Woodville Team Set to Shift its Safety Culture

It began with a 73-question survey answered over several hours. It has grown into a full-blown initiative one Ohio team hopes will improve its safety culture for years to come.

“This is a perfect fit with Guardian Angel because it really serves as the ultimate engagement exercise,” said Jim Reithel, Magnesia Specialties vice president of operations. “We’re involving the people who do the work each day – the real experts – and asking them to identify hazards and then improve our communication and our processes.”

Designed by Caterpillar Safety Services, the survey questions were answered by the workforce, supervisors and management at Magnesia Specialties’ Woodville plant in the late summer of 2016. Covering various aspects of the site’s day-to-day operations, including such elements as area inspections, employee recognition, task training and availability of resources, the questions required only yes/no answers, said Byron Cook, a maintenance man with five years on the job who is heavily involved with the project.

Once collected, the data was analyzed and graphed, allowing the Woodville team to see clearly the disparities between how each of its groups views conditions at the site. It was at this stage where the initiative really kicked into gear.

As part of the process, Woodville formed and trained two employee committees: the Safety Steering Team (SST) and the Continuous Improvement Team (CIT).

The Safety Steering Team
The Safety Steering Team (SST).

Sam Knott, a process engineer who serves as the current leader of the SST, said the teams were designed so that the SST – which will focus on Woodville’s overall safety culture – is evenly split between the workforce and supervisors, while the CIT – which will focus on day-to-day safety practices – is composed primarily of workforce members with varying backgrounds.

With the survey data in hand, the SST identified those aspects of the operation with the greatest differences in perception. The team then chose the first area to be addressed – pre-shift tailgate meetings – and brought together a CIT with the expertise to take on the task.

“We want to make sure our first CIT has a successful experience,” said Cook, a member of the SST. “I don’t think this is an easy task, but it’s not as difficult as some of the other topics we could have chosen. Based on the results of the survey, this is a good stepping stone.”

During a weeklong workshop, the CIT looked at every part of the site’s tailgate meetings and brainstormed ways to make them more effective and efficient. Further, the team developed metrics on which to gauge their progress.

The redesigned meeting format will soon be rolled out across the entire site and its impact analyzed over the course of 12-18 months. When all are satisfied the meetings have improved, the first CIT will be dissolved and the SST will select a new topic and a new CIT to address it.

The Continuous Improvement Team (CIT)
The Continuous Improvement Team (CIT).

Knott said the process hasn’t been entirely smooth, but that the teams are empowered to resolve whatever difficulties may arise.

“At times, we haven’t agreed on what’s most important, but that’s why the SST is set up as it is,” he said. “In that room, we’re all the same. Everyone has an equal voice, so we don’t move forward until we’ve reached a joint conclusion.”

Cook agreed before adding that he’s hopeful the combined efforts of the SST and CIT will create impactful change at Woodville.

“I personally believe it’s going to work,” he said. “I’m not sure if all of our teams understand how this is going to affect them yet, but I’m confident that the more people we involve, the stronger this process will be.”



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