New Focus Yields Best Ever Safety Record

How does a $7 billion global manufacturing company improve its safety record by almost 70 percent in just four years? "You focus 24/7/365 on creating a worldwide culture devoted to workplace safety. And, you do it by engaging every employee in safety awareness and improvement activities," says Greg Hanggi, Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety for Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP (Chevron Phillips Chemical).

Reorienting company culture so that the recordable incidence rate (RIR) is reduced to virtually zero is no easy feat. Nonetheless, that is Chevron Phillips Chemical’s first priority. Toward that goal (“Target Zero”), Chevron Phillips Chemical's 38 worldwide manufacturing and research facilities have made outstanding safety improvements in 2004. Many have gone months and even years without a recordable incident.

The majority of Chevron Phillips Chemical’s U.S. facilities are now OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star sites. Many of the international locations have received similar accolades.VPP recognizes domestic worksites with exemplary safety and health programs and identifies facilities that are benchmarks for others.Only approximately 1,200 of the 6,000,000 eligible facilities in the U.S. have achieved this elite VPP status.

To achieve these results, Chevron Phillips Chemical has employed a formula that includes process safety systems, analytical tools, rewards, industry specific training, behavior based safety initiatives, strong leadership, and employee participation programs. Also, every Chevron Phillips Chemical facility around the world is required to adopt one core element -- the Company's Tenets of Operation. “These Tenets serve as the fundamental principles that guide employee actions and processes," Hanggi says.

"To be truly successful, employees and management must jointly share the belief that everyone can do his or her job safely -- everyday. The best safety programs in the world will fail without full employee ownership," said Hanggi. That is why Chevron Phillips Chemical gives each of its manufacturing facilities the flexibility to customize its own safety programs. According to Hanggi, management provides for and encourages meaningful employee involvement in the injury prevention system.

"We are working to build and maintain a culture where every employee feels like an important part of the Company's safety effort. All employees are encouraged to take an active role in designing safe practices. “The goal,” Hanggi says, “is for everyone to take real ownership of the decisions that affect their individual safety and health."

Some examples of active employee participation include workplace safety committees that focus on finding ways to improve and implement safety procedures. These employee committees also participate in incident investigations and plant audits. The lessons learned from such involvement help make the Company’s "Target Zero" objective resonate more loudly. "At Chevron Phillips Chemical, employees and contractors are part of the solution. We want everyone to be able to say, ‘we’ got involved and helped find a solution that works," Hanggi explains.

Additionally, most Chevron Phillips Chemical facilities employ individualized behavior-based safety programs. "We invest a lot to ensure that our facilities are designed and maintained to very high standards. Yet, we know more is needed. When employees look out for each other and focus on eliminating unsafe behaviors, they eliminate the most common source of injury – a loss of safety awareness during what is perceived to be a low risk activity," Hanggi said.

Some safety initiatives that are widely utilized in Chevron Phillips Chemical's plants are the Operational Excellence Management System (OEMS) -- a systems approach to EH&S and the Health & Safety Best Practices Network. Also, best practices sharing is done via EHS.com -- an intranet site that serves to reinforce and share safety ideas. Chevron Phillips Chemical also utilizes a variety of recognition and reward programs such as the Employee Incentive Program (a pay for performance system) and the "President's Safety Award," to recognize employees and facilities that achieve exceptional safety results.

Hanggi believes that all the awards, recognition programs, educational efforts, instructional videos, safety posters, and tailgate meetings are small slices of the bigger health and safety pie. "Safety reminders and messages keep safety in the forefront of employee and contractor minds. But at the end of the day, when employees see management 'Walking the Talk,' that has the most influence on their safety performance," he believes.

Apart from the obvious company benefit of improved reliability, the greatest return from Chevron Phillips Chemical’s heightened focus on safety is tallied in human terms. "When employees work together and go home from the job in the same shape as they came to the job, that results in a closer working relationship and a lot more pride in the workplace," Hanggi believes.

Now, when colleagues ask Hanggi how Chevron Phillips Chemical has managed to realize such remarkable safety improvements while at the same time increasing sales and profits, he replies, “To us, safety is never seen as a trade-off with profitability. Companies that are the best in safety will also be successful in other aspects of their business.”