Before becoming the director of corporate environmental health and safety for Therma-Tru Corporation, a company specializing in the manufacture of state-of-the-art metal and fiberglass entry doors, Rick Goodman focused his career on operations and engineering.
This experience included his work with Saint-Gobain, the largest building materials company in the world. Seeing safety from both the operational and management perspectives, Goodman soon came to realize that line management personnel must lead a safety process and that managers must be more hands-on in this process.
He also grew to understand that ongoing safety required more than enforcing rules and regulations. “I look at safety as a compliance piece and then the piece of people behaving safely,” he explains. “Compliance with OSHA alone is not going to get you where you need to go.”
It was 1997 when Goodman and the Saint-Gobain safety committee first began searching for a process that included peer observation. The search led them to the Values Based Safety Process (VBSP), a behavioral approach offered by Quality Safety Edge (QSE). “We had always wanted to do peer-on-peer observations.
We liked this approach because it seemed more practical. Back in those days, behavior-based safety was a more grassroots-driven process, pushing from the floor up. I felt that we needed both a management and shop floor drive and this process was flexible in that way,” he says.
The behavior-based safety approach proved so successful for Saint-Gobain that Goodman suggested the process when he moved to Therma-Tru. There he works with six manufacturing facilities (originally twelve before the economic downturn), many dealing with the inherent risks of flammable chemicals, massive equipment, and human assembly.
During the closing and consolidation of several manufacturing locations, one facility in Butler, Indiana, underwent a massive management restructure and attained 200 additional employees. Yet, even these substantial changes haven’t impeded the success of values based safety at Therma-Tru. “The incident rate at Therma Tru’s facilities has gone down substantially from the start of the process and we’re continuing to see it drop. The biggest impact has been severity. Our workers comp, dollars per hour worked is the best in our parent company,” Goodman explains.
As a safety champion, Goodman advises that any facility should have the “block and tackle procedures” of safety in place before attempting a behavior-based, peer observation process. His approach is to begin with a committee of plant managers, an executive manager of operations, and several informal leaders from the plant. “I usually offer some choices to look at as far as ways to improve safety,” he says. “Collectively, we decide which way we want to go.
The teams at both of these companies selected values based safety when they wanted to go the peer-on-peer route, so they had ownership in the whole process.” The facility then starts a design team which eventually evolves into a steering committee. The design team consists primarily of informal leaders from different departments who are interested in driving the process.
Importantly each plant customizes the safety process to fit its own culture, designing a system unique to each facility with its own team name. The Butler facility for example chose the acronym STARS (Success through Associates Reinforcing Safety). For the design phase, Goodman prefers bringing in a consultant. “I think it’s beneficial to have an outside expert come in, because you’re never a prophet in your own home town,” he comments. And even though he strongly recommends the use of a behavioral component to safety he also cautions against trying to do so without the integral element of upper management support.
At Therma-Tru, managers are expected to monitor and mentor people during the process. They do so by participating in safety observations and completing detailed assessments by discussing safety concerns with the people on the floor who have firsthand knowledge of safety concerns.
Involvement at every level, precise culture-based planning, positive reinforcement for participation, fun competitions and celebrations—all are essential elements of any successful safety process, according to Goodman. And the results speak for themselves:
- At Saint Gobain the recordable incident rated dropped 86 percent and the lost workday incident rate dropped 98 percent. (This process was in place 5 + years when Goodman left for another position.)
- At Therma-Tru, the recordable incident rate dropped 50 percent as the process was put in across all facilities. The lost workday incident rate dropped 97 percent.
- Participation in the safety process is high in all Therma-Tru locations; the rate recently reaching 96 percent in the Butler plant, for example.
- Therma-Tru’s manufacturing facility in Matamoras, Mexico, has completed a year and a half with no recordable injuries.
According to Goodman, in both organizations the process had a bigger impact on the severe injury cases (hence the bigger drop in lost workday incident rate, which dropped first and steeper). The recordable incident rate made a slower, but sustained descent. Goodman projects another 25 percent drop in that statistic this year at Therma-Tru.
“I think people can see the benefits of doing this, so they do it,” he states and adds, “When you are ready for it, behavioral safety is important because you can control the hazards in your workplace, but the choices your associates make are going to have a high degree of impact on whether they get hurt. Values-based safety can complement everything else you’re doing and helps you get those low numbers, making your safety world-class.”