Down to Zero Harm

A million hours without a Lost Time Accident

The Safety Product Search website recenty visited the Scott Safety in Skelmersdale, Lancashire to see for itself how they have revolutionised their factory.  Scott Safety's Factory of the Future is a concept in the pursuit of operational excellence whilst ensuring zero harm to its workforce and environmental credentials with zero waste.

Scott Safety, a business unit of Tyco, is a premier manufacturer of innovative respiratory and other personal protective equipment and safety devices for firefighters, industrial workers, police forces, militaries, homeland security forces, and rescue teams around the world. The company has always prided itself on its safety record and its employee engagement.  In 2011 it began an ambitious project to make its Skelmersdale plant a Factory of the Future; a beacon of achievement for the rest of the company, for the Tyco family of companies and for the UK manufacturing industry. Factory of the Future consists of four areas of focus: Zero Harm, Zero Waste, Zero Defects and Zero Late.

One of the key areas for improvement within Zero Harm was Lost Time Accidents, with the site averaging at least one Lost Time Accident a year prior to the project . Peter Osborne, Skelmersdale’s plant manager, explained: “A Factory of the Future is a safe place to work, one where people don’t get injured because they know that if they spot a hazard, they can report it with confidence, knowing that it will be immediately acted upon. But we hadn’t reached that level of employee engagement, as our statistics were showing.”

‘Health and safety’ was seen as an imposition by management, and if this was to change there would have to be a change in everyone’s thinking. Complying with European health and safety legislation is one thing; embedding the concept into everyone’s thinking and behaviour, and making it part of the business’s culture is quite another.

“We wanted to stop ‘health and safety’ from being seen as an imposition, and to foster a working environment where every individual takes full responsibility both for their own safety and for the safety of their colleagues,” said Peter. “That required more than merely reporting accidents; we wanted to go further, encouraging everyone to report near miss accidents, to think about how to improve our workplace’s safety, and to take confident action without fear of negative repercussions.”

The Zero Harm project

Listen first …

This could only happen with full employee engagement, which only happens when senior management are seen to be serious and ‘walking the talk’. And so, the ‘Zero Harm’ project, designed to reduce Lost Time Accidents to zero, was born.

To demonstrate the company’s commitment, Scott Safety shut down operations for two days during July 2011 and spent time with its workforce talking about the challenges, issues and opportunities related to safety on site and listening to staff comments and suggestions.

Employees were encouraged to speak up on a variety of topics, including communications management and how they could influence safety policies and hazard reporting. They were enthusiastic and constructive, pointing out that meetings, for example, would be better held on the shop floor instead of behind closed doors, with results communicated in jargon-free plain English.

During the two days, feedback was recorded on communication boards - prominent displays of simple traffic lights and smiley faces - to give everyone a quick view of what was happening. The communication boards have remained as a simple and instant way of keeping everyone up to date with progress and are prominently displayed on the shop floor.  The work station staff are encouraged to flag up issues on their own stations by simply updating their individual boards with a marker pen and switching on a light, similar to those at a supermarket checkout, so that issues can be resolved before output is affected.  They can see the positive impact that clear, visible communication has on overall productivity and the simple ‘power of the pen’. This has been a major change in both behaviour and attitude.

“Holding our meetings on the shop floor and creating communications boards required a change in mentality but we knew it was the right thing to do,” said Peter.  “We didn’t get everything right first time, but the culture of openness presented us with the feedback we needed to refine what we did. This is the essence of continuous improvement.”

…then take action

The company then began to implement employee-led ‘Grassroots’ projects that would really make a difference to its safety performance. The Grassroots teams take ownership of issues and are empowered to find solutions that make sense to themselves and their colleagues. With a small amount of mentoring from management and a huge amount of effort and commitment from the teams, this has been one of the most successful elements of the Zero Harm initiative.

One of the first projects was to implement a new ‘U-Act (or ‘Unsafe Act’) form. The form’s name is a call to action for anyone who identifies a potential problem to report it, before an accident occurs, without fear of retaliation.

U-Acts, once raised, are retained in full view of the shop floor, with progress reported on communication boards as the issue gets resolved. The U-Act is only closed when the employee originator signs it off and is satisfied with the outcome. Some U-Acts also create spin-off projects, with ownership given to grassroots employee teams rather than management. The grassroots teams were introduced a year into the project to engage the workforce, both shop floor and office, to ensure messages from the route cause reach the management and that any issues are resolved promptly.  This positive peer pressure has helped improve relations with and perceptions of the management and contributed to defining the culture.

Examples of further projects and initiatives, created through staff suggestions, include:

•    Improved induction and training to embed safety consciousness from the moment people  join the team

•    Innovative ways of encouraging the use of PPE in restricted areas (for example, placing spectacle dispensers at entry and exit points)

•    Increased travel safety for external facing members of the team, for example taking greater care when carrying cylinders in cars.  The team developed a number of concepts to address this issue and produced prototypes of the preferred concept for approval / acceptance by the Technical Support Team and Sales Force. With feedback received, improvements were made to these prototypes.  Scott Safety is now in a position to issue 70 “Vehicle Cylinder Carrying Systems” to its sales force and any other company personnel who need to transport air cylinders.

•    New rules, including banning telecommunications equipment in moving vehicles, which are above the standards required by law.

•    Heightened vigilance against slips, trips and falls.

The result:

‘Near miss’ reporting, using the U-Act process, has almost doubled over the last three years and in August 2014 the company officially recognised that it had achieved its target milestone: a million hours worked with zero Lost Time Accidents. But the most significant result is the culture change that created this result, and continues to improve safety consciousness at Skelmersdale. Its efforts, and their results, were rewarded with a British Safety Council Award (with Merit) in 2014.

Peter Osborne commented: “We now have a culture where health and safety is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone, no matter what their job or position, understands what it takes to create an environment where people go home safely every night. We have an enthusiastic workforce – and suggestions and comments come in every day.”

Joe Rigby, grassroots team member commented: “I’ve been with Scott Safety for over 25 years and it is a real privilege to work with a company that is committed to the safety and well-being of its staff. Working together with my colleagues ‘at the coal face’, we have been able to truly understand the issues and implement changes that have transformed our working culture. I am delighted to be part of the team that has driven this change and cannot wait to see how Scott Safety will move forward in future”.

The safety ideas generated at Skelmersdale have had a positive effect far beyond the original site:  they have been standardised across all Scott Safety sites and rolled out to the rest of Tyco. “We have shared what we have done with our partners and suppliers to support their own development,” said Peter Osborne. “Scott Safety can now count itself among the leading manufacturers in the UK for its commitment to worker safety and environmental responsibility and for the way that we targeted and achieved Zero Harm.  We are keen to share our experiences with other companies who share our passion to protect what matters most – our employees.”

Max Gosney, editor of Works Management magazine, the voice of UK manufacturing for over 60 years, visited the Skelmersdale facility and commented: “Scott Safety, Skelmersdale has made impressive advances in implementing lean manufacturing after taking a candid look at its factory floor efficiency in 2011. The management team have adopted a heart on sleeves approach to engaging their workforce in driving improvements. Grassroots cross functional teams have empowered those closest to the work to bring forward innovations that have reduced waste, improved quality and safety. The factory floor is unrecognisable from just a few years ago with modular workbenches working to a synchronised manufacturing flow. An impressive array of visual management boards drive cadence between the management team’s strategic direction and the daily activities of the shop floor. The improved ergonomics and line design at the site have also driven huge safety gains and saw the site achieve over 900 days since a lost time accident.”

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