Worker involvement key to safety transformation

QUEBEC CITY – Have you ever put your employees on safety probation for continuing to perform work unsafely? Do you use incident investigation scorecard for measuring safety performance? Do you know who are in your “bottom 30” of worst performers in safety?
Rick Donovan, health and safety director at the Mississippi Lime Company, says these are some of the factors that are making a huge difference in his company’s employee health and safety performance. Donovan was one of the session speakers at the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers’ annual conference, held in this city this week.

Speaking at a session entitled, Innovative Techniques in Accident Reduction, Donovan discussed his company’s success in significantly improving its safety record. A big factor in the success is leadership.

“If a manager cannot manage safety, chances are they cannot manage the rest of the business,” says Donovan, noting that 60 per cent of all unsafe acts are observed by management and 85 per cent of all accidents are within management control.

It’s management responsibility to provide a safe work environment and provide the support and the means to get it done, he says. On the other hand, individual employees are also made accountable for their own safety performance.

Part of Mississippi Lime’s safety policies is ensuring that workers are properly trained and educated to perform work safely. Employees that are consistently involved in accidents are put on safety probation, which at times involves laying off the employee without pay, says Donovan.

Counseling, education and training are also provided to the so-called “bottom 30”, employees that have the highest injury records in the company. They are then observed on their safety progress.

Another part of the mining company’s success is the use a scorecard system for incident investigation. Each employee is scored on safety performance. The plant manager responsible for these employees then gets the average score of all his or her direct employees. The scorecard goes into the manager’s monthly report, which is then submitted to the vice-president.

These incident investigation scores are taken into account when doing performance reviews on employees, Donovan explains. “What gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded gets done more often.”

Opposite the bottom 30, the top 30 are also pulled out and recognized and, depending on the degree of their efforts, rewarded accordingly.

Encouraging its employees to get involved with safety is another part of Mississippi Lime’s success, particularly in problem solving. Employees, who work on the floor, can be an important resource in trying to solve a safety issue, he says.

“Turn this around as a positive thing, and not a discipline procedure. And if they have a valid solution to the issue, be prepared to act on those,” he says.

Attended by over 600 delegates and exhibitors from across Canada, the CSSE conference kicked off Monday with a message from its president, Eldeen Pozniak, and a keynote by Wade Davis, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. Workshop sessions were held throughout the day and covered topics such as implementing a management system for health, safety and the environment, driver safety, the new CSA standard on fall protection, and workplace drug and alcohol abuse programs.

COS columnist Alan D. Quilley filled up a session room with attendees who wanted to hear him talk about incident investigation skills.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker is Chantal Hebert, a political columnist with the Toronto Star.