Attention to safety and health are of ever-increasing priority to industrial organizations. Good Safety is demanded by stockholders, employees, and the community while increasing injury costs provide additional motivation for safety and health excellence.

Safety has always been a strong corporate value of DuPont and a vital part of its culture. As a result, DuPont has become a benchmark in safety and health performance. Since 1990, DuPont has re-engineered itself to meet global competition and address future vision. In the new re-engineered organizational structures, DuPont has also had to re-engineer its safety management systems.

A special Discovery Team was chartered by DuPont senior management to determine the “best practices’ for safety and health being used in DuPont best-performing sites. A summary of the findings is presented, and five of the practices are discussed.

Excellence in safety and health management is more important today than ever. Public awareness, federal and state regulations, and enlightened management have resulted in a widespread conviction that all employees have the right to work in an environment that will not adversely affect their safety and health.

In DuPont, we believe that excellence in safety and health is necessary to achieve global competitiveness, maintain employee loyalty, and be an accepted member of the communities in which we make, handle, use, and transport products. Safety can also be the “catalyst” to achieving excellence in other important business parameters. The organizational and communication skills developed by management, individuals, and teams in safety can be directly applied to other company initiatives.

As we look into the 21st Century, we must also recognize that new organizational structures (flatter with empowered teams) will require new safety management techniques and systems in order to maintain continuous improvement in safety performance.

Injury costs, which have risen dramatically in the past twenty years, provide another incentive for safety and health excellence. Shown in the Figure 1, injury costs have increased even after correcting for inflation. Many companies have found these costs to be an “invisible drain” on earnings and profitability. In some organizations, significant initiatives have been launched to better manage the workers’ compensation systems. We have found that the ultimate solution is to prevent injuries and incidents before they occur.

A globally-respected company, DuPont is regarded as a well-managed, extremely ethical firm that is the benchmark in industrial safety performance. Like many other companies, DuPont has re-engineered itself and downsized its operations since 1985. Through these changes, we have maintained dedication to our principles and developed new techniques to manage in these organizational environments.

As a diversified company, our operations involve chemical process facilities, production line operations, field activities, and sales and distribution of materials. Our customer base is almost entirely industrial and yet we still maintain a high level of consumer awareness and positive perception.

The DuPont concern for safety dates back to the early 1800s and the first days of the company. In 1802 E.I. DuPont, a Frenchman, began manufacturing quality grade explosives to fill America’s growing need to build roads, clear fields, increase mining output, and protect its recently won independence. Because explosives production is such a hazardous industry, DuPont recognized and accepted the need for an effective safety effort.

The building walls of the first powder mill near Wilmington, Delaware, were built three stones thick on three sides. The back remained open to the Brandywine River to direct any explosive forces away from other buildings and employees. To set the safety example, DuPont also built his home and the homes of his managers next to the powder yard. An effective safety program was a necessity. It represented the first defense against instant corporate liquidation.

Safety needs more than a well-designed plant, however. In 1811, work rules were posted in the mill to guide employee work habits. Though not nearly as sophisticated as the safety standards of today, they did introduce an important basic concept — that safety must be a line management responsibility. Later, DuPont introduced an employee health program and hired a company doctor.

An early step taken in 1912 was the keeping of safety statistics, approximately 60 years before the federal requirement to do so. We had a visible measure of our safety performance and were determined that we were going to improve it.

When the nation entered World War I, the DuPont Company supplied 40 percent of the explosives used by the Allied Forces, more than 1.5 billion pounds. To accomplish this task, over 30,000 new employees were hired and trained to build and operate many plants. Among these facilities was the largest smokeless powder plant the world had ever seen. The new plant was producing granulated powder in a record 116 days after ground breaking.

The trends on the safety performance chart reflect the problems that a large new work force can pose until the employees fully accept the company’s safety philosophy. The first arrow reflects the World War I scale-up, and the second arrow represents rapid diversification into new businesses during the 1920s. These instances of significant deterioration in safety performance reinforced DuPont’s commitment to reduce the unsafe acts that were causing 96 percent of our injuries. Only 4 percent of injuries result from unsafe conditions or equipment — the remainder result from the unsafe acts of people. This is an important concept if we are to focus our attention on reducing injuries and incidents within the work environment.

World War II brought on a similar set of demands. The story was similar to World War I but the numbers were even more astonishing: one billion dollars in capital expenditures, 54 new plants, 75,000 additional employees, and 4.5 billion pounds of explosives produced — 20 percent of the volume used by the Allied Forces. Yet, the performance during the war years showed no significant deviation from the pre-war years. In 1941, the DuPont Company was 10 times safer than all industry and 9 times safer than the Chemical Industry. Management and the line organization were finally working as they should to control the real causes of injuries.

Today, DuPont is about 50 times safer than US industrial safety performance averages. Comparing performance to other industries, it is interesting to note that seemingly “hazard-free” industries seem to have extraordinarily high injury rates. This is because, as DuPont has found out, performance is a function of injury prevention and safety management systems, not hazard exposure.

Our success in safety results from a sound safety management philosophy. Each of the 125 DuPont facilities is responsible for its own safety program, progress, and performance. However, management at each of these facilities approaches safety from the same fundamental and sound philosophy. This philosophy can be expressed in eleven straightforward principles.

The first principle is that all injuries can be prevented. That statement may seem a bit optimistic. In fact, we believe that this is a realistic goal and not just a theoretical objective. Our safety performance proves that the objective is achievable. We have plants with over 2,000 employees that have operated for over 10 years without a lost time injury. As injuries and incidents are investigated, we can always identify actions that could have prevented that incident. If we manage safety in a proactive — rather than reactive — manner, we will eliminate injuries by reducing the acts and conditions that cause them.

The second principle is that management, which includes all levels through first-line supervisors, is responsible and accountable for preventing injuries. Only when senior management exerts sustained and consistent leadership in establishing safety goals, demanding accountability for safety performance and providing the necessary resources, can a safety program be effective in an industrial environment.

The third principle states that, while recognizing management responsibility, it takes the combined energy of the entire organization to reach sustained, continuous improvement in safety and health performance. Creating an environment in which employees feel ownership for the safety effort and make significant contributions is an essential task for management, and one that needs deliberate and ongoing attention.

The fourth principle is a corollary to the first principle that all injuries are preventable. It holds that all operating exposures that may result in injuries or illnesses can be controlled. No matter what the exposure, an effective safeguard can be provided. It is preferable, of course, to eliminate sources of danger, but when this is not reasonable or practical, supervision must specify measures such as special training, safety devices, and protective clothing.

Our fifth safety principle states that safety is a condition of employment. Conscientious assumption of safety responsibility is required from all employees from their first day on the job. Each employee must be convinced that he or she has a responsibility for working safely.

The sixth safety principle: Employees must be trained to work safely. We have found that an awareness for safety does not come naturally and that people have to be trained to work safely. With effective training programs to teach, motivate, and sustain safety knowledge, all injuries and illnesses can be eliminated.

Our seventh principle holds that management must audit performance on the workplace to assess safety program success. Comprehensive inspections of both facilities and programs not only confirm their effectiveness in achieving the desired performance, but also detect specific problems and help to identify weaknesses in the safety effort.

The Company’s eighth principle states that all deficiencies must be corrected promptly. Without prompt action, risk of injuries will increase and, even more important, the credibility of management’s safety efforts will suffer.

Our ninth principle is a statement that off-the-job safety is an important part of the overall safety effort. We do not expect nor want employees to “turn safety on” as they come to work and “turn it off” when they go home. The company safety culture truly becomes of the individual employee’s way of thinking.

The tenth principle recognizes that it’s good business to prevent injuries. Injuries cost money. However, hidden or indirect costs usually exceed the direct cost.

Our last principle is the most important. Safety must be integrated as core business and personal value. There are two reasons for this. First, we’ve learned from almost 200 years of experience that 96 percent of safety incidents are directly caused by the action of people, not by faulty equipment or inadequate safety standards. But conversely, it is our people who provide the solutions to our safety problems. They are the one essential ingredient in the recipe for a safe workplace.

Intelligent, trained, and motivated employees are any company’s greatest resource. Our success in safety depends upon the men and women in our plants following procedures, participating actively in training, and identifying and alerting each other and management to potential hazards. By demonstrating a real concern for each employee, management helps establish a mutual respect, and the foundation is laid for a solid safety program. This, of course, is also the foundation for good employee relations.

An important lesson learned in DuPont is that the majority of injuries are caused by unsafe acts and at-risk behaviors rather than unsafe equipment or conditions. In fact, in several DuPont studies it was estimated that 96 percent of injuries are caused by unsafe acts. This was particularly revealing when considering safety audits — if audits were only focused on conditions, at best we could only prevent four percent of our injuries. By establishing management systems for safety auditing that focus on people, including audit training, techniques, and plans, all incidents are preventable. Of course, employee contribution and involvement in auditing leads to sustainability through stakeholdership in the system.

Management safety audits help to make manage the “behavioral balance.” Every job and task performed at a site can do be done at-risk or safely. The essence of a good safety system ensures that safe behavior is the accepted norm amongst employees, and that it is the expected and respected way of doing things. Shifting employees norms contributes mightily to changing culture. The management safety audit provides a way to quantify these norms.

DuPont safety performance has continued to improve since we began keeping records in 1911 until about 1990. In the 1990–1994 time frame, performance deteriorated as shown in the chart that follows:

This increase in injuries caused great concern to senior DuPont management as well as employees. It occurred while the corporation was undergoing changes in organization. In order to sustain our technological, competitive, and business leadership positions, DuPont began re-engineering itself beginning in about 1990. New streamlined organizational structures and collaborative work processes eliminated many positions and levels of management and supervision. The total employment of the company was reduced about 25 percent during these four years.

In our traditional hierarchical organization structures, every level of supervision and management knew exactly what they were expected to do with safety, and all had important roles. As many of these levels were eliminated, new systems needed to be identified for these new organizations.

In early 1995, Edgar S. Woolard, DuPont Chairman, chartered a Corporate Discovery Team to look for processes that will put DuPont on a consistent path toward a goal of zero injuries and occupational illnesses. The cross-functional team used a mode of “discovery through learning” from as many DuPont employees and sites around the world.

The Discovery Team fostered the rapid sharing and leveraging of “best practices” and innovative approaches being pursued at DuPont’s plants, field sites, laboratories, and office locations. In short, the team examined the company’s current state, described the future state, identified barriers between the two, and recommended key ways to overcome these barriers. After reporting back to executive management in April, 1995, the Discovery Team was realigned to help organizations implement their recommendations.

The Discovery Team reconfirmed key values in DuPont — in short, that all injuries, incidents, and occupational illnesses are preventable and that safety is a source of competitive advantage. As such, the steps taken to improve safety performance also improve overall competitiveness. Senior management made this belief clear: “We will strengthen our business by making safety excellence an integral part of all business activities.”

One of the key findings of the Discovery Team was the identification of the best practices used within the company, which are listed below:

▪ Felt Leadership – Management Commitment

▪ Business Integration

▪ Responsibility and Accountability

▪ Individual/Team Involvement and Influence

▪ Contractor Safety

▪ Metrics and Measurements

▪ Communications

▪ Rewards and Recognition

▪ Caring Interdependent Culture; Team-Based Work Process and Systems

▪ Performance Standards and Operating Discipline

▪ Training/Capability

▪ Technology

▪ Safety and Health Resources

▪ Management and Team Audits

▪ Deviation Investigation

▪ Risk Management and Emergency Response

▪ Process Safety

▪ Off-the-Job Safety and Health Education

Attention to each of these best practices is essential to achieve sustained improvements in safety and health. The Discovery Implementation in conjunction with DuPont Safety and Environmental Management Services has developed a Safety Self-Assessment around these systems.

In this presentation, we will discuss a few of these practices and learn what they mean.

Paper published with permission.

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