Shifting a Health & Safety Culture from Reactive to Preventative

iStock_000020808384XSmall“They are injuries that we do not accept at Kimberly-Clark, as a part of our culture,”~ Mike Tuck, Safety Platform Leader, Kimberly-Clark Professional

Mike Tuck knew he was in for a challenge when he was appointed Plant Manager of Kimberly-Clark Professional (KCP) in Belmont, Michigan. The Kimberly-Clark veteran was tasked by leadership with turning around its recent acquisition, Jackson Safety. The safety supply manufacturer had a 30-year history of 9 to 15 injuries per year and the facility didn’t fit into Kimberly-Clark’s worldwide safety culture.

“I can see how that permeated the organization because it was very prevalent, that injuries over a 30-year history, of having nine to fifteen injuries per year over thirty years, you(employees) just begin to believe that is the way things happen,” reflects Tuck on the culture he observed when arriving at the Belmont facility. He chose Todd Hoogewind, former Jackson Safety Plant Manager and current Belmont Safety Leader, to assist him in shifting the safety culture to Kimberly-Clark standards.

In July 2012, the Belmont facility celebrated their one-year anniversary of being injury free (489 days at the time of the interview).  They focused their team’s effort on first identifying safety hazards throughout the facility tallying up approximately 1,500 hazards that required a solution.  To date they have resolved nearly 3,000 hazards as Hoogewind relates, “we had over 3,000 open hazards that had been entered, today I just looked and we have 28 hazards that have been identified that are still open.” Secondly, because many of the injuries to employees were ergonomic in nature, Tuck and Hoogewind actively searched for a solution to their worker’s aches, pains, and injuries.

How They Did It

Make health and safety as important as production and quality. Tuck states, “We really believe, and we have experienced that (when) focusing on safety as a value, all those other things come as well. In our experience, the facilities that have the best safety records also have the best productivity, quality, and cost. Those things come hand in hand.” Hoogewind agrees, “There’s a weekly production meeting and we present safety. All of our meetings start out with safety.”

TiStock_000006685099XSmallake advantage of pivotal moments. Tuck was in the middle of a safety strategy session with his team about the poor results they were having when a supervisor came to the door with a report of another injury. Tuck remembers, “That was the point where I made the call that we are going to shut the plant down today and have some discussion with these folks. He assembled the workers and told them, “We can’t continue to accept this is an outcome of making products with Kimberly-Clark in Belmont, Michigan.  This is just unacceptable. Statistics tell us that we are at high risk for a serious injury up to and including a death in this facility and that’s just not something I’m going to live with.”

Give a resounding ‘why’ for the need to change. To implement a culture change, you need a strong why, something that employees can relate to and see a benefit. For Tuck, it was the fact that the facility was an unsafe safety supply company, “I was quickly able to leverage the fact that we made safety products and this could be a resounding why behind why we needed to change. So it was really kind of a platform to speak from. (How) can we have customers in here to visit our facility and try to sell them more protective equipment when we are not safe ourselves.”

Foster employee engagement. When Tuck and Hoogewind began their safety transformation in 2010, they asked for volunteers for the safety committee from the 260-person workforce. They received four volunteers. Tuck explains, “That was the day that I asked for volunteers to help me with that (safety) and four of the 260 employees said they would help. When we did the sign up in January (2012) of this year there was over 55 applicants out of 240 employees. The four original are now key senior members of the safety committee and they are actual individual leaders within teams on the safety committee.”

CiStock_000016418424XSmallonsistent leadership. Changing a culture is a difficult process that requires consistent leadership especially when things don’t go smoothly. Hoogewind explains, “We had our spurts, we would go three or four months without an injury and then we would have one. It’s never a smooth path, so we really put a lot of emphasis around the culture and taking the time.”

Tuck never wavered off his goal, “We started talking about the future and what success looked like. From a leadership perspective, I was very consistent in that because people need to understand why we firmly establish safety as a value and had consistent employee communications regarding the fact that ‘we make safety products and we won’t accept getting injured for any business goal’. What a great place to work it will be here in Belmont when we are injury-free and our customers and colleagues will be coming to Belmont to understand how we achieved our goal.”

Relentless risk reduction: Get to the root causes of workplace injuries and find a solution. 

Tuck soon learned that most of the injuries at the Belmont facility were ergonomic in nature and that repetitive strain injuries are some of the most difficult to prevent and correct. Hoogewind agrees, “In 2011, our first injury was somebody cut themselves. The other three after that were ergonomic and ergonomics are not easy to fix.”

Hoogewind continues, “Mike and I talked out for hours and hours ‘what are we going to do and how are we going to solve this’. We would bring in companies to help us with assessments and take their feedback and suggestions on what you (they) can do. I was talking to Jennifer Turner, who was at the time our sector safety leader and she said our Everett mill was using a company called Injury Free.”

Injury Free is proud to be a part of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s ergonomic solution and to assist them in remaining injury free. Our Employee Maintenance Center (EMC) has been in service at the Belmont facility since July 2011 and we continue to treat over 80 percent of Belmont employees.

Tuck explains, “That really gets to our third of the four cornerstones which is relentless risk reduction. That’s where the Injury Free team with Trent (InjuryFree CEO Trent Shuford) was really able to provide some additional value for us around the risk reduction. Helping us identify where the hazards were from an ergonomic perspective and offering solutions to eliminate that risk or reduce it to an acceptable level was another key part of that. It’s just good to be able to have a supplier partner that aligns with our values and our beliefs. This is about prevention.”

For more information on how your facility can benefit from relentless risk reduction contact Trent Shuford at (800) 445-3519(800) 445-3519 or for a free, no-obligation assessment.

“Each time you go into a new company you actually analyze what type of injuries that are most occurring and then you adapt the EMC program to their facility.” ~ Trent Shuford, CEO of InjuryFree.