Don Jones is a Regulatory Expertise Leader for Dow Chemical Company’s G lobal Environmental Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs Center. He has over 30 years of experience in the petrochemical industry and in personal and process safety.
In this interview, Jones explains how safety, health and environmental (SH&E) practices are maintained among the employees and units at Dow Chemical Company’s Louisiana Operations facility, which continues to achieve one of the lowest injury rates in the United States.
Please provide a brief overview of Dow Chemical Company’s Louisiana Operations facility and of the products it manufactures.
The Louisiana Operations facility occupies approximately 1,500 acres of land (which Dow owns), produces its own electricity and employs more than 3,000 Dow and contract employees.
Its 20+ production units produce raw materials such as brine, liquid petroleum, water and oxygen, which are used to manufacture bulk chemicals, including ethylene, ethylene glycol, glycol ethers, polyethylene and propylene glycol. End-use materials, including propane, cellulose fillers, adhesives and chlorine, are also produced here.
What are your duties as a Regulatory Expertise Leader for Dow Chemical Company’s Global Environmental Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs Center?
As a global expert, I am responsible for the procedures section of the Operating Discipline Management Standard (ODMS). I keep this section current and accurate, provide interpretations and lead management system reviews. In this position, I also help to develop comments on proposed OSHA regulations, and I work to implement the final regulations.
In addition, I work as a mentor with Dow sites that want to achieve Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) status. In this role, I:
I also work as a Special Government Employee of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assist them with VPP onsite evaluations.
You mentioned that more than 3,000 employees work at Louisiana Operations, a facility with 20+ production units. How are safety, health and environmental (SH&E) practices maintained daily among all employees and units?
We are able to maintain SH&E practices among our employees and units because of our strong management commitment. The management here sets clear expectations, promotes accountability and encourages employee involvement. We could not maintain such a high level of safety each day without our management’s leadership and our employees’ participation.
Since 1988, Louisiana Operations has reduced air emissions by 70%, and it has increased production by 18%. How did the facility accomplish this?
In 1996, Dow Chemical Company announced a series of SH&E goals to be reached by 2005. One of these goals was to enhance resource productivity in order to minimize Dow’s impact on the environment and to prevent pollution. Dow developed a strategic plan based on these goals, and thanks to this focused strategic planning, Dow has improved facility performance over the last ten years. Reduced air emissions and increased production at the Louisiana Operations facility are results of Dow’s commitment to reaching its goals.
Louisiana Operations’ injury rates of employees and contractors are 0.48—one of the lowest in the country. How does the facility consistently achieve these low rates?
We can consistently achieve these low rates because we have an effective SH&E management system in place that addresses all phases of our SH&E program. We continually work to improve our SH&E management system, which results in fewer injuries and subsequent lower rates.
Louisiana Operations has received the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star Award and several other national awards. How did Louisiana Operations qualify for these honors?
Louisiana Operations submitted an application to OSHA to become a VPP site. OSHA visited the site and evaluated it based on VPP requirements. OSHA identified deficiencies, and once Dow Chemical Company corrected them, OSHA awarded the site VPP status. Louisiana Operations has also been honored by the National Petroleum Refiners Association (NPRA) and by the National Safety Council (NSC).
How are SH&E employees trained at Louisiana Operations? Which training methods have been found to be most effective (hands-on, instructor-led, online, etc.)?
We have training in place for every role on site. We offer classroom training in which employees may take written or oral exams, or they may be asked to demonstrate specific tasks. Our online training program, Learn at Dow Now, has been most successful, but we find that a combination of classroom training and online self-study works best for employees.
Dow Chemical Company’s Hispanic Latin Network (HLN) sponsors free Spanish classes for employees in Louisiana, Michigan and New Jersey. How have these classes improved employee relations and performance specifically at Louisiana Operations?
This initiative shows that Dow Chemical Company truly cares about its employees. These classes have helped to improve communication among employees, which in turn improves performance. Our employees appreciate this opportunity for development.
The Louisiana Operations facility spans approximately 1,500 acres near the Mississippi River. How does the facility make sure that its operation and production processes are environmentally sound?
Our Environmental, Health and Safety Management System establishes criteria that our production processes must meet. Each plant at the facility works hard to implement and to improve the system, which results in improved performance and environmental protection.
In 1996, Dow Chemical Company announced a series of goals to improve SH&E performance as part of its “Vision of Zero” concept. Please further describe the “Vision of Zero” concept and how SH&E performance has improved over the past ten years.
Some companies believe that it is impossible to achieve zero incidents, injuries, illnesses, accidents and environmental impact. However, Dow Chemical Company believes that all are preventable. Dow has made significant progress toward the “Vision of Zero” concept these past ten years, and the reduction of Louisiana Operations’ injury rate from 2.0+ to 0.48 is proof of that.
You are a Special Government Employee of OSHA. How does your experience in this position help you to ensure that Louisiana Operations complies with state and federal OSHA regulations?
As a Special Government Employee, I have the opportunity to participate in OSHA audits. These audits allow me to see what SH&E methods other facilities are using, and I can then learn how to incorporate these methods at our facility in Louisiana. This position also gives me a better understanding of how OSHA views regulations.
You have held leadership positions with the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and with other safety and health organizations at local, regional and national levels. Do you feel that your experience in these positions have helped you as a Regulatory Expertise Leader at Dow Chemical Company? In what ways?
Yes, my involvement in the ASSE and in other safety and health organizations has definitely helped me in my current position at Dow Chemical Company. This involvement provided many opportunities to learn about leadership, and I met a number of people with whom I continue to network. Professional organizations such as these always offer information, training and expertise that you can use in your career.
What recommendations can you make to companies that wish to improve their own SH&E programs?
Companies that wish to improve their own SH&E programs must make sure that they have a good Environmental, Health and Safety Management System in place. This system should be measured against the criteria of existing systems that have been proven effective. Once this system is implemented, companies can begin to close any gaps and make improvements to their own SH&E program.
Don Jones is a Regulatory Expertise Leader for Dow Chemical Company’s G lobal Environmental Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs Center . He has worked for 30+ years in the petrochemical industry, and he has significant experience in personal and process safety.
Jones is a Special Government Employee of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and he also mentors sites that wish to achieve OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) status. He has held leadership positions with the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and with other safety and health organizations at local, regional and national levels.
His awards and honors include:
He will also serve as President of the ASSE from 2006-2007.
Jones is a registered Professional Engineer and a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with experience in management, construction, systems and engineering. He holds a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Louisiana State University and a master of business administration degree from Texas A&M University.