A healthy approach to to health and safety

Posted on 13 Jul 2009 by The Manufacturer

Improving health and safety performance is a business issue that needs to be on everyone’s agenda and can be linked to how businesses make and lose money. Andy Spooner, business development director at Suiko, looks at how developing a planned and proactive approach to health and safety should be an integral part of the business’s operational excellence strategy.

So where does health and safety sit on your list of priorities? For most senior executives the response will be it is their number one priority, but are these efforts as proactive as they could be or is there scope to further improve overall business performance by raising the profile of health and safety? We need to understand the context and why health and safety should be on everyone’s improvement agenda. In many businesses too often it remains tactical and left to the H&S manager.

This article will explore the subject and present a case for making health and safety an integral part of the operational excellence agenda and challenge the Why- What-How cycle, by answering 3 questions:

• Why is the integration of health and safety into the operational excellence agenda valid?

• What are the principles and methodologies that need to be in place?

• How do you approach health and safety to maintain the necessary pace and ensure sustainability of the solution?

The article explores the approaches of Toyota Manufacturing UK (TMUK), Linpac and Twinings all of whom lead their sectors when it comes to health and safety performance.

Why is the integration of health and safety into the operational excellence agenda valid?
Let’s start from the premise that we must move away from simply delivering the HSE statutory requirement, reacting to problems as they arise, to a position where leaders spend the majority of time carrying out systematic continuous improvement, thinking strategically about how to exploit the synergies of a joined up approach.

How does it fit in with what you do now?
The solution should build on what is in place and working well, integrating new practices as needed to drive performance improvement. The challenge is to make sure it delivers the right outputs and considers both the tangible and softer benefits. We need to understand the gap in performance and practices and consider health and safety as a business issue in the context of how to make and lose money in addition to the standard metrics. It is not just about prevention costs, but also the cost of not doing it, which can potentially be much larger, in terms of personal injury, the subsequent impact on morale and personal liability.

Start with the end in mind
TMUK delivers exceptional HSE performance and at the same time creates an environment and practices where overall business performance can excel with health and safety integrated into the ‘Toyota Way’ and a part of their policy of continuous improvement.

Health and safety is the number one priority at TMUK plants and they adopt an holistic approach, committed to designing safe processes and maintaining safe equipment to ensure they provide a safe and healthy working environment for all.

David Bailey, plant manager at Twinings, joined the Andover site five years ago and one of his first actions was to carry out an audit to understand the gaps in performance and practices. The next step was to gain management commitment and he set about creating a vision with the management team for the future. Safety was at the top of the agenda and was integral to the manufacturing vision. With pride Bailey emphasised: “I don’t see safety sitting on its own; it is integral to what we do. Five years on and commitment is the hub of our success and can be seen to cascade to all levels of the business.”

Mike Salkeld, head of lean enterprise at LINPAC Packaging shared the corporate line, “It’s ‘safe’ to say that HSHE performance would have been ‘business as usual’ had we not taken a proactive approach to safety improvement at the sites. In other words it would have been an unpredictable ‘draw’ with ‘industry average’ results!” he continues. “Health, Safety, Hygiene and Environment are at the top of the Operational Excellence agenda for Linpac, not only at a local site level, but across the globe. Within the deployment of our policy, HSHE is the ‘first in line’ when it comes to setting objectives and a strategic approach to improvement.”

What are the principles and methodologies that need to be in place?
Suiko’s advice is that to improve the likelihood of lasting change requires a stepped approach; doing things at the right time and in the right order. The methodology is about people and process, with an emphasis on developing the right behaviours not simply deploying more tools. In most instances, many of the tools will have been tried before, so it will not be about reinventing the wheel, rather it is about getting people to develop the right habits. The business spin off is that these behaviours and approaches used today for HSE can also be used tomorrow for quality management, reliability and more.

Getting the foundations in place
It requires a consistent approach, starting by ensuring the basics of operations management are right and in the context of health and safety; it is about people working to standard. “It starts with getting the structure right, and then ensuring everyone understands their roles, what they are accountable for and what they are expected to do” reiterates Bailey. “Measuring performance is critical for success, and by involving the local team in establishing the targets will lead to greater ownership for the results.” Salkeld supports this view, “In the packaging division this is reflected in our daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual process of objective setting and routine performance review.

In all three businesses, employees own the numbers.

Tracking of performance is made visual, kept simple, easy to understand and maintained at a local level which makes the whole process manageable. Focus is maintained, starting every day – and indeed every meeting – with scheduled time for review and preview of HSHE.

Of course, performance is nothing without the correct behaviours and we have underpinned the behavioural change by adopting a why-what-how approach, in pursuit of the desired target – zero accidents.”

Having the foundations and basic systems in place, it is important to set the boundaries to enable people to take control at the right level and enable teams to apply other best practices, tools and Lean thinking when appropriate. Like Linpac and Twinings, Toyota talks about the basics – ‘safe working’.

Engagement is key and commences immediately upon starting employment with Toyota, during the induction programme and continues throughout an employee’s career. Safety is a part of everyone’s working day. Each day starts with a pre-shift meeting where safety is the first agenda item and pre-safety checks are carried out on equipment. Employee’s health is confirmed ahead of each shift and for some employees pre-shift exercises are undertaken to ensure muscle groups are warmed up ahead of production.

Toyota ‘safe working’ is split into three key areas: safe processes and equipment, safety kaizen and training and confirmation. For all three areas to be effective, employees require a safety mind, which is enhanced via KYT (hazard awareness training) and near miss reporting. A fundamental part of the Toyota Way is genchi-genbutsu (go see) and is a key part of the accident prevention process. This allows senior management to witness first hand any safety related issues and to heighten awareness of health and safety issues.

Applying a common problem solving approach
There is agreement too that embracing basic problem solving is arguably the biggest win organisations can get in improving HSE performance in the short term; mobilising employees and better utilising their innate knowledge and expertise in their processes.

The organisations that foster a ‘no blame’ culture, where the focus is on understanding the flaws in the process rather than rooting out the individual to blame will be best positioned to engender a ‘problem solving’ culture.

Workplace organisation (5S) and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)
Whilst there is no single answer, workplace organisation (5S) and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) are two methodologies under the umbrella of operational excellence that can make a significant impact on health and safety performance if embedded effectively.

The HSE see 5S as a particular application in addressing three of its priorities, namely:

• workplace transport accidents
• musculoskeletal disorders
• slips, trips and falls

Both 5S and TPM should result in improved plant reliability which should in turn reduce the need for human interventions with equipment. Reducing the level of human interventions will, in turn, reduce accidents as many accidents occur when operators try to intervene when the process or equipment isn’t running correctly.

Salkeld advocates “The principles of 5S, Asset Care (TPM), audit checklists and worker-to-worker handover have all helped embed the improved way of working and are core to the belief system at the St Helens site, fundamentally because it’s the safest way to work.

They are the principled standards of the whole team at St Helens and they are the results of a combination of great buy-in at team level and great leadership.” Bailey concurs with this view and emphasises the need for commitment and effective communication. “With our technicians having a better feel for how 5S and Maintenance links into the whole production process, they have far better judgment when it comes to making on-the-spot decisions that can drastically affect safety, performance and efficiency.”

The watch out for both 5S and TPM is that it is a philosophy and way of thinking rather than just another set of tools, so unless the thinking and habits are embedded in the culture there is a strong likelihood that people will drift back to old habits.

How do you approach health and safety to maintain the necessary pace and ensure sustainability of the solution?

Salkeld summarises his position: ‘Safety’s No Accident’ is the mantra, HSHE best practice implementation is mandatory and change has to happen, but there is now an appetite for improvement, and the adoption of best practice solutions continues to increase with pace. The whole division is seeing a shift towards HSHE pro-activity that would otherwise have taken a lot longer had we not made the relatively easy step of making HSHE part of everyday life and using why-what-how.”

The case for making a commitment to the health and safety agenda should be based on the logic of adopting a structured approach, which when applied will be the ‘way of working’ not an add on ‘initiative’. This again supports the view that it should be integrated into the overall plan, with a prerequisite for success being to have clarity around the expected commitment that people need to make; after all, it should be about embedding a ‘way of working’ that involves everyone throughout the organisation.

Optional inclusion?
Linpac – Some of the results:

• 2007 50% fewer accidents y-o-y – a significant improvement to well below industry average

• Overall Equipment Effectiveness pushing beyond World-Class levels

• Staff turn-over improved by 24%

• Employee involvement in improvement projects increased to above 70%

• All reported near-misses had 100-year fixes (root cause countermeasure) put in place

• 30-second corrective actions to address potentially hazardous situations and pre-task risk assessments embedded into the safety ethic of the whole work force

• Continuous self-assessment against challenging standards driven hard.