I recently worked with a medium-sized (2,000 employee) company in North Dakota. The safety professional at that company is an avid horsewoman who was trying to convince me to bring a couple of her horses to my small farm in Illinois. Her intent was to own fewer than 10 horses so her property grazing realities would allow her to stop buying hay. There was a light-hearted negotiation that included fencing, veterinary care and how many acres per horse would be self-sustaining. We both agreed there was an obvious parallel in determining how many safety professionals per acre were needed to help a company deliver better performance.
A while back, Caterpillar was active in developing a continuous improvement safety culture excellence initiative with a similar sized company in the same industry. Our Safety Steering Team was surprised when the CEO instructed his organization to hire nine more safety professionals. Until this point in time, the company had been focused on reducing headcount, so it was exciting to experience a shift in focus. This company covered a territory larger than the state of Texas, and the CEO recognized there was a size limit to the territory upon which a safety pro could effectively graze. This led to the addition of one or more safety resources to each sizable operating entity. The new safety pros had to know the regulation requirements and be able to learn and teach the use of Caterpillar safety culture excellence tools, techniques and effective personnel engagement. Having added additional resources, the company was now able to move from an industry average injury rate of 3.7 to a less than 1.0 total recordable injury frequency rate.
While seeking well performing and contributing safety professionals, the CEO considered the learning curve, interpersonal span of influence, continuous improvement team engagement and appropriate work/life balance . Initially, the company had trouble filling the nine safety professional job openings; its safety reputation was lacking to attract qualified safety leadership personnel. It was about 12-18 months later when their performance and associated reputation for safety culture excellence had them receiving more resumes than they could imagine. If we are to achieve far greater than average performance, it involves going beyond average quality and safety performance. It not only requires acres per resource consideration but also consideration with respect to training, care, expectations and many other elements.