A plant safety manager just finished his presentation of plant safety performance results and key activities. It was the plant’s best year ever. Injury rates were down, lost time days were reduced and improvement projects had been completed on time and on budget. Associate involvement and morale was high. Most importantly, there had been no serious injury or fatality events. By all accounts, it had been a successful year.
Then a member of the review panel asked “Who is best in class and why?”
At first, it seems like an easy enough question. Yet it is almost impossible to answer, especially on the spot in front of your leadership team. It’s like what is your favorite flavor of ice cream and why?
As we know, most companies measure safety performance as a ratio if injuries per hours worked. The government requires us to maintain these rates on our injury logs. But, the devil is in the details – do all companies keep records as thoroughly as we do? Are support man-hours included in the totals? How do you know?
The problem with injury rates is that you get them for free – if you do nothing to manage or improve your safety performance, you can still add up your injuries and illnesses, multiply by 200,000 and divide by man-hours. It is not a measure of leadership or culture.
So where do you go and get this information? Does it fit into a graph or chart? How do you know when you see it?
Without defining safety excellence within your own company first, it might be a mute point. Although each company may have different long and short term targets, excellence probably includes 1) commitment to identify and eliminate potentially catastrophic hazards, 2) involvement of all levels of associates, including those in a leadership role, 3) the focus on continuous improvement in physical work conditions and environment, and 4) the discipline of all associates to conduct daily actives with the successful outcome in mind, regardless of other conflicting priorities.
Benchmarking is from the perspective of the organization who is trying to improve. If our culture is to continuously improve, we may never be satisfied with our safety accomplishments. Even if we reach our ultimate goal of zero injuries, there will still be work left to be done. Perhaps, when those outside of our organization look to us more than we look outside our organizations to improve, then we might be best. But we may never stop looking.
Make mine vanilla with sprinkles and a cherry on top. Why, it just tastes right.