Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't know how to create a great safety culture?

More and more you read about safety culture these days. Who has a goord safety culture? How do you progress to a good safety culture? How do you sustain a good safety culture? It all starts by hiring the right leaders, and then ensuring their careers and compensation is firmly related to their groups process safety performance.

If you still don't know what to do, then rush over to ChemicalProcessing.com and read Michael Gambrell's article "Making Safety Second Nature". You will get away with 5 tips on how to create and sustain a world class safety culture. One of the tips is measuring the events, that did not occur at your site, i.e. the accidents that did not happen, or the leaks that did not occur because of your safety performance. Making safety second nature was also the theme of a conference I attended at the Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center some years ago.

About 10 years ago I had the opportunity to meet with the then manager of Dow Chemical Canada's Sarnia Site and some of his senior people. The background for the meeting was some remarks in the local newspaper about the safety performance of the companies of Sarnia's Chemical Valley the year before. The visit was just a month after 9/11 and a week after attending the CCPS annual conference in Toronto - the first international conference in North America after the attacks. I still recall what the focus of the safety managers work at the time was. It was enhancing Dow's ability to respond globally to any emergency event at a company site. Implementing the same high emergency preparedness standard worldwide would allow Dow to call upon their experts to respond to events at any one of their sites, and be effective responders from the moment they sat feet on the site. Just because all was done to the same high company standard.

I have never had the opportunity to work for Dow, but I have had the pleasure of having friends who worked for Dow and I have also talked to many Dow People at safety conferences and workshops about safety. However, the story that foremost exemplify the companys attitude to people involve an employee at the Sarnia site on holiday in the Caribian. This employee was unfortunate to have a hearth problem at the end of the vacation. A phone call was made to Sarnia sites doctor, who was informed about the employees situation by a relative of the employee. The doctor believed, that the employee would be better helped in Sarnia than on the holiday island. The doctor therefore called Midland to check on the status of the corporate jet. Fortunately it was available, and within an hour is was on the way with a nurse and doctor on board to the Caribian. Before the end of the day the Sarnia employee was safely in the hands of doctors at a Sarnia hospital.

I could tell other stories about Dow's attitude towards people, but I will let this one stand alone. Nothing than this story better says 'People first = Safety first'.