Making Safety Everyone’s Business
When you drive into the parking lot of Sysco Foods Dallas, a global leader in selling, marketing and distributing food products, one of the first things you see is a huge VPP STAR sign. This prestigious award is given by OSHA to those worksites that have demonstrated the highest level of safety and health excellence.
Don Holmes, Director of Safety, shared with us how this achievement has changed the company.
How have things changed at Sysco Dallas as a result of attaining this award?
“We’ve experienced a complete culture change, and as a result, our safety record has improved. Dallas always had a strong safety record, even before VPP. That’s why Sysco Corporate challenged Dallas to be the first Sysco facility to apply for STAR, but we quickly learned there was a lot of room for improvement.
We closely track the incidence of injuries and accidents as a percentage of sales. The Sysco benchmark is 10%. Here in Dallas, our injury and accident rate is now averaging less than 1%. At our facility accidents can occur in the warehouse where workers are lifting & loading 80-lb cases of frozen meat, and on the road when our drivers are making deliveries into tight spaces at loading docks. We’re pretty proud of these numbers.
But the biggest difference has been how much the culture has changed. VPP is about management leadership and employee involvement - getting everyone to take ownership of the state of safety throughout the company. That means making it personal for all our workers.
How did you get everyone on board?
We formed a VPP team with representation from Administration, Day Warehouse, Night Warehouse and Transportation. They were charged with getting everyone engaged in the process. We’d always been a top-down culture. Employees wouldn’t speak up because they felt that they weren’t heard.
This really changed when the team launched the I Saw Safety program, which encouraged workers to spot & report hazards throughout the facility. They tracked responses closely. At first only 15 people reported incidents. Now we average 65 each month. We recognize the participants at our monthly safety meetings.
How do you keep everyone engaged and motivated?
Communication is what brings it all together. Our workforce is pretty diverse, with drivers, warehouse workers on different shifts and administrative staff, so we have to be creative. We use email, our Monthly Tribune newsletter, paycheck stuffers, and lots of posters and signs throughout the facility.
Besides formal safety training, we have the Marlin Print Communication Stations in our break rooms. They display posters on safe lifting, forklift safety, handling hazardous materials, safe driving, health and wellness and morale. It really helps to keep it visual. And the program includes custom posters, which give us a great tool for recognizing employees and departments, reinforcing safety rules - and promoting the VPP brand
How do you make it personal?
It starts with giving people a voice and then recognizing their contributions. The I Saw Safety program has become contagious. Employees are excited to find new ways to make this an even safer worksite.
We always had an incentive-based pay culture. The quicker trucks are loaded, and deliveries made, the more money employees can earn. Now we also offer safety incentives where drivers can earn $250/quarter for perfect driving records, and they are recognized at meetings.
We also use Marlin’s Direct Line, which is an employee feedback program. It helps us solicit specific suggestions on how we can improve safety, cut costs, improve customer service, etc. In the past, employees probably wouldn’t have bothered to participate. Now they can see that we not only listen, but also actively evaluate each suggestion to see if and how we can do it.
We’re really taking advantage of in-house on-the-job knowledge. It’s given our employees a great sense of pride to have a part in our success