How did a heavy equipment manufacturing facility transform its safety culture, resulting in an 89% reduction in Recordable Injury Frequency in four years?
This isn't a riddle and luck isn't the answer. It was the product of a proven process, by which the perception, skill and experience of front line employees were leveraged to improve existing safety processes and create new programs. Supervisors were empowered through training on effective communication and recognition techniques. Employees at every level of the organization, from the general manager to the newest shop floor employee, had clearly defined safety-related tasks that were designed by cross-functional continuous improvement teams. These leading indicators were embraced by leadership and tied to performance ratings, just like quality and velocity metrics. The safety department's responsibility shifted from creating and leading change to facilitating and supporting the improvement efforts. This required the EHS Department Manager to also go through a personal transformation, from being the secretly skeptical, compliance-focused front man to a passionate employee advocate and eventual consultant to organizations across North America. Each component of this Zero Incident Performance (ZIP™) process steered away from an after-the-incident reactionary culture and toward an environment where engaged employees recognized each other for positive behavior and participation in improvement.
The North Little Rock, Arkansas, Caterpillar facility employs approximately 500 employees and manufactures Motor Graders for distribution throughout the globe. Production began in June 2010. In the first full year of production (2011), the facility had a Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) of 5.12 with 20 recordable injuries. Of 68 manufacturing facilities in the enterprise, North Little Rock (NLR) ranked number 65. Caterpillar Safety Services, a consultancy group within Caterpillar Inc., was enlisted to help assess and improve the safety culture through its Zero Incident Performance (ZIP™) process. Key performance improvement initiatives included a Safety Perception Survey of all employees, Leadership Roundtable and the formation of a cross-functional Safety Steering Team which commissioned multiple Continuous Improvement teams. At the end of 2014, the facility had achieved an 89% reduction in RIF, with better than world class performance of 0.58.