Committed to continuously improving safety, a leading chemical manufacturer launched a new safety program. Where most efforts to improve industrial safety rely on procedures and regulation to drive change, this initiative was developed using the research and principles of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Instead of more legislation, this program set out to inspire people to act – using emotions as the flames of inspiration.

Taking Industrial Safety to the Next Level

“I don’t sleep well at night. We have great statistics and a proven track record of safety but it isn’t enough to give me peace. I want to take it to the next level. I don’t know exactly what that is or what it looks like; I just know that I never want a serious injury to happen on my watch. I want to do everything possible to prevent that from ever happening.”
– Russell Mait, Director, EHSQ for Evonik Goldschmidt

Anyone who doesn’t recognize the value of a good supervisor has not worked in a manufacturing industry like Evonik Goldschmidt (EG). Today’s industrial and manufacturing supervisors are the key links to achieving desired safety and productivity goals required for success.

Unfortunately, the importance of providing training in safety leadership is often over-looked, resulting in supervisors who lack the needed skills to promote behaviors, and an environment, where injuries are less likely.

While attending a leadership training seminar for managers, Russell Mait, Director, EHSQ for Evonik Goldschmidt, recognized that without committed, well trained supervisors, his vision of sustainable zero injuries would not be achievable.  He recognized a strong connection between the skills of “Leading with Emotional Intelligence” and the skills supervisors need to model to take safety to the next level.  With his vision in mind, Mait challenged Tom Wojick, an adjunct faculty member with the University of Richmond and a senior consultant certified in EQ, to design a training program for EG that would help supervisors inspire the attitudes and behaviors that would raise the level of safety company-wide.

The first step was to develop a curriculum that would reflect the safety culture of Evonik Goldschmidt and build on the strengths of existing programs’ initiatives. A focus group of employees from all the EG locations was assembled to discuss the EG safety culture and to develop a program that would target the skills that supervisors need to be effective safety leaders.  Focus group participants were asked to respond to the question “What do I want from our safety program?” from the perspectives of their team members and colleagues company-wide as well as their own. All the members agreed that without safety as a core organizational value, no company can be successful in the long term.

The focus group recommended a Safety Leadership Training program based on the 4 C’s of effective leadership: Commitment, Competence, Consistency and Caring (based on the 4 Cs of Trust).

  • Commitment: each supervisor creates a safety vision for their area of responsibility and commits to a set of core values that will guide them towards their vision. A feature of this module is that each supervisor utilizes a personal story of why safety is important. This story is used to personalize the motivation for the program and to connect emotions and behavior.
  • Competence: supervisors learn skills to improve their communication and listening skills. It is critical to build a team atmosphere in which safety can be discussed and supervisors will listen to their employee’s advice and concerns.
  • Consistency: commitment, values, communicating and listening are only effective if supervisors are consistent and congruent in modeling these behaviors. Consistency in words and actions build trust and promote excellent safety behavior patterns.
  • Caring: is the quality that brings energy, belief and trust and drives the process. The program developed the theme, “We care about safety because we care about you,” to clearly convey that this program is not about numbers; it’s about people.

The communication team developed icons that were used as visual reminders around the plants:

The objective of the course is to learn ways to influence and change behavior to meet mutually beneficial goals.  Group exercises using mouse traps and mock “toxic waste” dilemma are used to demonstrate the importance of teamwork and trust, and to practice effective communication between supervisors and team members.

The first program was rolled out in October 2008 for sixteen supervisors from the Hopewell Plant.  The program will be implemented at the remainder of the EG Consumer Specialties locations in 2009.  Early reviews have been favorable and we are enthusiastic that supervisors armed with the skills to encourage safe behaviors and effectively address unsafe behaviors will enable the team to achieve the vision of sustainable zero injuries in Evonik Goldschmidt.


Tom Wojick

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