Training motivates employees to step up, take responsibility for safety

Steel Dynamics, Inc.


Staff unmotivated by safety training

Steel Dynamics Inc. felt something was missing from the safety program at its Columbia City, Ind., plant. Supervisors conducted required monthly safety meetings with their teams, but in too many cases it amounted to taking material provided by the Safety Department and going through the motions.

While some did a good job and engaged their staffs with examples, “some of the supervisors stood up front and they just read it verbatim,” says Jim Alesia, safety coordinator at the factory.

The solution:

Get everyone to take personal responsibility

Safety is critical at the plant, where Steel Dynamics takes scrap steel, melts it at 3000 degrees and recasts it into I-beams. So the company engaged FDRsafety to provide training for supervisors.

Some of the supervisors were dreading the training before it began. “When you have safety training, guys are usually bored to death to be honest with you,” Alesia says.

But Flavius Brown, the FDRsafety trainer, won the group over with a new approach.

“Flavius came in and he did not talk about one single safety rule to our employees. It was all about personal responsibility and accountability,” Alesia says.

Trouble comes when employees spot a safety problem “and then say, well, Safety’s going to take care of it or somebody else needs to take care of it – it’s not my responsibility.”

“Well you don’t want someone else to be responsible for your safety. When you drive a car, you don’t depend on all the other drivers to drive safely — you’re driving defensively. You’re watching out for them,” Alesia says.

“The same situation here. If you’re working with a piece of equipment that’s unsafe, you’re either not going to use it or you’re going to get it fixed.”

A key part of the training that really engaged supervisors consisted of an exercise where they were asked to describe a safety problem, at work or at home, and how they took responsibility for finding a solution, Alesia says.

The results: Improved safety performance

Supervisors came away from the training saying it was the best they ever had, Alesia says.

And the improvement in safety performance was noticeable after the training, he says.

The rate of OSHA reportable accidents for 2007 was 2.44. In the first quarter of 2009, that figure was 1.33.

The training was very successful in helping Steel Dynamics improve its safety performance, Alesia says. “I think it had a big impact — it empowered supervisors to come up with more of their own solutions to safety issues.”

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