Safety: Top Down and All The Way Home
When you think of “safety”, what jumps to mind? Is it wearing safety shoes or using defensive driving techniques or stretching before lifting properly? At FedEx, safety is as simple and as complicated as this: it’s the bedrock of our company and the heart of our People-Service-Profit philosophy.
Recently, I ran across a “vintage” memo from our Chairman. This one was from 1996, entitled “Safety Initiatives.” The memo was attached to a packet introducing our “Safety Above All” program. The first paragraph of that memo ended with a profound statement of commitment from Mr. Smith:
“I believe our greatest responsibility as managers is to ensure that every employee knows that no package we could ever carry is worth jeopardizing the safety of one team member.”
It doesn’t get any clearer than that and straight from the Chairman himself.
Why such an emphasis on safety? The answer is “because management gets it.” From the top down, our managers understand a safety program does not begin and end with policies and procedures. Safety is not only the right thing to do, it’s our obligation to provide a safe work environment for team members. Safety is a behavior we integrate into job training and practice. My mission is to have everyone, including our customers and the public, go home in the same healthy shape as when they started out that day.
But you know how safety really gets implemented? With our team members – the best team members in the world. They understand their responsibility to act and be safe. It’s a responsibility to themselves, their families, their team members, our customers and the public. A large number of our team members spend 90 percent of their time working away from our facilities. This means each must use their knowledge, training and practices to avoid injuries or accidents not just in our facilities but out on the road or in others’ facilities. They demonstrate that safety commitment daily. Since the beginning of the “Safety Above All” initiative in 1996, we have decreased the FedEx Express injury rate by 73 percent and our vehicle accident rate has declined by 50 percent. Simultaneously, we increased our team member base by more than a third. See why they are the best team members in the world?
While FedEx Express will continue striving to improve its safety performance, I am proud of the team member involvement and leadership at the local level. Our Safety Continuous Improvement Teams (SCITS) are composed of team members interested in identifying and implementing new processes or procedures to improve the safety of their work environment. These are team member-driven teams, chaired by a frontline team member. Managers and Safety Specialists attend or support the SCIT meetings so that they understand the issues and help the team implement their ideas. These teams have successfully driven down accident and injury rates across the board. Also, they have identified bubbling issues and surfaced them to our Corporate Safety department before the issues could become a larger trend. Perhaps the best part of the SCITs is they positively influence the mindset of their team mates. After all, knowing the rules is important but applying and sharing the knowledge is the practice of safety.
So now that we have discussed the all important human component of safety let’s talk about today’s challenging economy and its relationship to safety. Safety, like the economy, has both a human component as well as a financial component. In today’s economy all of us and our families are taking measures to save money while taking care of our families and home life. Some of those measures are probably preventative maintenance so we can avoid unexpected additional expenses. It’s the same here at work. When our team members work safely and avoid and prevent injuries and accidents, costs associated with those injuries and accidents don’t have to be offset by hundreds of additional packages today’s economy is just not producing. So whether its stays in your pocket at home or goes to the bottom line at work, it’s saved money in tight times. Even more importantly, team members go home to their families in the same healthy shape as when they started out that day. In my book, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Until next time…Think Safety, Act Safely, Be Safe.