Executive Briefings

Building a Culture of Safety

Industrial giant Tyco has embraced a philosophy of "zero harm" in terms of its impact on the environment and the safety of employees. David Haley, director of distribution, explains how this commitment is being implemented at the company’s fulfillment centers.

Zero harm is a way of life at Tyco, says Haley. At the company's fulfillment centers, the environmental side of this philosophy plays out in such additions as motion-controlled lights, high-efficiency lighting and broad recycling. "At our large Phoenix DC, we now have less than 5 percent of operational waste going into landfills," Haley says. "We see a really exciting opportunity there for scaling this success and sharing best practices across the rest of our network."

Keeping employees safe is a tougher problem, he says. Tyco is a big company with manufacturing and field operations as well as logistics and fulfillment centers, which means a lot of opportunities for accidents. "Tyco believes that every accident is avoidable, but reaching zero is a big challenge," he says.

Tyco sees employee safety as a two-pronged issue: how and why. The how involves engineering activities, flow patterns, traffic patterns, picking modes, material-handling equipment, and worker shifts and training. “There’s a lot of new technology out there, such as lift assists and other warehouse automation. As we redesign our fulfillment network, we want to implement technology that will help create a zero harm physical environment.”

“Why” is a more complicated question than “how,” Haley says. “We can have the best engineering solutions in the world, the best flow patterns, the best picking modes, the best schedules –but if people still feel they need to take a risk to do their jobs, or if they are unaware of job risks, then we have failed.”

To understand the “why,” Tyco rolled out a program that was started a few years ago by culture-change consultants. The program begins with two-day workshops at individual locations. All operations are shut down and employees are taken off site. “When you start talking about safety with employees, you talk about lot of other things as well–how people feel about their jobs and about one another―so a lot of good comes out of those sessions,” Haley says.

Specific projects identified at the off-site meeting are implemented with employee involvement. Eighteen months later, a follow-up assessment is done, which may lead to a new list of projects. “It is a very robust program that has made a real shift in how we deal with one another inside the four walls,” he says.

One key shift has come from “identifying barriers to building the culture we want, a lot of which are rooted in trust and communications issues,” says Haley. “Our employees have probably been through several safety programs and convincing them that this time we are really changing requires a lot of discipline from leadership.”

Persistence pays off, however, by gradually breaking down those barriers and building trust. “As a result of focusing on our safety and cultural awareness process, Tyco is seeing a much more engaged workforce, with people feeling empowered to control their work environment and to make positive changes,” says Haley.

To view the video in its entirety, click here

Zero harm is a way of life at Tyco, says Haley. At the company's fulfillment centers, the environmental side of this philosophy plays out in such additions as motion-controlled lights, high-efficiency lighting and broad recycling. "At our large Phoenix DC, we now have less than 5 percent of operational waste going into landfills," Haley says. "We see a really exciting opportunity there for scaling this success and sharing best practices across the rest of our network."

Keeping employees safe is a tougher problem, he says. Tyco is a big company with manufacturing and field operations as well as logistics and fulfillment centers, which means a lot of opportunities for accidents. "Tyco believes that every accident is avoidable, but reaching zero is a big challenge," he says.

Tyco sees employee safety as a two-pronged issue: how and why. The how involves engineering activities, flow patterns, traffic patterns, picking modes, material-handling equipment, and worker shifts and training. “There’s a lot of new technology out there, such as lift assists and other warehouse automation. As we redesign our fulfillment network, we want to implement technology that will help create a zero harm physical environment.”

“Why” is a more complicated question than “how,” Haley says. “We can have the best engineering solutions in the world, the best flow patterns, the best picking modes, the best schedules –but if people still feel they need to take a risk to do their jobs, or if they are unaware of job risks, then we have failed.”

To understand the “why,” Tyco rolled out a program that was started a few years ago by culture-change consultants. The program begins with two-day workshops at individual locations. All operations are shut down and employees are taken off site. “When you start talking about safety with employees, you talk about lot of other things as well–how people feel about their jobs and about one another―so a lot of good comes out of those sessions,” Haley says.

Specific projects identified at the off-site meeting are implemented with employee involvement. Eighteen months later, a follow-up assessment is done, which may lead to a new list of projects. “It is a very robust program that has made a real shift in how we deal with one another inside the four walls,” he says.

One key shift has come from “identifying barriers to building the culture we want, a lot of which are rooted in trust and communications issues,” says Haley. “Our employees have probably been through several safety programs and convincing them that this time we are really changing requires a lot of discipline from leadership.”

Persistence pays off, however, by gradually breaking down those barriers and building trust. “As a result of focusing on our safety and cultural awareness process, Tyco is seeing a much more engaged workforce, with people feeling empowered to control their work environment and to make positive changes,” says Haley.

To view the video in its entirety, click here