Johnson Matthey Pharma Services in Devens, USA introduce activity months to improve employees awareness of health and safety - with great success

activity months to improve employees awareness of health and safety

In health and safety 'good enough' is never enough. Johnson Matthey has set the bar high: zero cases of occupational illness and zero 'greater than three day' accidents. To help meet these elements of the Sustainability 2017 Vision, Johnson Matthey Pharma Services in Devens, outside Boston in the USA, set up two separate activity months in 2012, one covering health and the other safety.

First off was health in May 2012. The Employee Activities Committee developed events to promote healthy living, with a health fair where employees had the chance to have their blood sugar and blood pressure checked, get their sight tested, opt for a spinal screening or talk to a nurse on health issues generally. During the month, a video on the effects of stress was screened and employees were offered a meditation class. A fitness initiative touted the benefits of regular exercise and employees received pedometers to track their progress.

Then in August 2012 a Safety Month took place. Safety stand downs are a way of making time to review and improve safety practices – the term 'stand down' also has a military meaning referring to active troops going off operational duty – but they usually last no more than a day. What was new here was the number and duration of events. Over the course of the month, employees 'stood down' regularly to take part in a total of 14 events. They included safety videos and employee led presentations on safety topics such as personal protective equipment, safety around potent compounds, process safety and the cost of accidents. Guest speakers contributed to the events and talked about behaviour based safety and the nature of ergonomic injuries, among other topics.

Staggering events across the whole month provided a good window for raising safety consciousness and reiterating the safety messages. Themes were selected to support site specific safety topics as well as the site's cultural beliefs, such as 'Own It' and 'Breakdown Walls'. Sharing stories also offered employees a fresh perspective on the many skills found in work pool.

To close out the month's activities, all employees were asked to sign a safety pledge committing to safety as a core value. The pledge is placed in the front lobby for vendors, contractors and visitors to view.

So what was the pay off? In the six months following Safety Month, there were 33% fewer reportable accidents and first aid cases. Submitted learning events – where near miss incidents are recorded and shared to capture learning – increased two and a half times over the same period in the previous year, an indication of growing transparency and a firm commitment to spreading good practice.
The immediate aftermath was even more impressive: in September to November 2012, there were no occupational illnesses or first aid events and no 'greater than three day' accidents.

Health and safety messages need regular reinforcement and safety training is held throughout the year. Health Month was repeated in 2013 and the site has taken out subscriptions to healthy living magazines which employees can read these their breaks.

Impressed by the depth and breadth of the health and safety activities, the judges made a Sustainability Award 2012/13 to Johnson Matthey Pharma Services. "This was a great example of health and safety leadership resulting in tangible health and safety performance improvements," they said. "We encourage the team to continue with this investment in coming years."