Employees in two newly acquired manufacturing facilities are learning, and embracing, Caterpillar’s commitment to engagement-based safety. For the first time in their careers, the frontline personnel have a voice in safety, and everyone in the organization is benefitting from their involvement.

At least once a week Brian Armstrong, a section manager at Caterpillar’s Integrated Manufacturing Operations Division (IMOD) facility in South Milwaukee, WI, spends an hour on the shop floor talking with operators. This part of his section manager job role is called a ‘safety walk,’ but Armstrong prefers to use the term ‘safety conversation.’ One-on-one engagement often begins when he notices a positive behavior that increases workplace safety, such as proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“I look for opportunities to talk about actions, or behaviors, that will be long-term improvements on day-to-day processes and culture building,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong has another choice phrase - “recipe for success” - to describe the safety accountability system that requires him, and every other section manager, to initiate these engagements. It is part of the Zero-Incident Performance (ZIP™) Process that IMOD facilities in South Milwaukee and Houston, PA, have deployed in an effort to build a stronger safety culture. ZIP is a top-floor-to-shop-floor strategy through which front-line employees build improvement plans that integrate safety activities into their daily processes.

“This kind of quality engagement between managers and front-line employees never went on before we started this safety culture transformation,” said Colleen Klaiber, EHS Manager II, who manages safety in IMOD’s South Milwaukee and Houston facilities. “And between employees at all levels, we’re all looking out for each other, speaking up about safety and looking at our surroundings in a new way.”

To begin the transformation process, every employee in the South Milwaukee and Houston, PA, facilities took Caterpillar’s Safety Perception Survey in June 2012. The results revealed the true attitudes and beliefs about safety, as well as perception gaps between employee, supervisor and management groups. From the results, each facility determined areas for improvement and in October 2012 began to build solutions through Rapid Improvement Workshops facilitated by Caterpillar Safety Services consultants.

Continuous improvement teams composed almost entirely of front-line personnel built accountability systems for safety walks and pre-startup meetings in 2012. Additional teams will focus on other areas for improvement in 2013 and beyond.

“The greatest benefit, so far, is the empowerment that employees feel from being involved in this process,” Klaiber said. “They are speaking up about safety and know that someone is listening and will take action.”

Section managers are held accountable for following up on any concerns they receive from the workface through a checks and balances system built into the new safety walks process. Performance measurement, or accountability, is one way the process stays on track. Another key to sustainability is that the culture change journey be positively perceived throughout the organization.

“If there’s a solid process in place for improvement, I’m going to use it,” Armstrong said. “I like that this is developed and driven by the guys on the floor, so I was happy to buy into it and I believe it will be as good as we make it.”

Both facilities are already noticing a positive impact on lagging indicator metrics. The Houston facility suffered 15 recordable injuries in 2012. As of April 30, 2013, the recordable rate was zero. In South Milwaukee, recordables through April 2013 were down 12 incidents, year-on-year.

Caterpillar’s Global EHS group is using the experience of facilities like South Milwaukee and Houston to pilot the Safety Perception Survey, which will be deployed along with additional solution tools to other Caterpillar facilities in 2014. “With these new culture-focused tools and improvement solutions, we hope to drive our safety performance to the next level,” said Andy Schneider, Global Manager of Health & Safety for Caterpillar. LEARN MORE


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