BASF Canada's 6-step process for creating a safety culture

Jul 14, 2015

six step processAs operations manager of BASF Canada's Windsor Paint Plant, Michael Helferty balances multiple management responsibilities all at the same time, but at WSPS' recent Partners in Prevention Health & Safety Conference & Tradeshow in Mississauga, he focused squarely on health and safety. In a fast-paced 90-minute session, Helferty shared a 6-step process for creating and sustaining a health and safety culture that helped BASF's Windsor plant achieve three years without even a recordable incident.*

Why focus on health and safety? "It's a fundamental component of business excellence," Helferty told attendees. "If you want to be an excellent company, that means being excellent at everything. Not just profitability." Here's a sampling from his presentation.

How WSPS can help you create a health and safety culture

* BASF Canada's Windsor Paint Plant achieved three years without a recordable incident from 2008 to 2011. Since then, the company has maintained a near perfect record with only three recordable incidents in four years. The most recent occurred 13 months ago.

  1. Define the safety culture. The first question you want to ask yourself is, what is the vision of safety for the organization? What are the beliefs, values, principles that will form the foundation of safety culture? Then document them.
  2. Teach the elements of and process for developing, implementing and sustaining the safety culture. Teach the vision, values, beliefs, principles, behaviour. And you have to invest in it. If you don't put some money and some resources into it, you won't get there.
  3. Measure and manage the safety culture. Establish where you are versus where you want to be. Conduct employee surveys. Compare best in class. Identify gaps. Adopt leading indicator metrics over and above standard performance indicators.
  4. Live the safety culture. You've got to believe your goals are attainable because health and safety excellence is mainly the result of people's attitudes and beliefs. All levels need to live it, from the boardroom to the shop floor. No spectators… Every day I sit in a meeting room with my front line supervisors, and I ask them, 'How are you showing what we believe in? Who did you talk to? What did you see? How did you make this a priority?'
  5. Recognize/reward/celebrate the safety culture. Praise the excellent, reinforce the good, challenge the mediocre, and constructively correct the bad. Establish recognition and reward programs. People call this a double-edged sword: rewarding safe behaviour could lead to underreporting. But if you have strong values and beliefs in place, then it should take care of itself.
  6. Sustain the heath and safety culture. Establish regular management reviews and communications meetings with employees. Create alignment across all areas, from top to bottom. You can’t have one department with a poor safety record and another with a stellar one. Seek and share health and safety best practices and strategies. There's a lot going on in the industry. This conference is a prime example of how we can look at what other people are doing in the industry, and how we can take and adopt some of those things.