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What Does Great Look Like?

Posted on November 30, 2016

Nilfisk Business Development Manager Scott Boersma was recently interviewed for an article on the PROCESS EXPO blog. In that interview, he noted that there’s a “weird paradox” in attitudes toward some safety hazards in the food industry.

Specifically, some companies take the perspective that any safety risk is too great. And they’re willing to do everything possible to mitigate those risks. At the other end of the spectrum, some companies seem to have their heads in the sand about the safety risks in their facilities.

Boersma believes that the best way to get people on board with safety initiatives is to “take the biggest, most proactive companies, hold them up high, and say, ‘Here’s what great looks like.’”

This article describes three things that make a company “great” when it comes to safety.

Making a commitment to safety at the highest levels

If you want organizational buy-in for anything, it needs to start at the top.

Boersma describes visiting a candy manufacturing plant where the first thing you see when you walk in the door is a picture of the CEO next to a poster that says: “One safety risk is one too many.”

That’s leadership at its highest level. And it’s that kind of leadership that will set the tone for how the rest of the organization operates.

Putting your money where your mouth is

Of course, words are just words. A great organization backs up those words with dollars and cents. When it comes to safety, that means believing that no cost is too high for a risk to an employee.

The counterintuitive part for many companies is that every dollar you spend on safety actually decreases your overall costs. OSHA estimates that companies can save 20% to 40% on injury and illness costs by establishing safety and health management systems, which “can be the difference between operating in the black and running in the red.”

OSHA notes that investing in safety has other benefits as well, like increased productivity, morale, and profit. And it doesn’t matter the size of your company. The agency provides examples of both a Fortune Five company that increased productivity by 13% and a 50-person plant that saved more than $265,000 through health and safety programs.

Caring about your employees

Boersma visits a lot of food manufacturing facilities. One thing he’s noticed is that when he’s at one of the best food companies in the world, “you feel it the minute you walk in.” What you feel is caring.

When you care about your employees and your employees care about you, everyone is invested in making the company the best it can be. Retention rates go up because people are generally happy to go to work. Boersma has also observed that these caring companies are squeaky clean (“you could eat off the floors in the plant”), which boost both food and worker safety.

Authentic caring goes beyond just putting posters on the wall. For many companies — particularly in manufacturing — it requires a shift in mindset. That can be tough, but it will also be incredibly rewarding. For a crash course on what that looks like, read Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Barry-Wehmiller CEO Bob Chapman.

Commitment, investment, caring — these are three factors we believe make an organization great. What does great look like to you?