What prompts a company like Lâ€™Oreal to go to the time and trouble to attain VPP â€œStarâ€ level status? Compiling reams of ISO-like documentation. Opening up to OSHA auditors. Pledging to fix whatever is found wrong. Driving injury and lost-time rates below three-year industry averages.
Lâ€™Orealâ€™s track record is already sterling. In the past three years, the group has reduced lost-time injuries by 44 percent in its global factories. Plus, manufacturing Maybelline and the like is a low-risk enterprise. No one has ever been killed on the job in a Lâ€™Oreal USA plant. Worldwide, the last fatality anywhere in the Lâ€™Oreal Group was in Germany in 1991, according to a company official.
Face of commitmentFirst, letâ€™s look at Lâ€™Orealâ€™s commitment to workplace safety and health.
Housekeeping is what you first notice at Lâ€™Orealâ€™s 270,000-square-foot Franklin, N.J., operation, where the VPP announcement was made. White pebbled synthetic floors look like they have been scrubbed by a fraternity pledge class on a work party weekend. Low-slung drop ceilings shower more light than in many offices. Automated million-dollar production lines for lip stick, skin creams and other beauty products are almost entirely encased in clear, hard plastic boxes that look like props from a Vegas magic show.
In many parts of the plant, you hear conversations from across the room. The loudest sound is clattering glass jars bumping along curving silver-metallic assembly lines. 82 decibels is as loud as it gets, according the siteâ€™s industrial hygienist.
Workers look like medical assistants in white smocks and hairnets. The plant employs about 400 workers, and runs three shifts. Still, there is scant evidence of wear and tear in the nearly 20-year-old facility.
What you see are safety visuals, banners, and bulletin boards at every turn. â€œSafety and drugs donâ€™t mix.â€ â€œDonâ€™t let safety slip away.â€ Signs for first-aid kits, blankets, eyewash stations, the right-to-know information station, and AEDs. Video monitors suspended from the ceilings flash safety reminders: â€œBe careful when walking. Never assume forklift operators can see you.â€ A large wall chart tracks each departmentâ€™s number of reported accidents, lost-time accidents, and days without a lost-time accident for the month. The lab was up to 3,100 days through October.
Outside the cafeteria, a board lists current members of the safety committee, emergency response team members, and the fire brigade. A section is reserved for the Business Abuse Center. â€œSpeak Upâ€ cards are available to report anything suspicious using an 800 number.
Two printouts itemize the safety-related criteria for the annual performance evaluations of exempt and non-exempt personnel.
Non-exempt employees are measured by participation in training; housekeeping; PPE compliance; reporting near misses, injuries and hazardous conditions; operating equipment only if trained; proper lifting and bending; and proper use of tools.
Exempt employees are evaluated by participation in training and meetings; completed action items in formal audits and random inspections; signing off on the annual safety, health and environment plan; achieving goals of the plan; and setting an example with PPE usage and following rules. Supervisors are accountable for regular meetings held on safety, new employee safety training, and enforcement of PPE usage.
Backbone of commitmentPolicies and procedures â€” a management system â€” build safety into Lâ€™Orealâ€™s operations. New equipment purchases above $400,000-$500,000 go through a process of initial risk assessment; third-party and internal reviews for safety specifications; prevention planning; ergonomic, noise and lighting level surveys; mechanic and operator job safety analysis training; and ongoing maintenance monitoring.
Employees on the floor assess hazards as part of the Safety Hazard Assessment Procedure (SHAP). Dangers for each workstation are defined and potential severity assessed, so a detailed map of each factoryâ€™s hazards can be drawn. This map is the focal point of discussions between managers and employees for tracking hazards and improving safeguards.
Industrial Safety Risk internal rules are issued by Lâ€™Orealâ€™s Production and Technology Division. They set out global policies and info on specifics such as personnel safety in high bay warehousing. Every factory worldwide abides by the same set of rules.
Roger Dolden, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Lâ€™Oreal USA, chairs a safety council that meets every three months to tackle issues and track performance. A matrix of leading and trailing safety and health metrics is presented to Lâ€™Orealâ€™s executive committee. â€œThis is much more than just reporting injuries,â€ says Mansdorf. Activity numbers, such as hours of safety training, correlate well to business performance, says Dolden.
Why bother?What makes this $16-billion multinational powerhouse with 50,491 employees in 140 countries so particular about safety that plant visitors are instructed that no high-heel or open-toe shoes are allowed in any production area or warehouse?
Lâ€™Oreal makes shrewd use of safety and health to send a variety of corporate cultural messages to far-flung audiences broader than, but certainly including, employees and visitors.
To be sure, the first objective of every safety and health program is protecting lives. But Lâ€™Oreal and the 1,000+ other VPP sites show how safety and health is leveraged to accomplish broader aims. â€œGreat companies make great moves,â€ said OSHA chief John Henshaw at the companyâ€™s VPP announcement ceremony. â€œDrive better performance in safety and health and you are more productive, more profitable.â€
Indeed, Lâ€™Oreal has shown double-digit earnings growth for 18 straight years.