For over 30 years the leading pallet and sawmill magazine in America.
Safety Zone: More Trickle-Down Safety Tips
Creating a safety culture, columnist Gabriel Curry tells a tale of how one encounter with the CEO changed the most accident prone worker into a company advocate for accident prevention.
By Gabriel Curry
Date Posted: 2/1/2011
In a previous column, I made the case that the best investment in promoting plant safety is for management to make it clear that safety is a company priority equal in importance to making a profit.
I heard a story recently that illustrates my point perhaps better than I was able to do in my aforementioned column. It goes like this:
The CEO of a nationwide manufacturing company paid a visit to one of its many regional plants. In the midst of his scheduled meeting with plant management, he posed a question that had not been on the agenda. He wanted the managers to name the one employee at the plant that they deemed most likely to become injured on the job.
The managers were perplexed by the unexpected question, but eventually a unanimous consensus was reached that Wilson was the single most careless and neglectful employee at the plant. At the conclusion of the meeting, the CEO took a tour of the facility and asked his guides to point out Wilson to him when they got to the department where he worked.
Wilson had known the brass was visiting the plant that day because he had spent the previous few days doing “spring cleaning” in advance of the visit, along with everyone else at the plant. Even so, he was caught quite off guard when he looked up from his work to see himself surrounded by the plant manager, his supervisor, a couple of other guys with clipboards and a man in a suit that was unmistakably the guy whose picture graced the front office walls and company publications. The man in the suit introduced himself as the CEO, shook Wilson’s gritty hand with a warm smile and engaged him in conversation about his family.
Without the slightest hint in his tone to betray why Wilson had been singled out for this honor, the CEO went on:
“Wilson, you and I work for a company with a strong presence in our market and we intend to stay strong for years to come so all our families can benefit from the fruits of our prosperity. The one thing that could instantly interfere with this rosy picture for you or any of your coworkers is if one of you should be injured on the job. Can I count on you to spread the word among your fellow workers just how important it is for the prosperity of your families to always, always follow the safety rules even if it takes a little more time or inconvenience to do it that way?”
The shop area had by that time become absolutely quiet as every worker on the floor was straining to hear what the CEO was saying to Wilson. Wilson, aware of the many pairs of eyes riveted on him, bobbed his head up and down and pledged his willing cooperation.
Later, the plant managers would remark to each other with a chuckle what a turning point that three minute meeting had been for Wilson. To say he went from being the “most likely to be injured” to “most safety conscious” might be accurate, but for the fact that the entire staff had stepped up their safety consciousness as tales of the incident swept through the break room and became part of the cultural identity of the plant.
To me, this is a classic example of what can happen when the workers in your plant understand implicitly how the company feels about safety. It makes no difference if you are part of a large string of plant facilities or if you are a mom–and-pop operation with six employees; the culture of safety must be implanted into your company’s DNA by the example you set.
Gabriel Curry is president of Hub Industrial Supply. He can be reached by email at Gabriel@hubindustrialsupply.com or by phone at 800-743-9401, or visit http://www.hubindustrialsupply.com