In Search of EHS Excellence

December 3, 2004
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Dear Subscriber,

Who owns the best workplace safety and health programs in America? There's no definite answer to that question — to the detriment of promoting worker safety in the U.S.

In this edition of ISHN's e-newsletter, we invite you to brainstorm with us about ways of creating a national award for workplace safety and health excellence.

PARALLELS TO THE BALDRIGE AWARD

Imagine President George W. Bush and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao stepping up to a bank of microphones to announce the organizations receiving the 2004 National Safety & Health Award — the only Presidential award for organizational safety and health performance excellence.

Last week, the President and former Commerce Secretary Don Evans announced four organizations as recipients of the 2004 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's only Presidential award for quality and organizational performance excellence.

The same categories used in the Baldrige Award could apply for safety and health performance — a manufacturing category; a small business category; an education category; a service category; and a health care category. The Baldrige Award will soon add categories for non-profit and government organizations.

In making last week's announcement, former Commerce Secretary Evans spoke of the Baldrige themes of ethical leadership, sustainability, innovation and continuous improvement. The same themes certainly apply to occupational safety and health.

The profile and credibility of worker protection efforts would receive a major lift by having a board of volunteer examiners (as the Baldrige Award uses) annually determine the safety and health programs demonstrating the strongest leadership, sustainability, innovation and continuous improvement. And professionals everywhere would benefit. All four of these themes are ongoing challenges for any safety department.

Baldrige Award winners are judged in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; human resource focus; process management; and results. A similar award for safety and health would certainly make executives (and EHS managers) more aware of the need for leadership, strategic planning, multi-faceted measurement, knowledge management and results that go beyond mere OSHA compliance and injury and illness numbers.

THE TIME IS NOW

"We are confident that the 2004 Baldrige Award recipients will serve as role models for every U.S. organization striving to improve," said Harry Reedy, chair of the private-sector Baldrige Award panel of judges and vice president and director of quality for State Street Corp., Boston, Mass.

Every U.S. organization striving to improve its safety and health performance needs role models, too. Right now, OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program work sites come closest to serving as models. But there are nearly 1,200 sites, which dilutes the ability to capture national media attention — and attract the broad audiences of industry execs and safety and health professionals.

In contrast, since 1988, 62 Baldrige Awards have been presented.

Named after the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was established by Congress in 1987 to boost the competitiveness of U.S. businesses.

The time for a similar National Workplace Safety & Health Award is past due. But more than ever it's needed now:

  • Never has there been more interest in organizational safety cultures than you see in the profession today. A national award would provide valuable lessons in building and sustaining cultures.

  • Promoting safety and health best practices to small businesses continues to be problematic. Publicity surrounding an annual national would be an outreach effort above and beyond what OSHA can do with its small budget.

  • The U.S. is in danger of falling behind Europe in setting the standards for global safety and health (some will tell you it already has). Annual national awards for safety & health performance, emphasizing innovation and performance strategies, would help elevate the U.S. leadership position.

  • Decades of trying to promote safety and health's competitive benefits have met with limited success. The same is true for pushing companies to think beyond OSHA compliance, and for convincing executives to judge safety performance on more than injury numbers. A national award would provide new and needed energy and muscle here.

    WE NEED YOUR INPUT

    Give us your ideas on how a national award for occupational safety and health excellence can get off the ground.

    Should it be created by an act of Congress, like the Baldrige program? Or could it be administered by an alliance of non-profits, such as the National Safety Council, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, and the American Society of Safety Engineers?

    The Baldrige program is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in conjunction with the private sector. A non-regulatory agency, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology.

    Perhaps then a national workplace safety & health award is a job for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH is a non-regulatory agency with a similar agenda.

    Email your comments to djsafe@bellatlantic.net We'll discuss your ideas in a future newsletter, and share them with our network of contacts in Washington, the private sector, and among non-profits. We have to start somewhere, right?

    THE TOP TEN

    To stimulate your thinking, consider this: As part of ISHN's 2005 White Paper survey, we asked readers: "Name the organization with a world-class safety and health program that first comes to your mind." Here are the top ten vote-getters, along with info culled from company web sites. Think how a national award could spread the word on the values and performance strategies of organizations like these.

    1 — DuPont DuPont is the landslide winner of our informal poll, getting almost ten times more "votes" than any other company.

    2 — 3M 3M's new EHS Scorecard tracks safety and health progress at the facility, division/subsidiary and corporate levels. In the EHS Scorecard, health and safety metrics cover all critical performance issues of operations.

    3 — Alcoa Alcoa’s goal is to have management systems compatible with ISO-14001 and OHSAS 18001 integrated and implemented at all locations by 2005.

    4 — Dow Dow states that the "interests of all Dow stakeholders converge under the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainable Development. The Triple Bottom Line is the ultimate balance sheet, calling attention to the three fundamental areas — economics, environment, and society – where companies impact the quality of life."

    5 — General Electric GE insists that every employee and every GE leader become a part of its EHS team. GE says it empowers its 1,000 EHS professionals to develop and drive EHS processes and metrics into the company's operating system.

    6 — Ford In 1999, Ford began a Safety Leadership Initiative (SLI) aimed at making its workplaces safer. The key elements of Ford's safety and health model: systematic leadership, safe conditions, safe acts and relationship management.

    7 — General Motors "We are committed to protecting the health and safety of each employee as the overriding priority of this Corporation," states GM's policy. "There will be no compromise of an individual ’s well-being in anything we do."

    8 — IBM IBM's policies "have served the environment and our business well over the years," the company reports, and are the foundation for corporate policy objectives that include rigorous compliance audits and self-assessments, with results forwarded to the board of directors.

    9 — British Petroleum BP's approaches to encourage better health and safety include Advanced Safety Auditing (ASA). Introduced in 1997, ASAs involve observing people at work, talking to them about the safety risks they face, then reaching agreement on how these risks can be managed. More than 150,000 ASA were issued in BP during 2003

    10 — United Parcel Service "We encourage the involvement of all our people in safety awareness activities and give recognition to employees for safety accomplishments," states UPS. "Because of the physical nature of many or our jobs, safety is a significant challenge and a top priority. We do not tolerate unsafe work practices."

    Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at djsafe@bellatlantic.net, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.

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    You can order these titles and more from the American Society of Safety Engineers Bookstore on ISHN's Web site. Visit — http://www.ishn.com/FILES/HTML/ISHN_ASSE_index/

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    Look to ISHN's 73,000+ subscribers for your next direct mail campaign. For customized lists, call toll free: 1-800 323-4958; Fax: 1-630-288-8390; E-Mail: directmarketing@dm2lists.com; Web: www.dm2lists.com

    WE NEED YOU!

    Are you a safety and health pro or a manufacturer or provider of occupational safety and health products or services who enjoys writing?

    Shakespeare need not apply, but ISHN is looking for authors to publish short articles (1,000 words) in our monthly issues.

    Topics include: safety success stories, close calls and personal experiences, training tips, use of software, engineering controls (machine guards, lockout-tagout), gas detection and air monitoring, confined space safety, personal protective equipment, and OSHA compliance issues.

    If any of these topics interest you — or if you have other ideas — e-mail editor Dave Johnson at djsafe@bellatlantic.net

    We will also consider articles you’ve already written but not submitted to any safety magazine.

    Thanks.

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