Professional Safety Journal Asks Anthony Schiavi
What are the key elements of the safety audit data system the Boston Globe implemented to reduce recordable and lost-time injuries?

The Boston Globe safety audits are a supervisors Lotus Notes database that requires all supervisors and mangers to conduct safety audits of their departments. We are covered by twelve separate unions with over 2,000 employees. The safety audit is an electronic system and covers personal protective equipment, position of employees, ergonomics, tools, machinery, equipment, operating procedures and housekeeping. The purpose is to identify both safe and correct unsafe behaviors and conditions that may result in work related injuries. It involves conversations with employees as appropriate and follow-up feature with maintenance and department personnel so accountability is part of the process. Safety determines whether the safety audits are observational. The safety audits are performed by each supervisor at a minimal level of once a week with 50% of the monthly total required to be observational safety audits involving employee behaviors. Based upon our supervisor group we are looking at approximately 400 safety audits per month.

What are some recommended practices for conducting effective audits? Conversely, what are some issues to avoid?

The hazards uncovered during the safety audits are mostly unsafe behaviors like lockout/tagout issues, PPE issues, correcting poor and unsafe work practices, and recognize safe behaviors, etc. In addition, we identify unsafe conditions such as a light out, equipment guards missing, spills, etc. The hazards help us change employee behavior and reinforce their safe behavior as well to identify additional department and safety training that may be necessary.

Can you share some recommended practices for communicating audit results with affected employees and management?

The recommended practices are that each foreman conducts audits at least once per week at different times during the week. They are required to have at least 50% safety observations of employee behaviors, positive and negative. We feel that most work-related incidents are directly related to unsafe behaviors and this allows the supervisor to interact with the employee, explain the safe and unsafe behaviors, get their buy-in and input and thank them in the process. We avoid confrontation with the employees including discipline. The philosophy we take is that the employee needs to be instructed and trained to do a job safely. Discipline is something that we leave as a last resort following a three step process: verbal, written and action.

When you started this process, how did you get management buy-in? How have you sustained that commitment over time?

Each safety audit is electronically sent to the department heads for action and follow-up. The department managers process the open safety audits to make sure that there is closure or follow-up. The safety department also receives the safety audits so they can code them observational or not, and determine whether any safety action is necessary. Each month, senior management, including vice presidents, are sent a summary by department of the overall safety audit numbers, including safety observations and whether the targets have been achieved.

Safety is high visibility in the company, as a director we have been given the flexibility to identify programs that make sense in continuing our safety process. As far as production and distribution, we have the support of senior managers to provide a safe workplace as a paramount goal. The corporate structure lends us to have high visibility at all levels of the organization. The decisions are based upon what is the best safety programs for the organization that will protect our employees, comply with the minimal standards and provide a safe working environment.

What have you found to be effective strategies/techniques for sharing the data you gather with management and convincing executives to invest in safety-related programs/products?

Over the life of the program, we have senior management commitment and all senior managers and supervisors have safety MBOs accounting for 25% of their raises and bonuses tied to leading and/or lagging indicators. The supervisors have leading indicators where the senior managers have lagging indicators as their MBO. Workers' compensation being a self-insured program was at one time more than $6 million and is now projecting to be around $1 million. This is real money, plus the associated indirect costs being 2 to 3 times the direct costs, funds better used elsewhere in the company.