Safety is good business, execs say

Executives at the EHS Today's Safety Leadership Conference talked about how companies that are the safest are the most productive and offered advice on how to make safety more than about compliance.

By Gregory Hale, ISSSource November 6, 2016

Safety is good business. It is all tied together in culture, compliance and capital.

"People feel safety and productivity are mutually exclusive," said Mark Eitzman, global market development manager for safety at Rockwell Automation during his Tuesday talk entitled, "Safety Maturity Index as it Relates to Culture," with Shawn Galloway, president and chief operating officer at ProAct Safety at EHS Today’s Safety Leadership Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

"Safety and productivity are compatible. The safest company is the most productive and the least safe company is the least productive. Safety and productivity do co-exist."

Eitzman talked about a study by the Aberdeen Group study that mentions the three tiers of safety levels. The top tier is best in class and has 90% overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), 0.2% of repeat accident rate, 0.05% of injury frequency rate and 2% of unscheduled asset downtime. He said the top tier represented 20% of the aggregate performance scorers.

That compares to the laggard or third tier of performers that have a 76% OEE, a 10% repeat accident rate, 3% injury frequency rate and 14% of unscheduled asset downtime. The category had 30% of the aggregate performance scorers.

In the middle there is the industry average that has 85% OEE, 2.4% repeat accident rate, 0.9% injury frequency rate and 6% unscheduled asset downtime. This group represented 50% of the aggregate performance scorers.

Whatever the position the company falls in, that is an indication of the safety culture.

Eitzman went on to point out other sobering statistics. Every 15 seconds a worker dies from a work related accident or disease, according to a report from the International Labour Organization. That adds up to 6,300 a day or 2.3 million a year. In addition, every 15 seconds 153 workers have a work related accident.

"The business goal is to maximize production at an acceptable level of risk," he said. Risk brings in a level of variability and engineers don’t like variability.

That is where the Safety Maturity Index comes into play.

"The Safety Maturity Index is where we can discover discrepancies with a company," Eitzman said. Safety and safety maturity fall into the 3 C’s, Eitzman said, culture, compliance and capital:

  • Culture (behavior): The company DNA from upper management showing total support, cross-functional safety teams, observable safety initiatives.
  • Compliance (procedural): Established risk management processes, procedures, and standards to identify, prioritize and mitigate risks.
  • Capital (technology): Investments in technologies that improve safety and productivity. Contemporary safety solutions and technologies are a viable investment with an ROI.

The Safety Maturity Index (SMI) can be a good guideline to help achieve better levels of safety. While it may not be easy to achieve at the start, it is possible to evolve and have a safety maturity index level of four with a good, solid safety program. 

There are four levels of the safety maturity index that focus on:

  • SMI 1: Minimizing investment, which covers 25% of companies, safety is minimized where it could interfere with other prerogatives
  • SMI 2: Attaining compliance, where 37% of companies fit, safety is a necessity to meet compliance requirements
  • SMI 3: Cost avoidance, where 23% of companies fall, safety is a priority, important to the health of the business
  • SMI 4: Operational excellence, where 15% of companies fit, safety is a value essential to the health of the business.

To be able to develop a stronger safety environment, companies need to take a hard long look at its culture and see what changes need to occur.

Galloway used the analogy of building a bridge from your current performance to sustainable excellence and the various building blocks the manufacturer has to employ. He mentioned things like: Management, compliance, workers, culture, leadership, rules, enforcement, focus, reinforcement, teamwork, and trust.

Use all those tools, and a company can truly grow to sustainable excellence when it comes to safety.

He also said safety culture can be a positively reinforced endeavor. Along the lines of positive reinforcement, management should thank people for employ safety principles. He gave one example of when one worker stopped a couple of visitors walking through the plant floor and made sure they wore safety goggles. The boss of that worker went over to him and thanked him for ensuring the safety of the visitors. That was a small thing, but that goes a long way to reinforce safety.

"Culture needs focus. What is the most important thing to focus on," he said.

He also said creating leadership and trust are vital.

"Building trust is important, but hard to achieve," Galloway said. "It is the glue that holds the team together."

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (, a news and information Website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared on Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, Control

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