Making Workplace Safety Personal

By: Frank Kenna

As I listened to Al Franken grill BP’s Steve Flynn about his role in the oil spill, I found myself cringing. Flynn, VP of Health, Safety, Security & Environment, said he was responsible for setting safety standards and creating policies. He was quick to add that it was “up to the individual operating units” to execute those policies. Clearly puzzled, Franken kept digging for signs of a more personal connection to what happened. He did not find one.

How ironic. Companies that really “get” safety understand that the only way to really make it work is to make it personal. Take Nucor Corporation, for example.  They’re the largest producer of steel in the US… a highly dangerous business.

They’d always been committed to workplace safety, but decided to raise the bar by teaming up with OSHA and VPPPA to go “above and beyond”, aiming for the prestigious Star award, granted to an elite few.

Here’s how their Decatur division approached it:
· Senior management made a verbal and written commitment to the goal
· They organized a cross-functional team, including management, operators, office workers and contractors
· They formed 15 specialized safety teams, each with an objective, but little direction on how to meet it
By communicating a clear vision, defined goals and then giving the teams the freedom and resources to achieve them they experienced:
· Creative solutions
· Confidence among team members
· Excitement and passion
· Ownership
· Pride
· And most of all…results. They achieved their goal of STAR status.

Clearly, Nucor understands what it means to make safety personal.

Too bad BP didn’t get that.

Sharon Toelle
July 28, 2010

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