Wilmington, Del.-based Montell North America's Bayport, Texas, polypropylene plant has adopted a behavior-based safety process that puts safety and the environment on a par with quality, production, cost management and other key business elements.
There are basically two types of behavior that cause injury. These are unconscious behaviors characterized by daydreaming, inattention and repetitive tasks, and conscious or deliberate behaviors identified by shortcuts and more calculated risk-taking.
We work at all levels to cut through tenacious patterns and beliefs that lead individuals to place priorities such as time, comfort and convenience ahead of safe actions.
The process starts with a cultural assessment that reveals employee and management perceptions of current safety efforts, a review of policies and programs, and a deep understanding of work processes and job tasks.
Companywide training emphasizes attitude, observation, and personal responsibility. Training was led at the Montell plant beginning in early 1996 and follow-up training continued into early 1997.According to safety engineer Darlene Mitchell, the training opened up the safety process to everyone at the facility. In one session, employees were given an opportunity to write down safety rules that were unclear or difficult to understand. Then they were asked to write down an unwritten rule that should be formalized. These exercises yielded highly valuable input that helped identify what needed to change.
C.J. LeBlanc, Bayport plant manager, said safety training gave many managers just what they were looking for — a set of principles and techniques to improve their management style. Other benefits LeBlanc has identified include:
Continued reductions in the plant's recordable incident rate (0.72 in 1996). The plant had an Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable rate of 0.8 by 1995 — which placed it well below the industry average of 4.7.
Greater tolerance among employees.
Improved in-house procedures, including safety audits and committee structure.
LeBlanc and his work force at the Montell Bayport plant continue to perfect their safety program and record. Current projects, for example, include an effort to improve reporting of near misses.
Montell's diligence continues to pay off. Recently, the plant was awarded the coveted Lamont DuPont Award for safety performance from the Chemical Manufacturers Association for two consecutive eligibility periods.
Topf is president of the Topf Organization in King of Prussia, Pa.