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By Gregory Hale
Safety and productivity are not mutually exclusive and companies that focus on safety are able to reap huge financial rewards.

“Great culture is a very good thing, but bad things can happen so there has to be more to it than that,” said Steven Ludwig, program manager for safety at Rockwell Automation, during his talk on improving safety performance and the roles of culture, procedure and technology at the EHS Today’s Safety Leadership Conference in Greenville, SC, last week. “We try to measure safety by the level of injuries, but we need to look at the level of risk we are putting people in. Safety will not be achieved without productivity and cultural commitment.”

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When defining best in class safety, Ludwig asked what if a manufacturer could reduce their injury rate by one half, increase overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) by 5 to 7 percent and reduce unscheduled downtime by 2 to 4 percent? That would mean huge savings that could add to the bottom line. The catch is, though, everyone has to be on the same page.

Ludwig talked about an Aberdeen Group study that mentions the three tiers of safety levels. The top tier is best in class and has 90 percent OEE, 0.2 percent of repeat accident rate, 0.05 percent of injury frequency rate and 2 percent of unscheduled asset downtime.

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That compares to the laggard or third tier of performers that have a 76 percent OEE, a 10 percent repeat accident rate, 3 percent injury frequency rate and 14 percent of unscheduled asset downtime.

In the middle there is the industry average that has 85 percent OEE, 2.4 percent repeat accident rate, 0.9 percent injury frequency rate and 6 percent unscheduled asset downtime.

As it is with most things, to achieve top tier status, or to move up from the bottom tier, it is all about communications. What Ludwig said they found was engineers and EHS professionals don’t talk.

“Top tier companies collaborating is a very key point,” he said.

Ludwig pointed out what differentiated best-in-class manufacturers from their peers:
• Culture (behavior): The company DNA from upper management showing total support, cross-functional safety teams, observable safety initiatives.
• Compliance (procedural): Established risk management processes, procedures, and standards to identify, prioritize and mitigate risks.
• Capital (technology): Investments in technologies that improve safety and productivity. Contemporary safety solutions and technologies are a viable investment with an ROI.

“Top performers want to show how they can use safety as a productivity driver,” he said.

For manufacturers to be great safety companies they have to understand that safety equals performance. One cannot be greater than the other.

Companies can also follow the safety maturity index (SMI), which can be a good guideline to help achieve better levels of safety. While it may not be easy to achieve at the start, it is possible to evolve and have a safety maturity index level of four with a good, solid safety program.

There are four levels of the safety maturity index that focus on:
1. SMI 1 Minimizing investment, safety is minimized where it could interfere with other prerogatives
2. SMI 2 Attaining compliance, safety is a necessity to meet compliance requirements
3. SMI 3 Cost avoidance, safety is a priority, important to the health of the business
4. SMI 4 Operational excellence, safety is a value essential to the health of the business

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