Perhaps no one embodied the spirit of management commitment than Howard Miller. Howard was the plant manager of a manufacturing facility that employed 1,000 workers in the late 1970’s. In both 1978 and again in 1979, this plant incurred roughly $1 million in workers compensation losses. This amounted to about $1,000 per employee per year. The plant was suffering an average of one lost time accident per week.
I was a new employee in the manufacturing engineering department in mid-1979. In October, Howard asked me for some help. He said he had been “pulling his hair out” working with the plant safety committee trying to figure out what was causing all the accidents. He asked if I would review the accident reports from the last two years for trends and make some recommendations for improving the safety program. He told me to “think outside the squares.” I did as I was asked and submitted a report to Howard. I then returned to my engineering projects.
Howard came back to see me a couple of days later. He said he liked my ideas and asked if I would take over as plant safety manager, develop a new program based on my ideas, and implement the program. I accepted the challenge despite the fact that I did not have a background in safety. I did have an engineering degree and I had just completed an M.B.A. program where I learned some things about human behavior. The program I developed was the foundation of the Total Safety Management behavior-based safety program detailed in this manual. We implemented the program in January 1980. These were the results:
- The plant suffered only 2 lost time accidents in 1980. Both were in February.
- The plant went on to work more than 2 million manhours without a lost time accident.
- Losses for 1980 were only $100,000, representing a 90% reduction in the first year. They have remained at that level.
- The CEO of this Fortune 500 Company required the other 20 locations to implement the same program.
- The corporate experience modification factor declined from 1.0 to 0.5 in three years and has remained there for many years. As a result, this company enjoyed workers compensation premiums that were one-half that of its competition.
- The plant eventually hired an outstanding replacement and I moved on to other manufacturing responsibilities, which continued to include safety. The new plant safety manager had a master’s degree in safety management from a well-known university. After reviewing our new program and its results, he commented: “This program is great. The safety schools are not even teaching some of this stuff.” I replied: “I would not know. I have never been to a formal safety school!” My replacement continued to refine and enhance our program and eventually became the corporate safety manager responsible for 20 manufacturing facilities.
Howard played an important role in this achievement:
- He strongly supported the safety manager and his program.
- He provided the necessary funds for the program, although the cost to implement was quite minimal.
- He actively participated in monthly safety committee meetings.
- He attended employee safety meetings conducted by the supervisors. He required other office staff members to do the same. Every departmental safety meeting for non-exempt employees had at least one exempt employee in attendance as an observer.
- He attended monthly train-the-trainer sessions conducted by the safety manager for the supervisors. He always offered words of support and encouragement.
- He was very visible in the plant and always set a good example by wearing his PPE and observing all safety rules and requiring the rest of the office staff to do the same.
- He held supervisors feet to the fire.
- The new program called for supervisors to present their accident investigation to the plant manager before the end of the shift if the accident resulted in any lost time.
- Employees returning for light duty were sent back to the department in which they were injured for assignment.
- We maintained a “score board” in the human resources department that listed all the supervisors and the recordable and lost time accidents that occurred in their departments. This created some healthy competition among the supervisors.
This all seems so simple but it was very effective. Howard played his role perfectly. The results speak for themselves. Thanks, Howard!
David J. Fromm, President
American Safety Management, Inc.