SMG announces 2012 award winnersMany private and public organizations publicize significant accomplishment of downstream safety measures, such as the reduction of injury rates. I am not fond of this recognition, but I do acknowledge that celebrating “an adequate number of injuries” seems to be a current weakness of our profession. I am thankful that there are fewer organizations handing out monetary rewards for reducing injuries. Monetary incentives for improved injury rate performance often lead to hiding injuries which, in turn, can keep organizations from resolving the root cause of safety incidents.

A number of years ago, I hired safety pioneer and legend Dr. Dan Petersen to assist my employer’s organization in developing a world class safety culture. This company prided itself as being number one or two in all the markets in which it competed. This kind of lofty goal kept their leadership and employees focused on what it took to dominate competition in a rugged marketplace with ever-shifting and ever-escalating high demands. After a gut-wrenching fatality, upper management discovered they were in the bottom quartile for safety performance in their industry, obviously a disconnect with the brand image of being number one or two.

That led to a discussion on what is world class safety performance. Dr. Dan defined world class safety performance, back in the 1980s, as an organization that achieved a recordable injury frequency (RIF) of 1.0 to 1.2 and a lost=time rate of 10% of the recordable rate, or about 0.1. When asked how he decided on that number, Dan answered that it represented the downstream indicators of the best 10% of his customers. Fast forward to our current era, Caterpillar Safety Services’ top 10% of customers have a RIF of 0.3 to 0.7 and go multiple years without a lost time injury.

More and more global companies have had to employ non-traditional continuous improvement employee engagement techniques to reduce costs, improve productivity and customer service while eliminating quality defects. This engagement of employees in a relentless pursuit of zero incidents in core operations areas is an engine that helps deliver number one or two industry performance for a globally dominant organization.

These same companies generally recognize there is less and less to be gained in the traditional operations areas of cost, quality and customer service. However, when they strategically look down the road 5-10 years, they also recognize that excellent safety performance is a necessity in their future state corporate culture.

  • It is ever more difficult to find, train and retain high quality employees.
  • Non-value added medical and legal costs associated with injuries are all necessities for them to eliminate.
  • Government intervention that results from injuries and other safety-related events is unacceptable.
  • Press exposure for safety disasters is too painful and needs to be avoided.

Put all this together and it is very apparent that getting the Big Whoop Award for average, or even 50% of industry average, injury performance will not be a part of the future state for excellent company metrics. If they are to be number one or number two in all that they do, Big Whoop mediocrity for average performance will continue to become a part of their past. Traditional regulation and observation technologies are not robust enough to stay on the leading edge of an ever-demanding decrease in injury numbers.

As you know, I am not a fan of downstream injury rate numbers. And thus, our definition of world class safety is along the lines of an organization which is actively involved and engaging its employees at all levels in a relentless pursuit of a zero-incident safety culture. No matter what the downstream indicators are, globally excellent companies will improve each year by engaging their people with this kind of initiative. Is it time for you to engage in more modern safety improvement technologies that will help deliver the future state safety injury metrics you and your organization need to accomplish? 

No more Big Whoop safety mediocrity awards!