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If You’re Not on the Road to Zero Accidents, You’re on the Wrong Road!

Original article from https://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

According to the safety director of this global corporation, “zero” is not only possible, it is a guiding principle that shapes corporate safety efforts.

Turning zero accidents from an aspiration into an attainable goal is a worthy challenge that has been taken up by many companies, among them Alcoa and Skanska USA.

Today, we’ll tell you about how Alcoa is getting close to zero, and tomorrow we’ll explain how the safety team at Skanska USA is zeroing in on their goal.

Send Them Home Safe

“Sending everyone home in the same condition they came to work has been a long-standing value for Alcoa, certainly as far back as the start of my 33-year career,” says corporate safety director Jeff Shockey.

The idea that injuries can be eliminated was first articulated at Alcoa in the late 1970s. Zero became “true north” in the Alcoa safety culture, and the journey to zero injuries has centered around four primary activities.

1. Identify hazards and assess risk. Each of Alcoa’s 16 business units is expected to proactively identify and eliminate potential hazards. The goal is to go beyond regulatory compliance and look for ways to reduce exposures in routine and nonroutine tasks.

Alcoa believes that hazards occur at the “working interface.” This is the place where the work environment (including equipment and materials) intersects with people and work methods.

2. Develop and implement operational controls with built-in layers of protection. Layers of protection are established for all operations and activities that could result in risk or impact—everything from fall protection to contractor safety.

“We try to avoid single-barrier vulnerability, such that if one thing goes wrong, the entire apple cart is upset,” says Shockey.

For example, in forklift operations, Alcoa requires numerous controls, including ensuring that fork trucks are inspected before use, training operators, and addressing blind spots. Also, pedestrian travel ways are protected and occupant restraints, overhead protective guards, strobe lights, and backup alarms are all routine. In addition, employees may not approach a forklift within 3 feet without direct communications with the operator, and pedestrians in high forklift travel areas are required to wear safety vests.

“These are all examples of the layers of protection we establish to prevent that life-threatening injury,” Shockey explains.

3. Monitor and maintain safety systems. Ongoing monitoring allows Alcoa to evaluate and improve safety performance and identify areas that require corrective action. The company tracks key performance indicators for each business unit and operating location. Shockey says field observations are used extensively on high-risk tasks and with new employees, known to be at higher risk than seasoned workers.

Members of a corporate EHS audit team conduct audits of all business units on a 3- to 5-year cycle. The sites conduct their own self-assessments every 12 to 18 months.

4. Correct gaps and improve system stability. A well-developed corrective action process ensures that nonconformances are addressed. The aim, says Shockey, “is moving the safety system to a higher degree of reliability and sustainability” and minimizing the impact of changes in personnel or operations.

Part of the corrective action process includes applying lessons learned from incidents with high-consequence potential. These are used to predict future areas of vulnerability. For example, when it was determined in the 1990s that fatalities related to skylights had occurred, Alcoa took an aggressive stance to eliminate or guard skylights on all buildings, including those of newly acquired businesses.

Chasing Zero

Although they are not there yet, Alcoa believes it is getting close. In 2011 the company’s 60,000 employees worked an entire year without a single fatality, and 99.9 percent of them went home without experiencing an injury that required medical treatment or restricted or lost time.