Tuesday, December 2, 2014

ALARP – Shifting safety realities

I was recently working with a multi-billion dollar sales construction company that has a history of “good safety performance.”  A couple of years back they won a national safety award with an Experience Modification Rate (EMR) of less than 0.6.  However, this year they are struggling not with severity, but with what used to be a good industry Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) of less than 5. The low EMR and average RIF had been getting them into bid pools because they were viewed as ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable) with the competition and with the potential customer. 

In recent years, it has been decided that Loss Time Accidents (LTAs) is no longer an acceptable risk measure for large global companies who are trying to build for the future.  The standard for these companies to even consider hiring a contractor is a RIF of less than 1 and a desire for much better than this. The progression of safety excellence standards has slowly, but steadily been improving in the background.  Some 50 years ago the push was to eliminate fatalities. About 20 years ago, fatalities for large organizations were mostly under control, which allowed the big companies to focus on eliminating LTAs.  In the last 5-10 years, the next step became RIF.  Large companies that have big, expensive projects can demand an even closer to zero incident performance from their contractors.  An industry average RIF used to be ALARP for bid purposes, but now a RIF of 1 can get a company who provides high work quality dismissed from the bid pool. 

The brutal mirror of truth facing this contractor and equipment suppliers as well as service providers is that there has been a sea of change in safety requirements.  This will not go away and in fact it is accelerating.  The old tools of OSHA, compliance inspections, observation focus, policies and procedures, check in the box safety activities are foundational, but they are not delivering anywhere near the zero injury rates that are being desired/demanded.  This is today’s wakeup call; five years from now companies that have not reacted to the call will be locked out of business by those who have answered the call. 
In 2003, Caterpillar heard the alarm, looked in the mirror and saw an ugly RIF of about 6.  This ignited a structured progression of safety improvement initiatives that now includes a culture of employee engagement and appropriate value added safety accountabilities for our approximately 150,000 employees throughout all levels of the organization. It has taken 11 years to reach our current RIF of less than 0.75, and there can be no “good enough” complacency when it comes to employee injuries.  The journey continues to 0.6 and then beyond.  

How is your ALARP culture?  What brutal mirror of truth is looking back at your organization?  Can Caterpillar Safety Services help you move beyond your safety history and into a culture that engages in and delivers zero?

The Doc

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