?

SH: Within our strategic plan, over the next five years, we've identified areas that we think are out in front of us that we need to continue to do. The things that have come up in this year's strategic plan that take us to the next level are further integration [of safety] into the business. Our leaders can speak to and lead with health, safety and environment. We want to continue to draw them to be change agents for health, safety and environment.

And as we continue with an aging workforce, a greater focus on health and wellness across the globe is an area that will help to take us to the next level as well.

About the Author

Pete Fehrenbach | Pete Fehrenbach, Associate Editor

Focus:  Workforce  |  Chemical & Energy Industries  |  IW Manufacturing Hall of Fame

Follow Pete on Twitter: @PFehrenbachIW

Associate editor Pete Fehrenbach covers strategies and best practices in manufacturing workforce, delivering information about compensation strategies, education and training, employee engagement and retention, and teamwork. He writes a blog about workforce issue called Team Play.

Pete also provides news and analysis about successful companies in the chemical and energy industries, including oil and gas, renewable and alternative.

In addition, Pete coordinates the IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of Fame, IW’s annual tribute to the most influential executives and thought leaders in U.S. manufacturing history.

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