Monday, October 6, 2014

The biggest loser – Getting to safety excellence

There are an endless number of techniques and products that can assist a person to lose weight.  Many of these products have guarantees of five or ten pounds of immediate weight loss.  It turns out that for most people, the first ten pounds is relatively easy.  If you wish to lose more weight, the going gets tougher. In turn, this requires a whole different long term, sustainable diet and exercise plan.  As you shed more weight, the work to get to the next level becomes incrementally harder. It requires an increase in intensity, responsibility, accountability and likely even a support group that helps in the required long term commitment.

I find a parallel between losing weight and improving safety for organizations.  Caterpillar’s safety improvement journey has somewhat mirrored this reality since committing all of the various global organizations to a safety culture that continually eliminates injury.  At the beginning of the injury loss journey, the set of tools used to decrease the Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) from around 6 to 4 was a two year focus on equipment/facility related fixes.  As RIF improved and then plateaued at 4, it became apparent a difference initiative moved the responsibility and accountability from the safety department to operations with safety becoming a resource instead of the responsible party.  After about two years of this consistent change, the next RIF plateau was around 2. To break through the plateau, the focus shifted to ergonomics and continuous improvement teams.  Once again, noticeable improvement occurred when this tool set was added, and then a long, five year plateau occurred for the above approaches at a RIF of 1+.

The next safety improvement approach was a deep dive which involved in depth Rapid Improvement Workshops (RIW).  This RIW approach engages teams of hourly and salaried employees with cross functional experience to focus on developing and error proofing upstream safety processes.  The improved processes delivered from the RIW include value added safety responsibilities and accountabilities.  The proposed solutions are first piloted to ensure their robust character and then rolled out with appropriate monitoring of the critical process characteristics. The improved process with its focused responsibilities and accountabilities is then adopted as a part of the safety culture by all levels of the organization no matter what country or business unit is involved.  To date, our RIF using the previous improvements and this more intense, more engaged relentless pursuit of a zero incident safety culture continues a yearly decline and is currently less than 0.75.

The injury loss reduction safety journey described above occurred while the employee count at Caterpillar has more than doubled to nearly 150,000 people.  Across this decade long ongoing commitment to safety culture excellence the number of medical injuries shed is more than 51,000, meaning that greater than a third of our total workforce has been able to avoid severe injury.  Serious weight loss and serious injury loss plans require far more than a short term commitment to doing whatever it takes to lose what we should never have allowed in the first place.

The Doc  

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