WORKPLACE HEALTH & SAFETY
A Safety Turnaround
Aided by an innovative UL learning platform, McWane effected a significant and rewarding turnaround by institutionalizing workplace health and safety best practices.
WHY MCWANE’S SAFETY TURNAROUND MATTERS
Today, both corporate executives and the functional practitioners who focus on occupational health and safety believe that not only is enhancing employee well-being the right thing to do, but it can also make a significant contribution to a company’s business performance.1 Part of what is driving this belief is the knowledge that an investment in health and safety is directly focused on enhancing a company’s most important asset: its people.2 McWane’s safety turnaround is important because the company overcame inadequate, underperforming infrastructure and negative publicity to create an award-winning environment, health and safety culture.3 The McWane case study therefore represents a proof of concept, demonstrating what is possible when an organization makes and follows through on a commitment to improve health and safety in the workplace.
McWane is a family-owned business that is a leading provider of water, sanitation and fire safety infrastructure products, with a newer focus in the electrical utility industry. The organization has 6,000 employees who work in 25 different manufacturing sites across the U.S., Canada, Australia and China. In 2003, the company suffered from widely publicized safety and environmental problems at some of its facilities. A federal investigation resulted in fines and penalties as well as a prolonged trial in which several employees were found guilty of environmental crimes in 2006. The company acknowledged that it had allowed isolated operational silos to inhibit information-sharing and opportunities to assess and respond to incidents; reported accidents; and other health, safety and environmental trends at the company. McWane took decisive action to turn its situation around and become a benchmark of excellence related to workplace health and safety.4
WHAT DID UL DO?
McWane sought to implement a comprehensive, transparent environment, health and safety (EHS) management system that emphasized training and accountability, management commitment, and employee engagement as corporate values.5 McWane turned to UL for help. Over nearly two decades of working with companies to enhance their occupational health and safety management, we have developed the insight that improving learning is one of the keys to changing and developing a strong safety culture. UL’s expertise shows that it is critical to create a baseline of employee knowledge of the elements of health and safety and to help employees understand both their role and their importance in the process and how exposure to health and safety risks can negatively affect them and the people around them.6
After assessing McWane’s situation, we recommended our innovative, web-based learning platform, PureSafety. Our platform uniquely combines adult learning principles, such as interactivity and engaging instructional design, with an in-depth knowledge of safety best practices.7 PureSafety also automates the learning process, enabling companies such as McWane to:
- Access 700+ health and safety courses in up to 9 different languages
- Report and track incidents
- Manage and learn from incidents, observations and near misses
- Assign corrective actions to avoid future incidents
One of the most innovative features of the PureSafety platform is that it can use details from real-world occurrences to auto-populate in-the-moment news flashes or create customized training sessions based on actual events.8 Our eLearning courses are developed by a team of subject matter experts and instructional designers and updated as needed to address changes in compliance requirements.9 Our courses are also unique in that they do not focus only on providing the necessary information to promote adherence to safety best practices. Instead, UL’s eLearning is designed to foster an understanding of what these best practices mean in terms of the role employees play in their own safety and that of their colleagues.10
Using our platform allowed McWane to not only improve awareness and compliance among employees but also redirect learning resources to other critical issues such as understanding and correcting workplace hazards. By tracking course completion and compliance behaviors, UL’s learning platform helps improve employee engagement and enhances accountability by helping managers identify employee alignment with objectives and address any employee outliers.11
Ongoing education and training, powered by UL’s learning platform, became a key pillar in McWane’s turnaround. Specifically, our efforts contributed to the establishment of an employee engagement-based culture in which all managers were required to complete OSHA 10-hour safety compliance training. They were also required to acquire new management “soft skills” through the National Safety Council’s Supervisory Development course, internal Dale Carnegie “Casting Leadership” training and other classes to enhance their ability to communicate and motivate employees. Employee training was also extensive and included daily safety contacts, weekly toolbox talks, frequent review of incidents and inspections to monitor performance. Audit results were shared with employees, and there was continuous learning about new equipment and procedures, as well as formalized compliance training and proficiency tests. Our learning platform tracked which employees had completed each training module and at what time. It also aggregated performance across organizational silos and facilitated cross-silo communications.12
The McWane turnaround was fueled by the company’s determination and commitment. UL’s learning platform provided powerful tools to help the company operationalize and build safety success. The platform was a catalyst that helped McWane enhance collaboration among health, safety, human resources and operations. This allowed the organization and its collective resources to target efforts to improve working conditions, increase employee involvement and create a shared purpose for the well-being of employees.13
Ultimately, McWane’s efforts helped the company establish a culture of health and safety that achieved a 77% decline in total recordable incident rates between 2002 and 2012 and a 75% decrease in its DART rate (i.e., days away from work, restricted duty and job transfers) during the same period. Amerex Corporation, a McWane company, reported an 88% decrease in workers’ compensation claims between 2006 and 2012; a 76% decline in the total recorded incident rate from 2004 to 2012; and a decline in the number of first aid injury clinic visits, from 175 with $87,500 in expenditures in 2008 to 50 visits with $25,000 in costs in 2012. These tangible results validate the human and business impacts that occupational health and safety management can have on an organization, and highlight the efficacy of both the comprehensive approach UL advocates and our innovative workplace health and safety solutions.14