Saturday, January 9, 2016

Deb Defelice and the Creation of a Safety Culture

Deb Defilice and Omar Avila at USSM
Everyone understands that the health and safety of people in our business is of paramount importance. In some cases, it is an "activity" that is done outside of regular work. In some cases, the only time we think about it is when there is some sort of incident. An accident or an injury. Often, when this happens, we react with a countermeasure. The other time we think about it is when we need to enforce a policy of some kind....people not wearing PPE, for example. We may have to write someone up, send them home, or worse, let them go. Instead of reacting, can we be proactive?  The key is to transfer ownership of safety to the people who do the work.  
Employee engagement is essential if a company wants to reduce incidents and injuries.  But getting everyone engaged is not always easy. A3 is a great way to get people not only involved in the recognition of workplace hazards, but in their control as well. Engaging employees to take health and safety into their own hands prevents potential accidents and injuries from happening;. Those small hazards you disregard on a daily basis become accidents the longer you ignore them.  Sweat the small stuff so you don’t have to deal with bigger issues down the line.


Meet Deb Defelice, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals (Wallingford, CT). Deb is one of the very best at knitting together continuous improvement, continuous learning, and safety.  If an employee is involved in a "near miss", notices a potential hazard or is injured, Deb works with them to get that incident on the A3 board immediately, helps them pull together a team of 3-5 people, gain a thorough understanding of the current condition, work through root cause, and implement countermeasures. The beautiful part is the A3 closing, where that A3 leader teaches his or her peers what happened or almost happened, and what the countermeasures are. People pay very close attention when they are being taught by their peers! It also gives the Safety Director (Deb) the opportunity to remind people about specific safety topics related to that A3. USSM has completed hundreds of A3s, dozens of which have been led by people eliminating the possibility of injury.

A simple definition of Policy Deployment is that everyone knows what's important right now. There is no question in anyone's mind which way the ship is headed. I've suggested in previous blogs the four essential components to accomplish this:  
1. Dashboard metrics-everyone can see where we are right now relative to where we were and where we want to go. The key is they are metrics like on your car dashboard, not an airplane dashboard-just a few that everyone understands that are updated constantly.
2.
Learning-we wouldn't do policy deployment if we are already where we want to be, right? Part of the learning comes from item #3, and some may come from structured, formalized classes-benchmarking others, understanding other ideas, training, etc.
3.
Kaizan-how can anyone in the organization move the metrics? One way is to swoop in, command & control style, and fix stuff. Just remember it is disrespectful for ME to fix YOUR process. Self-directed work teams using A3 to do PDCA is a good way for people to lverage diversity, gain consensus, and teach their peers what they've learned. The A3 closing can be thought of as "smippets" of learning about various processes taught by the experts who do the work.
4.
A sense of urgency or reason to change. This needs to be communicated often to shake everyone loose from complaceny or "busy-ness". 

If I walk into your plant, and pull someone aside randomly, and ask them "what's important here", will they say safety? If there is ALWAYS an A3 on the board that involves health and safety, and they've attended a couple of dozen safety A3 closings, there's a good chance they might answer "safety."

Sure beats having to "write someone up." Well done Deb.

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