We’ve been able to make some significant improvements in the safety of our operations over the last decade, with a substantial decline in the rates of injuries. We have improved our management systems, engineered out known safety risks wherever possible, and augmented our training. But in order to get to the next level – and our goal of zero fatalities and serious injuries – we need to change the culture of our workforce. Today, the major safety challenge at Ford is improving employee adherence to existing safety procedures and improving employee awareness to recognize and eliminate hazards.
To reach the hearts and minds of our people, we’ve been taking a more emotional approach to safety, and we believe it’s been making an impact. On December 26, 2009, one of our employees died in a tragic accident at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. Ronald Cassady’s death shattered the tight-knit plant and profoundly impacted our Company.
The following year, we produced a documentary about Cassady – a 16-year Ford veteran who died of injuries after a 220-pound steel beam fell on top of him. The video, which was translated into multiple languages for required viewing by tradespeople at all of our manufacturing facilities, focuses on Cassady’s friends, co-workers and family as they share the painful details of that horrific December day.
The video made a big impression on our people. And in the years since, we have been producing more videos that tell real-life stories of employees who were injured – or who had a close call – on the job. Some of the “Faces of Safety” videos include images of a worker’s family to remind our people that when they ignore the rules of safety on the job, they’re not just putting themselves at risk – they’re putting the futures of their loved ones at risk, too.
Our target audience for the videos is skilled tradespeople – the employee category that is at highest risk for serious injuries. These are the individuals who troubleshoot equipment, make repairs and retool the manufacturing lines during plant shutdown. Eight of our last 10 fatalities – including Ron Cassady – occurred during maintenance activities. Approximately 20 percent of our employees are in the skilled trades. Yet they represent 80 percent of our fatalities.
Many of these serious injuries occur during plant shutdowns or other intense periods of major change. In the U.S., shutdowns typically take place in December and July of each year as we prepare our facilities for new vehicle models. In 2011 and 2012, we had three consecutive shutdown periods without a serious injury to a Ford employee – something that has never happened before.
As part of our cultural shift, we’re also now working more closely with the UAW and thanking our plant work teams for safety successes. “Our congratulations go out to everyone for a job well done,” wrote Jimmy Settles, vice president and director for the UAW, and Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North American manufacturing, in a January 2013 letter to all U.S. plants. “Our continued success in periods of downtime must find its way into our everyday work. Returning to our families safe and healthy should be a value and expectation for every worker.”
In 2013, we intend to survey our employees to find out what types of safety messages they find useful. For example, several years ago, Mike Rowe, known for his work in our TV commercials, was our spokesman for health and safety. He made a video and we used his likeness to display safety messages within the plants. We hope to determine whether efforts such as that, and our safety videos, are having the desired effect, so that we know where to focus in the future.
We establish accountability for health and safety performance through our business planning, policy deployment and scorecard processes, which set targets and assign responsibility for meeting those targets. Business operation and plant managers are responsible for health and safety in the operations they manage, and their performance in this area is a factor in their incentive compensation. In addition, safety performance is included in the scorecards of salaried employees as appropriate, including those of the CEO and business unit leaders.
As our safety programs have strengthened, we have looked for ways to increase the accountability of all workers so they not only follow the rules and procedures for themselves, but they also look out for their coworkers. Our safety data demonstrates to us that the majority of injuries are the result of individuals failing to follow established safety protocols. We have increased training programs to ensure that workers understand what is required of them and to further build accountability into individual safety performance.
In 2012, we began a pilot program to survey manufacturing employees in four locations and get their feedback on issues relating to safety. Sponsored and supported by a joint Ford/UAW initiative, the 15-minute survey from the National Safety Council (NSC) asks employees 50 questions related to their perceptions of safety at our Company. This is the first time we’ve been able to survey manufacturing employees. (Our Pulse survey, described below and in Employee Satisfaction, primarily surveys salaried employees.)
We plan to expand the survey to all U.S. manufacturing locations in 2013 and use the findings of all of the surveys to improve our safety efforts and culture. Individual plants will develop action plans based on the results of the survey.
The NSC survey, which is used by a variety of global manufacturing companies, focuses on six safety program categories, including management participation, safety support activities and safety support climate. The results of this paper-and-pencil survey also allow us to benchmark ourselves – and individual plants – against the NSC’s database of all surveys, which contains more than 2 million responses from 550 organizations.
We also have several safety questions in the general employee Pulse survey. The results of this survey, combined with audits and routine gathering and sharing of performance data, provide a comprehensive picture of health and safety performance trends, as well as early warning of conditions that could lead to a decline in performance. The results of the 2012 Pulse survey show that the vast majority of Ford salaried employees – 87 percent, compared to 86 percent in 2011 – are satisfied with the Company’s safety culture.